- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 2, 2003

Ernie Grunfeld is a fairly compelling candidate to keep hope alive on Fun Street.

Grunfeld has two trips to the NBA Finals in his portfolio and no history of trying to discover prospects in casinos, nightclubs and country clubs.

No blonde babe has made it in the NBA yet. To be fair, there is always the possibility of the first.

Grunfeld is not guilty of the two events that came to define the Knicks in the ‘90s: the 2-for-18 shooting performance by John Starks in Game7 of the 1994 NBA Finals and the decision by Jeff Van Gundy to hitch a ride aboard the ankle of Alonzo Mourning in the 1998 playoffs.

Washington’s oddest mass transit vehicle is the flying manhole cover. Grunfeld should consider this a warning.

It was Abe Pollin’s right to unveil his plumage in the presence of Grunfeld and reporters. It was Pollin’s best move since the day he terminated Michael Jordan, the 900-pound ego with the stable of panting apologists in his midst.

Pollin claims to be 4-for-4 with those he has added to the fold since deciding he could live without the Jordan-induced backbiting, infighting and cloak-and-dagger operating method.

This is basketball, after all. No state secrets are at risk.

Pollin is permitted the 4-for-4 overstatement, even if it is too high by three. The competence of the new coach and top draft pick is to be determined later. Steve Blake was a hometown decision, hardly satisfying in basketball or boxing.

Pollin took a poke at those would-be medical practitioners in the national press who found the owner to be “over the hill, incompetent” and perhaps in need of an in-home nurse.

Pollin appears to be getting stronger with each move, which no doubt comes as a shock to his increasingly silent minority partner, Ted Leonsis, who apparently has dropped the instant-message communication form in favor of the pony express.

The cloud hanging over Pollin and the franchise comes with a pronounced double standard.

Members of the national press take exception to those organizations that coddle and humor the riffraff in their employ. Pollin exercised principle against two dysfunctional types, Rasheed Wallace and Chris Webber, only to have it used against him.

“Both teams played hard,” Wallace said in the playoffs, in response to one question after the other, five times in all.

You want that in your locker room?

You appreciate the shabby citizenship of the Jail Blazers the last four seasons?

As for Webber, he has been the victim of Mark Fuhrman since his days at Michigan, where his two appearances in the Final Four have been banished to the NCAA’s version of the Matrix.

Whenever something goes awry in Webber’s world, whether it is a tough loss, memory loss, a stowaway cannabis plant or a bloody glove, it is inevitably the work of Fuhrman.

After the Wizards selected Jarvis Hayes last week, Pollin made it a point to note the player’s quality citizenship and the value he places on it with players. Like it or not, Pollin is against those players who end up hanging out in courtrooms.

“Do you know who I am?” Rod Strickland once asked a police officer between hiccups, revealing a measure of wit, dry or otherwise.

The police came to know everything there was to know about him: his favorite nighttime haunts, favorite beverages and favorite moves on the roadways.

Strickland underwent so many roadside sobriety tests while he was with the Wizards that they could have named the drill after him. Strickland did not always slip on his short pants in the correct fashion — the confusion of front, back and sideways — but when it came to saying the alphabet backward late at night, he was the best.

Grunfeld is obligated to consider this detail as well as he inspects the goods on the free-agent market.

It is his show now. There already are encouraging hints.

Grunfeld expressed no desire to commute to his new post by way of Milwaukee. He showed no inclination to speak in code. Mariah Carey was not around to bust out in both dress and song in his honor. There were no sightings of Ahmad Rashad and the Milk-Bone dog biscuit crowd.

Grunfeld’s approach appears almost novel, it being basketball for basketball’s sake.

So Grunfeld is on the phone this week, talking to agents, looking to land a point guard. He has been there and done that, which bodes well for the franchise. He will not be trying to learn on the job from a golf course.

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