Injuries have extended the Wizards' rebuilding plans for yet another year. But after a 29-53 campaign for the team, president Ernie Grunfeld believes in the roster he's built, what he saw during the limited time it was a whole unit and what it potentially can achieve.
"I think now we have a foundation," Grunfeld said Tuesday at Verizon Center. "We have some solid veteran players with some developing young players. We had a good chemistry going forward, and there is no question that our goal for next year is to make the playoffs and I think we're all on the same page there. We all want to be there."
That was the message echoed last week by point guard John Wall, whose absence for the first 33 games of the year set the Wizards back further than they could've imagined. Nene, Trevor Ariza, Trevor Booker, Bradley Beal and A.J. Price were all limited by injuries at some stage as well.
With Wall, who averaged a career-best 18.5 points per game and added 7.6 assists, in the lineup, they were 24-25. That improvement sets the stage for the offseason, as Wall becomes eligible for a maximum contract extension that he believes he deserves.
"I think John had a very good year, and he showed that he makes a difference on the team," Grunfeld said. "There's no question about that, and he's eligible for an extension. July 1 is the first day we can talk about that and we'll have conversations with him and his representatives to see if we can work something out."
Grunfeld said he'll have the same conversation regarding Martell Webster, who is also a free agent, could be lured to return by the mid-level exception ($5.1 million in 2013-14). The Wizards, who Grunfeld said are up against the salary cap, also have a bi-annual exception ($2.0 million) available this summer.
Grunfeld expects Beal, Jan Vesely and Chris Singleton to all participate in the Las Vegas Summer League. While Vesely will join the Czech national team later in the summer, Grunfeld said Kevin Seraphin was leaning toward remaining in Washington over playing for France.
"I think this is a big summer for all of them," Grunfeld said in reference to Vesely, Singleton, Seraphin and Booker. "They all need to improve. They all need to work hard."
Grunfeld saw improvements even as the Wizards struggled early in the year and complimented coach Randy Wittman for keeping "the ship afloat" and his players for what was "an awkward situation."
He said that he's felt pressure for years to get the Wizards back into the playoffs and that "nobody is happy" that they're headed back to the lottery again.
"If you're realistic and see what happened and when we had our team, we had a team that could compete with anyone if had our pieces for the whole year -- which we didn't," Grunfeld said. "There are no excuses. That's a part of the game. We got off to that slow, slow start. It was hard to recover from that. Obviously, our goal for next year is to not be in that type of position and to put a team out there that can make the playoffs."