Wizards prez Grunfeld gets multiyear extension

Updated: October 4, 2006, 7:59 PM ET
Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- Ernie Grunfeld quickly turned the Washington Wizards back into a playoff team by bringing aboard Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison.

He was rewarded Wednesday with a multiyear contract extension as the team's president of basketball operations. Now he can focus on what the Wizards need to take the next step.

"All the players and the coaches have said that we need to improve at the defensive end and make stops in crucial situations," Grunfeld said in a telephone interview.

"Last year, we lost three games by one point in the playoffs. That's an area that we obviously want to improve on, and we want to improve on our rebounding. At the same time, we want to continue to be a high-scoring offensive team," he said.

Grunfeld, hired in June 2003, signed star point guard Arenas as a free agent and traded for forward Jamison -- and both became All-Stars as Wizards.

That duo was at the heart of the club that reached the playoffs in 2004-05, the first time in eight years that Washington played beyond the regular season.

Last offseason, he got Caron Butler from the Lakers in a trade that sent Kwame Brown to Los Angeles. Arenas (29.3 points per game), Jamison (20.5) and Butler (17.6) combined to form the highest-scoring trio of teammates in the NBA in 2005-06, when the Wizards made a back-to-back playoff appearance for the first time since 1987-88.

The Wizards lost to LeBron James' Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round, burned repeatedly on defense late in games. So Grunfeld added defensive-minded guard DeShawn Stevenson along with power forward Darius Songaila this offseason.

"We showed last year that we can beat any team in the league. We can compete with anyone in the league, and our players believe that," Grunfeld said. "We have a very good core of players. We have continuity."

Neither the Wizards nor Grunfeld would reveal the terms of his new deal.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press