Wizards' Grunfeld: 'I'm comfortable with what we have'
WASHINGTON -- In each of the past three summers, Ernie Grunfeld has made a signature move that has helped transform the Washington Wizards from lottery players to playoff participants.
Three years ago, he landed Gilbert Arenas with a six-year, $65 million contract. The following year, he dumped Jerry Stackhouse and Christian Laettner on the Dallas Mavericks and got Antawn Jamison in return. Last year, he rid the Wizards of the Kwame Brown problem in a deal that brought Caron Butler from the Los Angeles Lakers.
"So you're expecting the same this summer?" he said.
Probably not. While Grunfeld isn't shy about making a deal, the Wizards president of basketball operations likes the talent and chemistry of his current roster. Two straight playoff berths and strong recent performances against top teams -- including a 3-0 regular-season mark this season against Detroit -- have him feeling good about the team's future.
"I'm comfortable with what we have," Grunfeld said Tuesday, "because I think we've shown that we can compete on the highest level with anybody. Having said that, you always look for things to see if you can make your team better. I think we've shown in our three years here that if the right opportunity presents itself, we're not afraid to pull the trigger.
"I believe in continuity," he said. "I believe in consistency, and you can't make wholesale changes every single year and expect to have that good chemistry."
Even if Grunfeld wanted to be aggressive this summer, his options would be limited.
All of his top players, except Jared Jeffries, are already under contract for next season. The Wizards are over the salary cap, and the impending free-agency crop isn't very impressive, anyway. Trades are always possible, but no team is going to give up what every Washington fan would like to have: A dominant big man.
"The Yao Mings and the Shaquilles don't just grow on trees," Grunfeld said.
Grunfeld said the Wizards need to be a better defensive team, especially in the paint, but he gave no indication that he's ready to give up on center Brendan Haywood.
"I wish he was more consistent," Grunfeld said, "because he's shown some abilities."
So Grunfeld will do what tweaking he can. He will try to re-sign Jeffries, who will be a restricted free agent. The Wizards have a first-round pick in the June draft this year, after not having one last year. The team also has a mid-level exception, essentially an option to a sign a player for a mid-level salary regardless of the cap.
Grunfeld also noted that Jarvis Hayes, who missed most of the last two seasons with a knee injury, is expected to return.
"Our doctors tell us he should have 100 percent recovery," Grunfeld said.
Grunfeld said the organization will have "internal discussions" before deciding whether to start negotiations for a contract extension for coach Eddie Jordan, who has one more season left on his current deal.
"We feel good about the job he's done," Grunfeld said.
The Wizards' first-round playoff exit against Cleveland has left some fans restless for big changes, but Grunfeld said it was unrealistic for a team to become a championship contender so quickly after many losing seasons.
"It doesn't happen overnight," Grunfeld said. "It never has. I've been through it with other teams. You get knocked around a little bit before you starting knocking everybody else around."
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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