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Thom Loverro: Wizards' messes piling up

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Sports,NBA,Wizards,Thom Loverro

Like the guy at the circus with the shovel following the elephant, Ernie Grunfeld has grown accustomed to cleaning up the messes left behind.

When he became the Washington Wizards general manager in 2003, the elephant had been Michael Jordan. Grunfeld found someone foolish enough to take Jerry Stackhouse and his contract. Then he found someone foolish enough to trade for Kwame Brown, and give him an actual productive player, Caron Butler, in return.

Then the elephant became Grunfeld, and he had to start cleaning up his own messes.

He managed to get rid of his biggest free agent signing, Gilbert Arenas, last year when he dealt the franchise killer to Orlando.

And then last week he traded two players he drafted -- Nick Young to the Los Angeles Clippers and Javale McGee to the Denver Nuggets -- for veteran big man Nene.

It's hard to determine who was more foolish in the trade. In December, the Nuggets signed Nene to a five-year, $67 million contract extension, and three months later apparently they regretted the move and dealt the injury-plagued center.

But Grunfeld wasn't able to find any suitors for Andray Blatche, who the GM signed to a $35 million contract extension in 2010.

So coach Randy Wittman has done the next best thing. He's made Blatche disappear.

In a mercy benching for both Blatche and Wizards fans, Wittman has decided that Blatche, after missing the entire month of February with a left calf injury, was not in good enough condition to play the style of Andray Blatche basketball we have become accustomed to -- impressive numbers in meaningless March and April games.

"After looking at it, it's unfair for me to put him in that position," Wittman said. "I think what we're going to do is we're going to probably not play him for a while, get him on a program where he can really go after it from a conditioning standpoint to get himself in shape. It's not fair for me to do that to the kid."

Only the Wizards can justify benching one of its core players by trying to pawn it off as helping him realize his potential.

As we know, two years ago Blatche changed his jersey from No. ?32 to No. 7 reportedly to illustrate his new found work ethic -- "seven days of hard work, seven days of focus," and so was born "Seven-Day Dray."

Will "Seven-Day Dray" mean seven more years of woe for the Wizards -- or more?

It could, since Grunfeld remains here in the final year of his contract shaping the future of the Wizards.

It is time for owner Ted Leonsis to take the shovel out of Grunfeld's hands. There is one last cleanup to be done.

Examiner columnist Thom Loverro is the co-host of "The Sports Fix" from noon to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on ESPN980 and espn980.com. Contact him at tloverro@washingtonexaminer.com.

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