HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Internal expectations, even for lottery teams, tend to border on the ridiculous in the NBA and, really, all of professional sports.
It’s the nature of the beast. Training camp rolls around and everyone harbors dreams of winning championships, even in places where they never have or haven’t in years.
That’s why we have to give Wizards boss Ted Leonsis credit for being one of the more level-headed owners out there. Not only does he recognize that this is a transitional season for his young, rebuilding team, he also understands that by raising the bar on his team now he would only set them up for failure.
It takes serious restraint to deal in reality when you’re signing all of the checks. But there is a way to set reasonable expectations for a team without giving them an easy out for not competing for that imaginary title only a few teams have a realistic shot at winning.
Leonsis captures the Wizards’ predicament perfectly for Craig Stouffer of the Washington Examiner, as he explains where they are and where he hopes they will be at the end of the marathon that is the 2012-13 season (the first eight weeks of which will be played without star point guard John Wall, who is out with a knee injury):
“We would all find it unacceptable if we finished with the second- or third-worst record in the NBA this year,” Leonsis said. “That would be a failure, and the failure would start with me. I think we’re much better positioned. I think we will get much better because our young players have now been seasoned.”
Like Wall, Leonsis is in his third season of changes and upgrades to strengthen the Wizards. He hopes to build a practice facility soon, and upgrades are being made to the locker room while the team is in Fairfax. Leonsis is most proud that Wall’s status as the team’s longest-tenured player is proof the roster has turned over completely since he took over as owner in 2010.
“People think we have the capacity to be a good team,” Leonsis said, referring to Kevin Seraphin as a sleeper center and rookie Bradley Beal as a key piece going forward. “Certainly compared to our last couple of years that the team is trending in the right direction.”
The next step is for the Wizards to retain their core of young players and continue to make the right trades when necessary. Only then will a prized free agent decide Washington is a destination NBA city.
“All the stars and the moon will have to align the right way, but I’m not shy about spending money and going and getting the right player,” Leonsis said. “… This offseason wasn’t that time. [Free agents] don’t know our identity as a team yet.”
To some, this might seem like Leonsis is already waving the white flag on this season. But that’s not how we see it. This is one of those instances where Randy Wittman and his staff (and everyone else in the organization) should thank their lucky stars that the boss has a firm grip on exactly what the franchise is working with.
General managers and coaches find themselves in the unemployment line after almost every season because an owner has a higher opinion of the team he owns than reality suggests he (and his partners) should.
All teams are not created equal. And it’s much easier to work in an environment where the person in charge understands that going in and allows the folks working to improve the product to do their jobs without the weight of unreasonable expectations hanging over them.