The Washington Times - April 3, 2009, 03:09PM

“We have a very big summer ahead of us.”

Those were the words of Ernie Grunfeld when I spoke to him today, but don’t be so sure that “big summer” + “big changes.”

There’s been talk that the Wizards will try to move the big contracts of the oft-injured Etan Thomas and the aging Mike James to create salary cap relief and acquire another veteran. But Ernie, while keeping his plays very well under wraps, also let on that he likes the potential of this team if all of it’s pieces are healthy.

“We still have to get Etan back, DeShawn, Mike James. We will have a very deep team once we get all the pieces back,” Grunfeld said. “I’m excited for the offseason because it’s a big offseason for us. We need to work extremely hard, and continue to get better. But I’m looking forward to that and hoping to keep all of our pieces see what we can do next season.”



The Wizards likely will have a top five pick, but I get the sense that Ernie still very much wants to trade it away. If Blake Griffin fell into their laps, obviously the Wizards would love to have him. But otherwise?? When asked, Ernie said his team enters the offseason sitting in a very good position, and repeatedly used the word “asset” when referring to that pick. Now, that “asset” could be used to package with a veteran for some relief, but as far as the current young guys on the roster, I get the sense that Ernie still likes what he has.


“The best opportunity for us to improve is to get everybody healthy and back together,” he said. “And another thing is we have a very good asset in our draft pick. We don’t know where what pick we’ll get, but it’s an asset and we’ll use it to put our team in the best possible position.”


Ernie praised the play of Dominic McGuire and Nick Young from last night’s game, and said that both have showed great maturity and that just having all of the veteran pieces on the floor relieves pressure that has been heaped on those two and allows them to play the natural roles that Grunfeld envisioned they would hold.


“Everybody has to be put in the right situation, and that wasn’t the case this year,” Grunfeld said. “But last night was an indication that when everybody’s in their proper roles, we can be a very competitive team. Our young players have been put in tough situations, and they’ve worked hard, but it’s been hard. Last night they were able to do the type of things we envisioned because they were in the right situation.”


Of the young guys that played last night, Nick provided bright spots, Dom did as well, and so did JaVale in limited minutes. J-Crit didn’t play last night but continues to show promise. The main player that had a bad night was Andray Blatche, who had four points, two rebounds and three fouls in 13 minutes. It should be interesting to see …


On the next coach, Ernie said that will be evaluated once the season ends. He said he has yet to make up his mind. Like everybody out there, however, I keep hearing the name Flip Saunders when talking to league insiders about the potential full-time replacement for Eddie Jordan.


Summing up what he saw last night, Ernie said: “It’s been a long, frustrating year. It’s been frustrating for me, for Mr. Pollin, for everyone in the organization. But last night, we finally had everybody – or close to everybody back – and I thought we got a glimpse of what we thought we could be this season and where we can be next year. I got excited. It was only one game, but it was a glimpse.”


The Wizards didn’t practice today, so no word yet on Antawn Jamison’s ankle, Javaris Crittenton’s back, or if Gilbert Arenas will play tomorrow night.