I was one of two people with signs at the Verizon Center for the Wizard’s final game home game of the regular season. The Wizards were already eliminated from the playoffs, rendering the game essentially meaningless, and the four best players on our squad were in street clothes. Still, I believed the game would be memorable in that it was to be Coach Randy Wittman’s last, and I came with a sign in hand to heckle Randy as we saw him out the door. There was a guy a few sections to my right with a sign of his own, with a lot of words that were hard to read from a distance. I eventually made my way over to him on my way back from the Chickfila stand so that we could share signs and misery with one another. When I got closer I saw that on his sign he had written an entire paragraph explaining why GM Ernie Grunfeld should be fired, culminating with a bolded “Fire Ernie!” While I could certainly empathize with this sentiment, I was content with just getting rid of the coach. But after the past two days of his gross mishandling of NBA free agency, it is clear that Ernie Grunfeld, probably even more than Randy ever did, needs to be fired from the Washington Wizards.
Seriously, how is Ernie Grunfeld allowed anywhere near the Verizon Center, much less in his thirteenth year of being paid to be the Wizards general manager? To say that Ernie has had a suspect track record in DC is being extremely generous. This is the man who built those #soWizards teams that went 117-277 over five years and were crucial to Shaqtin A Fool’s initial success. Here is the guy who took a team one broken wrist away from the Conference Finals and parlayed that into a disappointing 41 win season. Literally the only thing that Ernie has to hang his hat on is that the basketball gods blessed him with a top pick in the 2010, and that he managed not to fuck it up by not picking the consensus number one player. Up until this point, Ernie and Ted may have been able to gloss over their failures over the past few years to surround John Wall with better talent by pointing to their plans for the free agency of summer 2016. But now that most of that has passed us by and left our roster looking more barren than ever, it’s time to wonder if there’s more to the story than Grunfeld not being able to attract star players to DC. Maybe Ernie Grunfeld is the reason that NBA players don’t want to come to DC in the first place.
For us Wizards fans, this free agency has been like a dud firework. We’ve been refreshing our Twitter accounts and monitoring ESPN waiting for big explosions headlines of big name signings. Instead, those dreams all fizzled, a when the smoke cleared, all we were left with was a backup center for $16M per year in Ian Mahinmi. Is that what Ernie’s been making us wait for these past few years? Is that why he didn’t make any of the potential big moves that would’ve kept us from wasting a year of John Wall’s youth?
I think the biggest indictment on Grunfeld is that Kevin Durant didn’t even want to waste his time meeting with him. Ernie spent two plus years getting the roster and salary cap ready to make a run at KD, only for Kevin to feel he already knew enough about the man to know that he had no shot at building a real winner. What does that say about Ernie’s ability as a GM? To bring big-time stars to DC we need front office personnel who can convince those stars that they can win in a Wizards jersey. But even before that, we need to secure meetings with those stars so that we can have the chance to present them our case. Ernie couldn’t even clear the initial hurdle, despite the fact that KD is from the area and has Maryland tatted across his back. Whether or not you agree with his past picks and trades (why the hell would you agree with them though??), the fact that this GM can’t bring anybody to play in DC proves that he should not be the GM in DC. Sure, people can point fingers at the fans if they want, as has been done. But aren’t even those disengaged fans a product of the abysmal teams that Ernie has sent out on the floor over the past decade?
David Aldridge tweeted that Al Horford had been leaning towards DC and might have chosen the Wizards had he made a decision on Friday night. The only way I can interpret that is that any player who thinks about it long enough will clearly realize that any team managed by Ernie Grunfeld will never yield much more than a paycheck. And if you think about it long enough, it makes perfect sense. The Wizards have been synonymous with failure and disappointment for most of the past decade. The one constant over that span: Ernie Grunfeld. If we want to turn around the culture, turn around the fanbase, and ultimately turn around the team fortune, then we have to turn over the keys of the franchise to someone new. All the free agents of 2016 realized this, now it’s time for Ted to get a clue. Fire Ernie!!