Ernie Grunfeld

Southeast Notes: Hachimura, Petrucelli, McDaniels, Wizards

Regardless of how well Wizards newly-drafted rookie forward Rui Hachimura performs in the NBA moving forward, he’s already a superstar in his home country of Japan, writes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington.

Hachimura, the first ever Japanese-born lottery pick in the NBA, has a rabid following that was on display Friday when the 21-year-old Gonzaga product was introduced by the Wizards. Per Hughes, there were over 40 members of the Japanese media in attendance from over 20 outlets, all excited for the opportunity to be a part of Hachimura’s press conference.

“I’m used to it. This is kind of small,” Hachimura joked about the media attention at the Wizards’ press conference. “When I was in Japan, there were couple of press conferences like this and there were more people.”

Because of his unique situation, Hachimura has the chance to be the most marketable player on the Wizards as a rookie, John Wall and Bradley Beal included. He already has endorsement deals with Air Jordan and Nissin Food Products, and one Japanese reporter even went as far as opining that Hachimura could be as big as MLB star Ichiro Suzuki one day. The Wizards certainly hope so.

There’s more from the Southeast Division this afternoon:

  • JD Shaw of Hoops Rumors is reporting that free agent sharpshooter John Petrucelli has committed to play summer league with the Magic. Petrucelli, 26, signed an Exhibit 10 contract with the Magic in October, before being waived two days later.
  • In some negative news coming out of Charlotte, Brendan Marks and Michael Gordon of The Charlotte Observer are reporting that Hornets second-round draft pick Jalen McDaniels was sued by two female high school classmates around six months ago. Criminal charges were not pursued, but the duo claim in a civil suit that McDaniels recorded them performing sexual acts without their consent.
  • Columnist Jerry Brewer of The Washington Post opines that the Wizards will likely end up promoting from within and hire interim head of basketball operations Tommy Sheppard as Ernie Grunfeld‘s replacement.

Wizards Notes: Grunfeld, Leonsis, GM Search

Wizards owner Ted Leonsis said he alone made the call to relieve Ernie Grunfeld of his duties. “No one made this decision other than me,” Leonsis said (Twitter links via Candace Buckner of the Washington Post).

“My main goal is to right now as fast as I can bring in an outside firm to provide some services for us,” Leonsis said. “I want to do what’s called ‘best practicing.’ What do the best organizations look like? What do they spend?

“Maybe I made the mistake in the way we spent and invested out money. I have to be open-minded.”

Leonsis does not believe the organization will have issues attracting a top candidate for the GM gig, a sentiment echoed by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Resources and geography are among the reasons to expect the position to be highly sought after.

Here’s more from Washington:

  • Tommy Sheppard, the team’s interim GM, is a strong candidate for the position, per Leonsis. Sheppard is the senior vice president of basketball operations and has been with the organization for 14 years.
  • Leonsis called both Bradley Beal and John Wall shortly after making the move to notify them of the change, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports tweets.
  • Scott Brooks’ job status will be determined after a general manager is hired, Leonsis added (via Hughes in a separate tweet). The new GM won’t be restricted in terms of the direction the franchise goes in, as Leonsis is open to all ideas.
  • Hughes (in a full-length piece) identifies 10 possible candidates for the GM position, including Sheppard and former Cavs GM David Griffin. Hughes also speculated that Bucks assistant GM Milt Newton, who was with the Wizards from 2003 until 2013, could be a candidate for the position.

Wizards Fire Ernie Grunfeld

The Wizards have decided to part ways with longtime president of basketball operations Ernie Grunfeld, league sources tell Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter link). According to Stein (via Twitter), Grunfeld was informed of the decision today by team owner Ted Leonsis.

The Wizards have confirmed the move in a press release, announcing that senior vice president of basketball operations Tommy Sheppard will assume interim GM duties. The club will launch its search for a permanent head of basketball operations at season’s end, and will consider Sheppard a candidate.

“We did not meet our stated goals of qualifying for the playoffs this season and, despite playing with injuries to several key players, we have a culture of accountability and a responsibility of managing to positive outcomes,” Leonsis said in a statement. “I wish to thank Ernie for his service to the Washington Wizards. He and his family have been great leaders in our community and have worked tirelessly to make us a top NBA franchise.”

Grunfeld, who had been one of the NBA’s longest-tenured top executives, took over as the Wizards’ president of basketball operations back in the summer of 2003. Since then, the team has compiled a record of 568-724 (.440) and made the playoffs eight times. Washington has never advanced beyond the second round of the postseason during that 16-year stretch.

In recent years, the Wizards failed to live up to lofty expectations with a roster that featured All-Star guards John Wall and Bradley Beal. The team finished eighth in the Eastern Conference a year ago and was bounced in the first round of the playoffs before missing the postseason entirely this spring.

Grunfeld has also made some questionable salary-cap decisions in recent years, including long-term, big-money deals for Wall and Ian Mahinmi. Wall’s four-year super-max extension, worth a projected $170MM, will go into effect this summer, so the new head of basketball operations will have to work around that contract.

It remains to be seen which direction the Wizards will go under new management, but with Wall expected to miss most or all of the 2019/20 season due to an Achilles tear, a retooling – or even a full-scale rebuild – appears likely. Beal will be a key player to watch going forward — Grunfeld and Leonsis had stated they were committed to keeping the star guard in D.C., but it’s possible a new general manager will view things differently.

It also makes sense to keep an eye on head coach Scott Brooks, though as Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today notes (via Twitter), Brooks still has two years and $14MM left on his contract. He seems like a good bet to be back for 2019/20 at least.

While no specific names have been cited yet as Grunfeld’s potential long-term replacement, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports (via Twitter) that team ownership has been active in pursuing search films to help with the hiring process. Wojnarowski suggests that it should be an attractive job, given the geography and the resources available.

The Pelicans, the Suns, and perhaps the Timberwolves will be among the other teams competing with the Wizards for general manager candidates this spring. Stein hears from league sources that Sheppard, Grunfeld’s interim replacement, will receive consideration from the Pelicans for their GM opening (Twitter link). New Orleans is also interviewing executives Larry Harris (Warriors), Trajan Langdon (Nets), and Gersson Rosas (Rockets), all of whom could be of interest to Washington.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Leonsis: Wizards Not Trading Wall, Beal, Porter At Deadline

The Wizards have been below .500 and on the outside of the Eastern playoff picture all season, leading to speculation that the team may shop highly-paid veterans like John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter. Asked today during a Q&A with WTOP in Washington about that possibility, however, Wizards owner Ted Leonsis dismissed the idea of a huge pre-deadline deal.

“We’re not trading any of those players,” Leonsis said of his Big Three, per Noah Frank of WTOP (Twitter link).

It’s the second major declaration this month by Leonsis, who said two weeks ago that the Wizards will “never, ever tank.” It was clear at that point that Washington planned to hang onto Beal, who has been leading the charge to get the team back into playoff position. Recent reports have indicated that the Wizards may be more open to the idea of moving Porter, but Leonsis’ comments today seem to suggest that’s not in the cards this season.

As for Wall, he’ll be sidelined for the rest of the 2018/19 campaign with a heel injury and is owed approximately $170MM over the next four years, so he has always been considered an unlikely trade candidate.

Of course, even though the Wizards don’t intend to move one of their most expensive players, that doesn’t mean they’ll stand pat at the deadline. Leonsis suggested today that the club could look to add around the edges within the next week, Frank tweets. The Wizards’ owner also noted that he views Washington’s 2019 first-round pick as a way to improve the roster for next season, adding, “I wouldn’t throw in the towel on this core.”

Leonsis avoided directly addressing the future of general manager Ernie Grunfeld, but it seems safe to assume that he’ll re-evaluate the management group if the Wizards end up in the lottery. When asked if he was happy with Grunfeld, Leonsis replied that he’s happy if the club meets its goals (Twitter link via Frank). For now, the goal is a playoff spot.

Wizards Notes: McRae, Beal, Leonsis, Grunfeld

Jordan McRae‘s 54-point outburst in the G League probably won’t get him a standard NBA contract even though the Wizards have a roster spot to fill, writes Candace Buckner of The Washington Post. McRae signed a two-way deal with Washington in September, but has only appeared in eight NBA games with minimal playing time.

With his Capital City team short-handed Friday, McRae took over the offense and poured in the most points in a G League game this season. McRae is averaging 29.5 PPG in the G League and set the league’s single-game record with 61 points in 2016.

Still, the Wizards are more likely to add a player on a 10-day contract than convert McRae’s deal, a source tells Buckner. Washington has been at 13 players since waiving Ron Baker on January 7 and has until Monday to get back to the league minimum.

Financial considerations are also working against McRae. Giving him a standard contract for the rest of the season would increase the Wizards’ projected luxury tax bill by about $1.2MM, Buckner estimates, much more than a series of players on 10-day deals.

There’s more Wizards news to pass along:

  • Bradley Beal will be one of the hottest names on the trade market if the Wizards decide to move him, and Ken Berger of Bleacher Report examines the best potential fits. A rival executive told Berger that the Raptors might be willing to offer Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright and a first-round pick, while the Celtics could part with Jaylen Brown, a first-rounder and either Marcus Morris or Aron Baynes and the Pacers might get involved with an offer of Darren Collison, Myles Turner and a first-rounder. Washington has denied that Beal is available, but the team’s future tax situation could affect the decision if the Wizards slip further out of the playoff race.
  • Wizards owner Ted Leonsis, who pledged earlier this week that the team will never tank, elaborates on those comments in a story by Buckner and Scott Allen. Leonsis points to the Sixers, who spent several years trying to rebuild by obtaining high lottery picks, and notes that only Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid panned out. “So, you know, that process is pretty risky in and of itself,” he said. “I don’t think you can tell players, coaches, staff: ‘Don’t make the playoffs and tank!’”
  • In the same piece, Leonsis addresses fan anger with team president Ernie Grunfeld, who has been running the organization since 2003. “You live with it every day when you own a sports team,” said Leonsis, who also owns Washington’s Stanley Cup-winning NHL franchise. “All I have to do is look at last year with the Capitals. ‘Fire the coach. Fire the GM. Trade Alex Ovechkin. Trade Nick Backstrom.’ And that turned out okay. So, yes, I see all the things on Twitter. I read everything. I’m not all that happy with our performance, but you have to make non-emotional [decisions], what’s right for the franchise, what’s right for the team.”

Wizards Notes: Porter, Wall, Morris, Rivers

As the underachieving Wizards mull the possibility of making a trade or two to try to turn their season around, Sean Deveney of The Sporting News argues that the man entrusted with making those deals has worn out his welcome in D.C. The firing of GM Ernie Grunfeld is “past due” for the Wizards, according to Deveney, who suggests that the franchise has already kept Grunfeld for about a half-decade too long.

In addition to some questionable roster moves and contract decisions from Grunfeld, player development has also been an issue in Washington, Deveney opines. One rival front office executive suggested to Deveney that Bradley Beal has improved more because of the work he does on his own than his work with the team.

Otto Porter does some nice things, good role player, but he has been the same player for the last three years, really. He could be better if he were somewhere else,” the executive said. “And [John] Wall, the game passed him by. He has had nine years to learn to shoot, and he still can’t shoot. I can’t go to my coach and tell him we are getting a starting point guard who can’t shoot. Not for $40MM a year.”

Here’s more on the Wizards from Deveney and others:

  • The Wizards have had a tough time finding value for their players on the trade market, according to Deveney. One executive told Deveney that – outside of Beal – Markieff Morris might be the club’s most interesting trade chip, since many contenders could use a tough, versatile big man. However, that exec was skeptical that any team would be willing to part with a first-round pick for Morris, who is on an expiring deal.
  • Speaking of Morris, his move to the bench has helped diversify the scoring ability of the Wizards’ second unit, says Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. It’s also an opportunity to get Morris a few more shot attempts, since he’s more of a focal point on offense for the second team than he would be when Wall and Beal are on the court.
  • Offseason acquisition Austin Rivers believes he’s getting the hang of playing alongside Wall and Beal, as Hughes details in a separate story for NBC Sports Washington. “I have to be more aggressive,” Rivers said. “They actually like that, too, because it makes it easier for them because I will attack and then they get easy shots instead of having to work for every shot.”

Wizards Rumors: Beal, Wall, Green, Oubre

Monday was an eventful day for Wizards-related headlines. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported in the morning that the team was sending signals that it was willing to listen to inquiries on any of its players – including John Wall and Bradley Beal. Afternoon and evening reports, meanwhile, provided details on a contentious recent practice that included Wall cursing at head coach Scott Brooks, while Beal and Austin Rivers also had a verbal altercation.

In an article for The Washington Post, Candace Buckner shared more details on Thursday’s practice, which included an on-court confrontation between Wall and Jeff Green. Although sources who spoke to Buckner stressed that no arguments turned physical and that the altercations weren’t necessarily unusual for a struggling NBA team, the practice saw several players’ frustrations reach a boiling point.

“This is embarrassing,” a person familiar with the team told Buckner. “This is crazy.”

At one point during the practice, according to Buckner, Beal went on a tirade about the current culture within the Wizards’ organization, yelling something to the effect of “I’m sick of this sh**.” He also gestured toward GM Ernie Grunfeld and said, “It starts at the top,” per Buckner.

Despite Beal’s outburst, he hasn’t expressed any desire to be traded, people familiar with the situation tell Buckner. As for whether the Wizards would actually be willing to deal him, several sources who spoke to Buckner believe the team has no plans to move on from Wall or Beal. Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington hears that any thoughts the Wizards have about trading either of their star guards are “very preliminary.”

Here’s more out of D.C.:

  • Buckner also reports that Kelly Oubre cursed out Brooks during a recent game. Although the incident happened on the court, Brooks addressed it during the locker room after the game, per Buckner.
  • “They just need to blow the whole sh** up,” one person connected to the Wizards said to Buckner. “It’s all bad.”
  • A source tells Fred Katz of The Athletic that changes are coming for the Wizards, adding that “you will notice a difference” in Brooks’ rotations going forward.
  • Washington will also consider trades, especially involving players who are perceived not to be playing hard every night, sources tell Katz. However, the club is in no rush to make an unfavorable deal and no trade appears imminent.
  • Here’s what a source who works in another team’s front office said about Beal, per Katz: “He isn’t the best player who’s been available in the past few years, but he’s the best player with the best contract situation.” The two stars who were traded most recently – Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler – were in the final year of their respective contracts, whereas Beal won’t be a free agent until 2021.
  • In an Insider-only article at, Kevin Pelton ranks the Wizards in terms of trade value. Beal tops Pelton’s list, followed by Oubre, Otto Porter, and Tomas Satoransky. Wall places eighth.

Ernie Grunfeld Receives Extension From Wizards

Without any fanfare, the Wizards recently extended the contract of team president Ernie Grunfeld, according to Candace Buckner of The Washington Post.

Majority owner Ted Leonsis refused to disclose the terms of the extension, but it will keep Grunfeld with the organization at least through the end of the 2018/19 season. He ranks fourth in the league in tenure, Buckner notes, trailing only Miami’s Pat Riley, San Antonio’s R.C. Buford and Boston’s Danny Ainge.

Unlike those others, Grunfeld has been able to hold onto his job without a stellar track record. The Wizards have eight playoff appearances during his 15 seasons and haven’t advanced past the second round. Washington was the eighth seed this season and was eliminated by Toronto in six games.

Buckner outlines the huge task ahead of Grunfeld this offseason as he tries to restructure a team with pressing cap concerns. The Wizards topped the luxury tax for the first time this season after matching an offer sheet to Otto Porter and are already hovering near next year’s tax line with $124MM in committed salary, not including their No. 15 draft pick.

Wizards Notes: Grunfeld, Morris, Wall

Wizards owner Ted Leonsis is firmly behind team president Ernie Grunfeld, as well as the rest of the front office, and he explained his rationale for not making broader changes, writes Jerry Brewer of The Washington Post. “Because we were executing to the plan,” Leonsis said. “If we had varied from the plan and the plan didn’t work, then I think it would’ve been in my realm of responsibility to take a look. But we were executing a plan that we agreed to when I bought the team five years ago.”

Here’s more from Washington:

  • During exit interviews, many of the players on the Wizards indicated that they liked and admired Markieff Morris and that they wanted to play alongside him on the court, according to Leonsis, as J. Michael of CSN Mid-Atlantic passes along.
  • Leonsis also compared the Wizards‘ deal to acquire the power forward to the 2013 deal for Marcin Gortat, as Michael writes in the same piece. “Was [the Morris trade] on strategy or off strategy? Who did we get for Gortat? Would I trade Gortat for [Tyler] Ennis? The answer is yes,” Leonsis said. The Suns received the No. 18 selection of the 2014 draft as a result of the Gortat trade and they selected Ennis. Washington owes its first-rounder, currently slotted as the No. 13 pick, to Phoenix as part of the Morris trade, as long as the lottery doesn’t move the pick into the top nine.
  • Newly hired coach Scott Brooks believes John Wall has a chance to grow his game even further and bring the Wizards to new heights, Jorge Castillo of The Washington Post writes. “He has another level, maybe two or three levels. Not only from a basketball standpoint, [but] from a leadership standpoint.” Brooks said. “He has the ability to be one of the best players in the game,”

Wizards Notes: Brooks, Porter, Grunfeld

The Wizards believe they landed their ideal coach in Scott Brooks, whose success at the NBA level and track record of working with young players appealed to the franchise, relays J. Michael of CSN “We felt like he was the perfect coach for our situation,” team president Ernie Grunfeld said. “His record speaks for itself. He’s been where we want to be, where we want to go to. The other thing we love about him is he developed young players.”

Brooks noted his respect for the team’s roster and stressed the need to establish a new culture, Michael adds. “I’ve been competing against this team for a lot of years,” Brooks said. “This day and age with NBA teams, you need two-way players to compete night in and night out. I have very simple rules and I always establish from the very start, ‘Your job is to play hard every night. The second job you have to do is play hard for your teammates. That’s who you’re playing for every night. You have to establish those goals early on. I believe the character of the group will embrace that.”

See more Wizards-related items:

  • Team owner Ted Leonsis is glad Brooks has a positive view of Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre, notes Jorge Castillo of The Washington Post, adding that the organization wasn’t pleased with the lack of playing time Porter received his first two seasons and the low minutes Oubre saw this year. Porter “didn’t take that next step” this season, Leonsis said, believing that Brooks will give him a chance to remedy that, tweets J. Michael of CSN Mid-Atlantic.
  • The Wizards were compelled to move quickly to hire Brooks because of the amount of teams that were expected to be in the market for new coaches, Michael writes in a separate piece. Brooks had already been contacted by members of ownership from the Rockets and Timberwolves prior to Washington locking him up on a five-year deal, Michael adds.
  • Leonsis indicated that Grunfeld’s job was never in jeopardy this season, though matters would have changed had the executive deviated from the team’s plan, Castillo relays in a series of tweets. The plan the owner referred to was one geared toward gaining as much cap flexibility as possible for this summer, Castillo notes. Leonsis did add that he expected the team to be able to make the playoffs while executing this strategy and that missing out on the postseason was a disappointment, the scribe relays.

Chuck Myron contributed to this post.