Perspective is an ignorant thing.
Picture a young kid, nine or ten years old, out in the suburbs. It’s a nice sunny summer day. He just opened his first lemonade stand with a couple friends, right in front of his house. It’s got a little table, a nice sign that says “Lemonade Here!”, and a delicious looking pitcher full of the drink. It may just be the best thing that kid has ever seen.
But right across the street is an actual brick-and-mortar juice store. It’s got high quality lemonade in a professional setting. Not to mention its wide selection of other drinks. The exterior boasts neon lights, a glass door, and air conditioning awaits each customer inside. Despite this, the boy still thinks customers will choose his stand due to its “homegrown” appeal.
But it’s early in the morning, and the passerby don’t have a lot of time to waste on the walk to work. They take one look at the little lemonade shack, and think, “Oh…that’s cute!” before they make their way to the corporate store. The child is there to witness this the whole way and is left disappointed along with more juice than he knows what to do with left on his table.
I admit, that was a patchy metaphor. Hopefully you realize what the story was getting at: the Washington Wizards organization has their vision of NBA free agency, specifically Kevin Durant, clouded by their own naive perspective.
#KD2DC is a movement in vain that some fans are still holding on to, and the front office built almost the entire roster in pursuit of. It’s just as sad as that kid’s lemonade stand.
One can at least applaud the kid’s effort and bravado to even make the stand. However, he isn’t a billion dollar NBA franchise with a John Wall prime at stake. The corporate juice store is, of course, the Oklahoma City Thunder. And all that lemonade that was left on the table? That’s tens of millions of dollars in cap space that could’ve been put to much better use last summer.
What has this movement given fans and the organization? False hope. It’s never a good thing in the end. In any situation in which it is present, while it may ease the minds of the believers, it breeds ignorance of the truth and an inevitable fall when that truth is revealed.
False hope is engulfing the Wizards’ front office right now. Not that it’s surprising. After years and years of mediocrity, D.C. sports fans were searching for anything to hold onto and believe in. Ever since playoff success came to the franchise two years ago (a season success for Washington is now defined as merely making the postseason), the thought that one of the NBA brightest stars might come to play for his hometown team began to bloom.
Last year, the Wizards completely dominated the Toronto Raptors with a sweep in the first round, and advanced to the semifinals against the Atlanta Hawks. Oh, how sure fans were that Durant was already considering a move to their team this summer. Especially because his Oklahoma City Thunder were not in the playoffs after a season ravaged by injuries to Durant, star point guard Russell Westbrook, and others.
That fervor over Durant didn’t stop with the fanbase; the front office, headed by GM Ernie Grunfeld, constructed the back-end of the Wizards’ roster in an attempt to make a strong run at Durant this summer. He gave one-year deals to Gary Neal, Alan Anderson, and traded for a Jared Dudley with one year left on a five-year contract.
While this accomplished the goal of leaving a large amount of cap space (a whopping $42 million!) and flexibility to accommodate a monster Durant contract among others, Grunfeld forgot to accommodate for the actual production of the cheap players he signed. This wasn’t the reserve group; those three players were some of the main minute-eaters off the bench. Dudley even started a good chunk of games. While he wasn’t terrible, there were certainly better players available, whether it had been through a trade or free agency.
Because of this thin talent across the board, John Wall and an oft-injured Bradley Beal couldn’t carry the team on their own. Marcin Gortat was decent. The young prospects, Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre, were just alright in their own roles as well. But no player jumped out at any other team as a star (or star-to-be) other than Wall.
To throw away a season of John Wall’s prime in pursuit of an empty dream is terrible basketball management. Wall expressed his discomfort with the city and the way the team was being handled last year. “I ain’t trying to waste a season,” Wall said.
If I were him, I’d want out as soon as possible; as soon as the #KD2DC movement took a hold on the roster building, this franchise was going nowhere. Who was at the head of this? Grunfeld.
Let’s put his tenure in a perspective that isn’t ignorant. The four longest tenured GM’s in the NBA are Pat Riley, R.C Buford, Danny Ainge, and Grunfeld.
- Riley’s Miami Heat: three titles and two other Finals appearances.
- Buford’s San Antonio Spurs: four titles and one other Finals appearance.
- Ainge’s Boston Celtics: one title, one other appearance.
- Grunfeld’s Wizards: won just three playoff series in 13 seasons.
The Wizards don’t have one 50-win regular season during his tenure, and have won less than 40 percent of their total games. First of all, why is he still the President of Basketball Operations in Washington? Second of all, why would a superstar like Durant want to play for a franchise that thinks this is acceptable?
It’s one thing to have a team mired in a slump under multiple GMs. But he’s still here failure after failure, and that shows incompetence in the organization from top to bottom.
Head coach Randy Wittman, who had been with the Wizards since 2012, was rightfully fired after the underwhelming season. What did Grunfeld do? He immediately went out and hired Durant’s longtime coach with the Thunder, Scott Brooks, who has been criticized many times for his in-game management and Xs and Os.
Grunfeld ignored many of the other better candidates available, such as Tom Thibodeau. All in the chase of Durant.
At the center of this #KD2DC movement is the thinking that Kevin puts the prospect of playing for his hometown above winning and NBA championship. That in itself is ludicrous.
The window for stars like Durant to win a championship while still in the superstar role isn’t that big; certainly not big enough to waste more than a couple years on a roster that doesn’t have championship-caliber talent. Durant should look nowhere other than the top teams in each conference for his contract this summer.
Sorry, Wizards fans. It’s not happening. Most of you have known that for a while, but there are still some of you holding on. As for me, I’ve taken the drastic route; after growing up a Wizards fan, I’m now taking my fandom elsewhere. The Washington franchise has a whole has squandered their opportunities with some generational players, and the road ahead is even bleaker than before.
As long as Grunfeld’s touches are still on this roster, you should stay away from this team. Kevin Durant sure will.
18 year old Washington sports fan and Penn State freshman. I'll cover the MLB, NFL, and NBA.