WASHINGTON – The rebuilding of the Washington Wizards that started when Ted Leonsis took over as owner in 2010 will continue with Ernie Grunfeld in charge of basketball operations.
Sources have told WTOP that the Wizards have agreed to a contract extension for Grunfeld to remain as team president. An official announcement is expected to be made at a news conference Tuesday. The terms of Grunfeld’s extension are not known.
Grunfeld joined the Wizards in 2003 and was the architect of a team that made four straight post-season appearances beginning in 2005. Central to the Wizards’ success was Gilbert Arenas, who was Grunfeld’s first signing.
Arenas suffered a knee injury and 2007 and struggled to return to full fitness. In January 2010, Arenas was suspended by the NBA after bringing an unloaded gun into the team’s locker room. The Arenas’ controversy was part of disappointing season that included the death of long time owner Abe Pollin.
Grunfeld was also responsible for deals that brought Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler to Washington. Arenas, Jamison and Butler all enjoyed All-Star seasons with the Wizards, but the franchise’s direction changed after Arenas’ gun trouble.
With a plan laid out by Leonsis to build through the NBA draft and have salary cap flexibility for the future, the Wizards have featured one of the NBA’s youngest rosters the last two seasons. The Wizards currently have seven players in either their first or second years in the NBA.
There have been encouraging signs from the players selected by Grunfeld in the last two NBA drafts. John Wall was selected with the top overall pick in 2010 and in April has averaged 8.5 assists while lowering his turnovers. Center Kevin Seraphin also selected in the first round in 2010 and has 15.6 points and 7.3 rebounds over the last 14 games.
The redoubling process has been a challenge under Grunfeld. In January Grunfeld fired Flip Saunders as head coach. Wittman replaced Saunders and the team has gone 16-32 and won six of its last eight games.
Recently Grunfeld traded away center JaVale McGee and guard Nick Young. Grunfeld had drafted both Young and McGee. In the deal that sent McGee to Denver, the Wizards acquired center Nene who is expected to be an important player for the Wizards going forward.