- - Sunday, July 9, 2017


This town may not be able to do championships, but, boy, Washington can do contracts.

We are in the final days of whether the Washington Redskins will sign quarterback Kirk Cousins to a long-term contract or just pay him $24 million for one year under the franchise tag.

The countdown on Bryce Harper’s time in a Washington Nationals uniform is 250 games before the superstar is scheduled to hit free agency and garner perhaps a record $500 million contract.

The Washington Capitals signed three players — Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov and Andre Burakovsky — to $99 million worth of contracts last week.

The Washington Wizards have reportedly offered All-Star point guard John Wall a four-year, $170 million “supermax” contract extension. Wall, who was upset last year when his teammate, Bradley Beal, received a $130 million deal that was $50 million more than Wall’s contract, is reportedly taking some time to consider the offer. He would be eligible to be an unrestricted free agent in 2019.

And the latest is the Wizards scoreless playoff wonder Otto Porter, who, as a restricted free agent, received a four-year, $106 million max contract offer from Washington in response to the Brooklyn Nets offer to Porter.

All this money — $520 million in annual payroll between the Nationals, Redskins, Capitals and Wizards — and not even a sniff of a championship to show for it.

Like the Beatles said, “Money can’t buy you love.”

Once the Wizards find a pen to complete the deal, Porter will then become the highest-paid athlete in Washington — pretty good pay for someone who scored zero points in a must-win game six of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Boston Celtics.

It would have been pretty interesting if Washington had said to Porter, “You want to go play for the Brooklyn Nets? Have a party.”

They couldn’t do that, though. Washington had to make Porter the offer because they really didn’t have a Plan B — a plan that would attract a better player to come play for this franchise.

The Wizards, under general manager Ernie Grunfeld, appear incapable of convincing talented free agents to take the Wizards money — sort of like Syd Thrift’s “confederate money” when the Baltimore Orioles couldn’t attract any quality free agents.

That’s what happens when you operate a franchise that becomes the NBA joke – even when you have the best season in 40 years, you are still perceived as the pathetic Washington Wizards, still run by a general manager who has repeatedly failed over 14 seasons as the Wizards GM to change that perception.

It’s why when the serious bidding went down last year for a free agent that could have changed the course of the franchise — not Kevin Durant, but Al Horford – he turned down Washington and signed with the Boston Celtics.

NBA players don’t shy away from Washington because of the location. This city should be a destination location for NBA free agents, a cosmopolitan international city with a lot to offer. This isn’t Cleveland or Oklahoma City.

No, players don’t want to play for the Wizards – not Washington. And despite all the glory bestowed on the franchise during this record-setting season, nothing has changed to convince the league that the Wizards have truly changed the way they do business.

So without the ability to convince stars to come play in Washington, the franchise has little choice then but to hold on to the players it has – even Otto Porter, because there is no Plan B.

There is just Plan Ernie — hoping that Grunfeld, limited now by the salaries of Beal, Porter and perhaps soon, Wall — will be able to be creative enough to build the pieces around those three players with limited funds — something that he has been incapable of to date (see Jamal Crawford passing over John Wall’s recruitment of Crawford, instead signing with Minnesota).

Plan Ernie — that’s the past, present and future of the Washington Wizards, which means making Otto Porter the highest-paid athlete in a town that does contracts — not championships.

• Thom Loverro hosts his weekly podcast “Cigars & Curveballs” Wednesdays available on iTunes, Google Play and the reVolver podcast network.



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