“Nothing against Ernie, but he’s worked there for nine years and if you work for AT&T for nine years and the stock is dropping every day and you’re losing, guess what? The board of directors is getting rid of you. That’s the reality.
“The stock is falling in Washington.”
Wittman has gone 12-29 since replacing Saunders, and the Wizards are 5-12 since making the trade for Nene and Brian Cook. Grunfeld has worked closely with Leonsis since Leonsis became owner in June 2010 and followed his orders to accumulate draft picks and put the team in solid financial footing.
“It’s been hard, but we feel we’re positioned well now,” Grunfeld said. “We have good salary cap flexibility moving forward and we have pieces we can grow with and we’re developing more assets as we go along.”
Stellar deals, major blunder
Grunfeld has been one of the league’s highest-paid general managers for the past five years, with league sources estimating that he earns a salary between $3.5 million and $4.5 million. If he returns, it would likely be at a smaller salary, with owners seeking different ways to cut costs in recent years.
Since Grunfeld left Milwaukee to join the franchise in June 2003, the Wizards have posted a 278-436 record in his nine seasons. They made it to the playoffs four times, won one playoff round, but never finished with more than 45 wins in a season. The past four seasons have been especially rough, with them losing 222 of 304 games, which is easily the worst four-year stretch in franchise history.
Leonsis has said he wouldn’t judge Grunfeld based on decisions that were made under the previous ownership. Grunfeld has pulled off some stellar moves — dealing away Gilbert Arenas when few thought he could; acquiring Kirk Hinrich and the 17th overall pick (which turned out to be Seraphin) from Chicago and using Hinrich to get Crawford and the 18th pick (Chris Singleton) from Atlanta.
But he also made a major blunder in handing Andray Blatche a three-year, $28 million extension in September 2010 and watching him fall well short of expectations. Blatche was immovable at the trade deadline and he no longer travels with the team. If the Wizards are unable to move Blatche around the June 28 draft or later this summer, he stands as a likely candidate to be waived using the amnesty clause.
Grunfeld’s draft choices from last June — Singleton, Jan Vesely and Shelvin Mack — have also failed to make significant contributions despite considerable opportunities.
Grunfeld doesn’t know whether Leonsis will bring him back, but he said he still would like the chance to help the Wizards return to respectability — and beyond.
“I’m very competitive,” Grunfeld said. “Everyone would love to have a championship contender every year and I’ve been part of those situations. It’s fun to be there and hopefully, we can get back there in the near future.”