- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Washington Wizards president of basketball operations Ernie Grunfeld announced yesterday that coach Eddie Jordan will receive a contract extension in the coming weeks.

Although a deal has yet to be reached, Grunfeld and team owner Abe Pollin already have agreed to extend the coach, who was vacationing in New Jersey last night before returning here today to conduct the team’s draft this evening.

“As far as Eddie’s situation is concerned, we’ve said from Day 1 that we’ll have internal meetings. Those meetings have already started and Eddie is going to get an extension in the future so that situation is resolved,” Grunfeld said yesterday at Verizon Center. “He is going to be our coach next year and for years to come.”

Jordan, who was unavailable for comment, enters the final season of a four-year contract worth about $12 million. Members of the team, specifically All-Star guard Gilbert Arenas, had voiced concerns about Jordan’s future with the team.

Many of the concerns stemmed from the fact that Pollin, not Grunfeld, hired Jordan. For most teams in the league, the coach is hired by the general manger or team president.

Arenas has indicated more than once — most recently after the first-round loss to Cleveland — that he wanted Jordan back as the team’s coach. The guard welcomed news of the extension.

“I think it’s great,” he said. “I think it’s well deserved. He got us in the playoffs in two of the three years he’s been here. He’s a guy who can get us to the next level. I’m happy for him.”

Jordan has been good for the Wizards. In his first year as coach, the team finished 25-57. The following season, the Wizards improved to 45-37, reaching the playoffs for the first time since 1997. Eliminated by Miami in the second round of the 2005 playofs, Washington finished 42-40 last season before falling 4-2 in the first round to Cleveland.

Despite what might look like a step backward, the Wizards have made the playoffs in back-to-back seaons for the first time in 18 years.

“I think we are positioned very well to be very competitive,” said Grunfeld, who will preside over his third Washington draft today. “We showed last year that we can compete against anybody in the league and to a man we’re all upset about the way the season ended last year. I think we are going to use that as motivation to work extremely hard and come back focused to give it another shot next year.”

Earlier this week, Arenas told The Washington Times he would consider opting out of his contract after the 2007-08 season if the team isn’t becoming a championship contender.

Grunfeld yesterday responded to those remarks for the first time.

“He has the right to do that like all players do,” Grunfeld said. “I love Gilbert’s attitude. He loves to win and we’re on the same page with that. We are all about winning in this organization and we are about playing for a championship ultimately.

“One of the things that we loved about Gilbert when we got him was his attitude,” Grunfeld said of Arenas, whom the Wizards signed as a free agent during the summer of 2003. “His attitude is that winning really mattered to him and those are the kind of players that you want on your team. Look, we love his competitive nature. He loves to raise the bar, he wants to play for a championship and that’s the ultimate goal of this organization.”

Earlier yesterday, a bench warrant for Arenas’ arrest was issued after Arenas missed a court hearing for a disorderly conduct charge and subsequent arrest in Miami Beach during Labor Day weekend.

But that issue has been resolved and a new date has been set for a hearing.

“We contacted Judge Samuel Slom directly on behalf of Gilbert,” Grunfeld said. “He was made aware that Gilbert never received a written notice regarding the court date. Judge Slom has rescheduled the court date and we are very confident this issue will be resolved.”

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