- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 23, 2014


Ernie Grunfeld did it again. The Wizards general manager used his shovel and broom to clean up his own mess.

He is the arsonist fireman, who sets the house on fire and then gets credit for putting it out.

The fire this time was his foolish 2011 lottery pick, Jan Vesely, a wasted sixth pick in the NBA draft who became, like so many Wizards decisions, a joke, someone to amuse Wizards fans to help them forget 35 years of despair.

Yes – 35 years of walking through the desert while the NBA has gone through the Magic-Bird era, the Michael Jordan era, and now the winding down of Kobe Bryant’s career. Kevin Durant, now in his seventh NBA season, was born 11 years after the last time the Wizards were legimately NBA title contending good. Which is the whole point, isn’t it?

But that’s the past. Grunfeld is in the process of building a .500 team, and he supposedly did that last week by trading Vesely to the Denver Nuggets in a three-way trade, along with two second round draft picks, and backup point guard Eric Maynor to the Philadelphia 76ers, getting Miller in return from the Nuggets.

The logic of analyzing this trade reveals a path that is almost Vinny Cerrato-like in its dysfunction. It’s a good trade, we hear, because Vesely was a bust. He was Grunfeld’s bust, mind you, another in a list of European blunders by Grunfeld – Vesely, Oleksiy Pecherov, Vladimir Veremeenko and currently Tomas Satoransky, the 32nd pick of the 2012 draft who we have yet to see. Yet he had a chance to pick Ricky Rubio in the 2009 draft and traded that pick for Mike Miller and Randy Foye.

This franchise would be better off if they took Grunfeld’s passport away from him.

But credit him for getting rid of his mistake – especially if you think the sixth pick in the NBA draft is equal value to a 37-year-old backup point guard.

It’s also a good trade because the Wizards were able to fill a need – a backup point guard to John Wall.

Grunfeld had signed Maynor to fill that role, but Maynor couldn’t get on the court. So Grunfeld upgraded that position.

Never mind that earlier this year, after Grunfeld traded for Marcin Gortat, he also got former lottery pick Kendall Marshall – a far better fit than Miller, a 22-year-old point guard who is averaging more than 10 points and nine assists a game for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Grunfeld cut him as soon as he became a Wizard.

“Kendall Marshall, really, we didn’t have roster space for him,” Grunfeld told 106.7 The Fan.

To which Marshall tweeted after the trade was made, “the irony.”

No matter. The Wizards are better off today with Andre Miller than they were with Jan Vesely and Eric Maynor. This is Grunfeld’s move. Most NBA general managers who make as many mistakes as Grunfeld has over 11 seasons and compile a record of 339-528 aren’t around long enough to clean up their messes.

That’s a long time to operate with an eraser as your greatest tool.

Miller should be well-rested for the Wizards playoff run, which is good for a 37-year-old point guard. He hasn’t played since Dec. 30, after being suspended by Nuggets coach Brian Shaw after clashing with the coach who gave Miller the first “coach’s decision – did not play” of his career.

In other words, Shaw didn’t even want to see Miller anywhere on the court for the past two months.

Grunfeld told reporters it was an “isolated incident. We got to move past that. We’ve talked to other coaches that he played for and a lot of other players. Everybody speaks very highly about his professionalism and his work ethic. . I feel that was an isolated incident from all our research.”

Research? From the same administration that fostered an atmosphere where players brought guns to the locker room for showdowns? The same research team that drafted JaVale McGee, Nick Young and gave Andray Blatche a $35 million contract extension?

All are gone, of course. The arsonist fireman.

Let’s face it, if Ted Wells had conducted an investigation into the Wizards after the Gilbert Arenas gun disaster, they would have folded the franchise.

Miller shouldn’t have any problems in Washington, though. When it comes down to coach and player, the front office will have the player’s back. Ask Eddie Jordan. Ask Flip Saunders.

The Wizards are now poised to possibly be a four seed in the east for the NBA playoffs. They are fun to watch, and happy days are here again at the Verizon Center.

Anybody can make a few mistakes.

Thom Loverro is co-host of “The Sports Fix,”noon to 2 p.m. daily on ESPN 980 radio and espn980.com

• Thom Loverro can be reached at tloverro@washingtontimes.com.

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