As Wizards fan my whole life, I find myself, once again, in an all too familiar situation. As the NBA season winds down and March Madness is underway, teams start to pack it in and the fans prepare for the Miami Heat, I mean.."NBA" post season, I sit patiently waiting for baseball to start (Opening Day is April 1st).
In between my awe of Bryce Harper's dominant spring campaign and being giggity over the fact that the Nationals seemed poise to take the next step and win a World Series, it made me realize how similar these two teams were at one point. It seems slightly weird that we're sitting here talking about the Nationals as World Series contenders when in 08,09, and 2010 they won 59, 59 and 68 games respectively. But could we possibly be saying the same thing about this Washington Wizards team in two or three seasons?
For as woeful as the Wizards may be, things are looking up. The Nationals were able to stock pile draft picks, they got a little lucky by snagging Harper and Strasburg in back to back drafts, but look at where they are now. The Nats are the model D.C. Sports franchise at the moment and the Wizards are trying to do everything they can to replicate their production.
This starts by retaining John Wall.
The hot topic over the last few days has been John Wall and his non-existent max contract which he feels he's worthy of. This decision might ultimately be the nail in the coffin for one of the most maligned general managers in all of sports, Ernie Grunfeld.
He is literally in a "no win" situation. Do you retain Wall and give him the max deal or do you offer him what you think to be his "value" and let him test the waters in free agency and potentially sign elsewhere?
Wall's success or demise over that 5-6 year period will ultimately be the way Wizards fans, and the rest of the league, for that matter, evaluate Ernie, both as a GM and a human being with the ability to think. Fans might be willing to overlook a few bad Andray Blatche years and some horrifically comical JaVale McGee "not top 10" ESPN Lowlights if it means competing in the Eastern Conference for the next few years. A part of me says that there's no team in this league that would ever give Wall a max deal, nor has he really done much to prove to me that he's worth a max deal. Then, there's a part of me that quickly realizes, if there's one Ernie Grunfeld out there in this world, chances are, there's a second.
So I'm lead to believe that Wall will get that money somewhere else, even if it's from only one other team. I never count anything out. Either way, since the talk of his non existent 20 million dollar contract has come to, John's stepped up his play. He's helped the Wizards win five of their last seven games and it's very possible that this team could end up winning more than 30 games this year. If you told me this after a 4-28 start, I'd quote Lil Wayne and say that you were on that "Good Kush and Alcohol."
However, despite everything I just said, I think this team has put themselves in a position where they almost have to find a way to give him the deal. The team has obviously responded to John's leadership, his on-court presence, and various players have benefited from John's vision on the court. Just ask Martell Webster. He also seems much more confident when shooting the basketball and we all know about how quick he is driving to the basket. He's an aggressive point guard who has all the intangibles to be a great player in this league, and he's not even 23 yet. Youth kills in today's NBA.
While the sample size may not be large enough to make a valid assessment, John's presence to the team, the community and the fan base is worth the max deal in itself. The team has a system in place now, you can tell there is a game plan now when the guys take the court as opposed to just playing players and hoping for a miracle. There aren't too many Wizards fans at games who wear jerseys, but when there are, all I ever see are #2 jerseys. In the case of John Wall, I see Ernie pulling out the check book and "YOLO-ing" himself to giving John the best financial deal possible.
Keep the kid.