Ernie Grunfeld will continue to preside over the rebuilding Washington Wizards beyond this season as the president of basketball operations after agreeing to a new contract, according to league sources.
Grunfeld's deal was set to expire at the end of the season. With the Wizards (18-46) engulfed in a fourth consecutive losing season after four consecutive playoff appearances, Grunfeld appeared to be a possible casualty.
Instead, Grunfeld will continue to rebuild the organization, a process that started in the middle of the 2009-10 season and continued the last two years under majority owner Ted Leonsis, who took control of the franchise in 2010.
|Wizards 101, Bobcats 73|
|Washington used a 16-0 first half run to blow out Charlotte at Verizon Center for its first four-game winning streak since December 2007. The Wizards (18-46) were led by 18 points from Nene and 16 apiece from John Wall and Jan Vesely. Wall also had 14 assists, and Vesely set his career high by going 8-for-8 from the field. The Bobcats (7-57) lost their 21st straight and need a win in their final two games to avoid the worst winning percentage in NBA history. - Craig Stouffer|
One league source pointed to the Wizards' trade deadline acquisition of Nene in a deal that saw the team part ways with JaVale McGee and Nick Young as a sign of Leonsis' blessing. The Brazilian center is owed $52 million over the next four years. Grunfeld also represented the franchise at recent league meetings in New York.
Grunfeld, who was hired in 2003 and has seen Washington go 282-438 in his tenure, fired his second coach in four seasons in January. The Wizards started the year 2-15 under Flip Saunders, who had been brought in by Grunfeld to guide Washington back to the playoffs after the team went 19-63 in 2008-09, tying the franchise's worst record for an 82-game season. Grunfeld orchestrated a predraft trade that year, acquiring Mike Miller and Randy Foye in exchange, in part, for the fifth pick in the NBA Draft.
The season already was spiraling downward when Gilbert Arenas was suspended for bringing guns into the locker room in January 2010. Grunfeld traded away stalwarts Brendan Haywood, Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison later that year, which Washington ended with a 26-56 record.
Washington's rebuild was aided in 2010-11 by the arrival of John Wall via the No. 1 pick in the draft, but Grunfeld gave a $35 million contract extension to Andray Blatche. Arenas, whom Grunfeld had signed to a $111 million deal in 2008, was traded away during the year as the Wizards finished 23-59. Still, Grunfeld pulled off some innovative trades in which the Wizards acquired Kevin Seraphin and Kirk Hinrich and later flipped the veteran guard for Jordan Crawford. Grunfeld has boasted this season about salary cap space and financial flexibility.
The Wizards have gone 9-14 since the trade deadline this season, earning their first four-game winning streak since December 2007 after Monday's 101-73 victory over Charlotte. During this stretch, the Wizards have played without Rashard Lewis, who was acquired in the Arenas trade, and Blatche, whose second straight inconsistent season ended with the team shutting him down in the face of relentless booing at Verizon Center. Both players are under contract for next year, but the Wizards could buy out Lewis for $13.5 million and amnesty the remaining three years and $23 million on Blatche's contract.