- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 24, 2012

President and general manager Ernie Grunfeld will continue in his position with the Washington Wizards for at least one more season. Terms were not disclosed.

Asked if he believed he deserved an extension given the Wizards (18-46) have the second-worst record in the NBA, Grunfeld was candid.

“I’ve been doing this job, a job like this, for 22 years, and I think we did some good things,” he said at a news conference Tuesday at Verizon Center. “The important thing is Ted [ Leonsis, team owner] felt that [I did].”

Grunfeld has been at the helm since 2003 and has been the chief architect of several incarnations of the perennially struggling franchise. Early in Grunfeld’s tenure, he signed the Big Three of Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison — the core of a team that was expected to be a playoff contender for years to come. But injuries, along Arenas’ legal troubles, caused the team to move in a new direction.

“We had to pivot and change course in midstream of where we were,” Grunfeld said.

His next moves included trades to bring in Mike Miller and Randy Foye for the fifth pick in the 2009 draft, in what was termed a “win-now” plan. Ultimately, the plan was a bust, and both players had moved on by the following season. Suddenly, the Wizards had no choice but to begin a full-scale rebuild.

“It’s been a process for us,” Grunfeld said. “Obviously, we’ve been very transparent about what we’re trying to do. We had a game plan, and we wanted to rebuild through the draft with younger players and put ourselves in a good position from a salary-cap standpoint moving forward.”

Washington got the best of all possible building blocks when it selected point guard John Wall out of Kentucky with the first overall pick in 2010. Last season, the Wizards drafted forwards Jan Vesely and Chris Singleton and guard Shelvin Mack.

“I think we’re a competitive team,” Grunfeld said. “Obviously, we still have a lot of work to do. This is Year 2 of a three-year rebuild, so we’re moving to a direction where we want to be more competitive next year.”

Grunfeld’s extension comes as a surprise to many Wizards fans whose patience has been tested for years. Washington last qualified for the playoffs during the 2007-08 season, when it lost to Cleveland in the first round. Aware of the speculation that he might not be retained after this year, Grunfeld denied being concerned about his future.

“I really wasn’t focused on that at all,” Grunfeld said. “I felt like I had a job to do, and if I did my job well, things would work out. We had a game plan. Ted and I talked all the time about where we are and what we’re trying to accomplish and things worked out.”

Grunfeld gave few details about the team’s plans. Fans are concerned about the future of embattled forward Andray Blatche, injured forward Rashard Lewis, how the team plans to use the amnesty clause and if it will sign free agents or veterans to add to the mix of young players.

“If the right opportunity is there for us to add better players then we’re always going to look at that,” Grunfeld said. “I think the veterans we had this year did a nice job under very tough circumstances because we didn’t have the benefit of training camp and summer league.”

Grunfeld cited the addition of Nene as a huge positive and praised the veteran leadership of Maurice Evans and Roger Mason Jr. Grunfeld also believes the fans will “forgive” Blatche if he plays well to start next season.

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