June 24, 2024

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With Michael Winger, Ted Leonsis finally says the status quo is no longer good enough

With Michael Winger, Ted Leonsis finally says the status quo is no longer good enough

Ted Leonsis didn’t want to restart it.

This is a major step in the right direction for the Wizards, who unofficially hired Michael Wenger from the Clippers on Wednesday to run the show in DC.

Who knows if Winger, who has extensive experience on the contract negotiation/analytics side in Los Angeles, Oklahoma City, and Cleveland, will be able to turn things around here? He’s not, say the people who have worked with him and know him, someone who will take the team on the road and cheer them as they enter the locker room after a win. He may not even He is in games. It’s not a flying dog scout. He will have to appoint a general manager to do all of that. He was the team advisor to both the Cavaliers and the Thunder. He is not a basketball player in the traditional sense.

But none of that matters. Or, at least, it doesn’t matter much right now.

What matters is that we know, finally, that winning and losing matter to Alyonsys, ruler of the Wizards. We know it’s not a good idea for the Wizards to continue scraping the bottom of the NBA barrel, meandering through the seasons, with no far-reaching idea of ​​how they planned to escape the remnants of the league.

If Winger doesn’t officially replace Tommy Sheppard at the job title, he’ll at least have the go-ahead to do whatever’s necessary, including — still, my beating heart — a complete rebuild, which means building by draft, not by draft, not from. During the step-by-step trades. Don’t say “tank” about Leonsis; It makes him explode in hives. But if “rebuild” is more acceptable in the higher realm of universe mastery, then so be it. The suite can do whatever it wants with the existing roster, and No NBA executive worth his iPhone thinks this roster is good enough to compete at a high level.

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This does not mean that the Wizards will trade Bradley Bell tomorrow. Or they certainly won’t be re-signing Kyle Kuzma or Kristaps Porziis this summer.

But it does mean that an important roster change is imminent. As it should be.

Go deeper

Sources say Michael Winger will have the authority to remake the Washington Wizards

Yes, teams that go away in the postseason tend to be continuing teams, whose best players have played together four or five seasons. But Washington’s best players, year after year, weren’t good enough to scare anyone away. So, get your best guys.

By the way: It’s pretty clever in half to say that Sheppard hasn’t had any plans for the past four years. this is not fair. The plan, to gradually build around Bell, did not work out. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a plan. And that plan, 12 months ago, had Eunice’s blessing. (It also isn’t nice that Trajan Langdon, the Pelicans’ general manager who was the other known candidate for a formal interview in Washington, nor Langdon’s rep from The Wizards heard Wednesday and had to read a tweet telling them Washington was going in another direction.)

Winger, the former general manager in Los Angeles, will be given a new title in Washington – President of Monumental Basketball – and carte blanche to redo the entire operation from top to bottom. According to a source familiar with the team’s thinking, but not authorized to speak publicly because Winger’s hiring is not yet official, Winger will be asked for five-year team development plans similar to the Wizards used by the Capitals under team president Dick Patrick. Modification of the plan mid-course is encouraged, if required – and, importantly, will be funded without complaint by Monumental’s managing partner Leonsis.

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The source said Leonsis wanted someone who would take big swings in a big market. It is no coincidence that Winger has been in Los Angeles for the past few years. The Leonsis wanted someone who knew how to recruit top-tier talent in a big city, and who had relationships with the game’s top agents and agencies, such as CAA, Excel, and Klutch. And he allowed that new eyes might be needed on his basketball team, that there was an outsider who needed to be told what he didn’t know, and what he needed to prioritize. Wenger has assurances that Leonis will go to the luxury tax if needed down the road.

Winger handled contract negotiations with the Clippers, as well as making sure, as one league source said Wednesday, that everyone in the organization felt “safe” in their workplaces, from Paul George and Kawhi Leonard to the lower-ranking employees. He was a big-picture man who saw how all the disparate parts of the now billion-dollar corporation could, and should, work in concert with each other, from player development to human resources, from security to medical staff. And Wenger didn’t hesitate to vocalize his opinions forcefully inside the Clippers’ front office.

A league source said Wednesday that Wenger was one of the few voices expressing caution about moving forward with the trade that brought George from Oklahoma City to Los Angeles in 2019 — the deal that was pivotal to Leonard’s approval to join the Clippers in free agency — because he believed That the Clippers were giving up a lot of future draft picks to OKC.

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The Clippers sealed the deal with the Thunder anyway, but it was an indication that the winger offers an unparalleled reality, as he saw it, if he believes it’s what’s best for the team. Raised the information level of the group. Teaming with Wenger and team president Lawrence Frank, the Clippers built a competitive team around Leonard and George — one derailed by repeated injuries to its two stars.

“It’s all about organization,” another league source said of Winnersday. “In terms of the group, he makes it about the players.”

Winger should chime in, at least philosophically, with Wes Unseld, Jr. , who also believes in leaning into numbers to help shape game plans and courses. But the third-year coach, like everyone else in the organization, will be aware going forward. There’s a filibuster coming to town, who’ll try to lift this barge, saddled with history, low expectations, and decades of stability, to heights it hasn’t reached in two generations. It can mean making people feel uncomfortable and anxious about their future. Well, that’s what happens in great organizations. You feel comfortable being uncomfortable. And you grow. or leave.

Finally, maybe the wizards will return to the game.

(Photo by Ted Leonsis: Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)