Photo courtesy Joe Glorioso
The 2012-13 Washington Wizards are off to an 0-9 start.
Another way of putting that is that this Wizards team is off to the worst start in the history of their entire franchise. You have to be pretty bad to set records of futility for a franchise that is more known as a punchline than they are as successful. A commenter on the Wizards Extreme message board said it best:
Do you realize how bad you have to be, to be the worst team in team history?
The answer: pretty damn bad.
Looking back at the last 10 seasons for Washington (coincidentally the same amount of time Ernie Grunfeld as been in charge), the Wizards have gone 284 – 438. That is a winning percentage of 39.3%. NOT EVEN CLOSE TO .500. That is not even counting the current season.
When looking at the prospects of this season, it is hard for anyone to see anything that would even resemble a .500 season.
You can blame the players. You can blame the scouts. You can blame the assistance coaches. You can blame head coach Randy Wittman. You can most certainly blame Ernie Grunfeld. But ultimately, the direction of the franchise, and all the successes or failures that come with it, fall on the owner.
Ted Leonsis had a chance to change the direction of the Wizards franchise this past offseason, and he failed miserably.
Since 2003, the Wizards have had 4 different coaches, assistants have changed, lord knows the players have changed, but one thing remains the same: Ernie Grunfeld.
Ted had a chance to lead the Wizards away from Grunfeld’s dismal record, his poor draft choices, his coaching carousel (hired Eddie Jordan; fired Eddie Jordan, hired Flip Saunders; fired Flip Saunders, hired Randy Wittman; will be firing Randy Wittman) and the general downward spiral that this franchise is on.
Cleaning house and bringing in a new, competent general manager and letting them hire their own coaching staff was clearly the right move. Bringing in an entire new front office would let the fans know that it is time to shake things up. It would show fans that the owner is tired of losing just like they are. It would show that the organization wants to instill a new culture of basketball starting with the top.
Instead, Ernie Grunfeld gets an opportunity to re-re-rebuild another roster, which is the product we are seeing on the court now. Who gets that many chances to re-do a failed job? Where does the loyalty to Ernie come from?
Ted had a golden opportunity. A chance to wipe the slate clean. To start over with new management, a budding young star at point guard, and a high draft pick. Instead, he chose to go with more of the same story, taking away hope in the process. And that is the biggest problem with the decision to extend Grunfeld.
Wizards fans are losing (if not already lost) the most important thing a sports fan has — hope.
That is a dangerous game to play with fans. People who don’t have any hope in their team often fade as fans, and it is hard to get them back after that process. The die hard fans may not be going anywhere, but even they are starting to lose hope in the long term direction of the team. It isn’t hard to imagine a team in the near future, still ran by Grunfeld, that has John Wall picking a new team and the Wizards staying bottom feeders.
There is no coming back from this 0-9 start. Wall and Nene may be able to right this ship to some extent, but it is easy to see a scenario where the Wizards remain at the bottom of the league the rest of the year.
There is a solution to all of this though. It may not make a huge impact on this season, but it can do wonders to restore faith in a fan base and give reason for future optimism.
Tear this thing down from the top.
Give Wizards fans their hope back.