If 2015-16 hasn’t quite been a disaster for the Washington Wizards—nobody pulled a loaded gun on a teammate in the locker room, so far as I know—it certainly has been a complete waste. They were supposed to be one of the East’s better teams; instead they are shitty, often embarrassingly so, and will miss the playoffs altogether. Yessssssss.
You must understand! Two years ago, the Wizards jumped up and made the playoffs, and beat down the miserable Bulls in the first round; it was great and fun and exciting, but also it sucked because they saved coach Randy Wittman and general manager Ernie Grunfeld from being replaced. Then last season, they imploded in February and it looked like Wittman, at least, might have been in trouble, but they scraped together enough wins to make the playoffs again, and then swept the Raptors; it was great and fun and exciting, but it sucked because, again, it kept Wittman and Grunfeld afloat. Now they’re butt, and ESPN’s Brian Windhorst is saying Wittman, at least, is “99-percent” likely to be fired on Thursday morning, and, God, please, let it finally fucking happen already.
The Wizards have lots of problems. Trade-deadline acquisition Markieff Morris aside, the frontcourt is old as hell, unathletic, and broadly shitty. Young Bradley Beal is supposed to be John Wall’s costar, but he can’t stay healthy, has holes in his game you could fly Golden State’s team plane through, and carries himself on the court with the precise bearing of a bleary-eyed teen roused pre-dawn to scrub a toilet. Younger Otto Porter’s confidence and focus live or die by the outcome of the first jumpshot he takes in a given game. On this year’s team, only Wall, Ramon Sessions, and friggin’ Nenê could get by anybody off the bounce in any but the most favorable circumstances. Wall himself regressed badly on defense this season and has had a sour look on his face since early November. The team needs to play fast to make best use of his abilities, but precious few of his teammates can hang in an uptempo game.
Those are problems that can’t be fixed just by shitcanning a coach and GM. The Wizards need better players, and they need the current players who’ll still be around next autumn to get better; firing Wittman (and Grunfeld, God please Grunfeld too) won’t automatically do anything about that stuff. But also, Wittman and Grunfeld are shit and belong in the toilet.
I went in on Wittman’s shortcomings pretty thoroughly last February and won’t go into them in depth here, since they haven’t changed. In summary: his schemes are wasteful and ineffective; his ideas about what constitutes a good shot are hilariously backward; he routinely has his team working against its strengths instead of imposing them on opponents; he doesn’t trust his players to be smart, even when he’s not actively coaching them to behave stupidly. He’s also bad at managing a rotation! He resists thoroughly mainstream 21st-century basketball ideas like using small, switching lineups until circumstances give him no choice, and then implements them haphazardly, as if he doesn’t understand why they’re supposed to be effective in the first place; he bails on them at the first sign that they won’t magically produce 70-0 scoring runs. He defaults to lead-footed old fucks in response to the slightest adversity, like a reflex, which appears to be the major reason why the springy, rangy, healthy rookie the team traded to get in last summer’s draft, Kelly Oubre Jr., has logged only a few more meaningful minutes than I have since the All-Star break, despite generally playing at least as well as the washed-up mercenary short-timers (like Marcus Thornton, for chrissakes!) for whom Wittman bodied him out of the rotation. He’s bad. He’s bad at coaching the Wizards, and it’s been apparent for some time now.
Grunfeld is a bit trickier to nail, or at least he hasn’t done anything flamboyantly stupid in a little while. But he’s been the Wizards’ GM for nearly 13 years—thirteen fucking years!!!!—during which time, by my count, the only unambiguously successful personnel move he has made was the one he essentially couldn’t fuck up: when the lottery gift-wrapped him the first pick in 2010 against long odds, he took the consensus best player, John Wall, rather than shit-ass Evan Turner. (Signing Gilbert Arenas away from the Warriors in 2003 would almost count, if he hadn’t later given Arenas what ol’ Gil himself couldn’t really dispute was the single worst contract extension in sports history.)
On the other side of the ledger, hell, leave aside stuff like drafting Jan Vesely over literally any other basketball player ever (but especially Klay Thompson, Nikola Vucevic, and Kawhi Leonard); or the investment he made in a world-historically hilarious Nick Young-Andray Blatche-JaVale McGee “nucleus”; or when he gave shitty 32-year-old Captain of Failure Antawn Jamison a four-year $50 million contract. Hell, you can even leave aside the unthinkably stupid six-year, $111 million Arenas extension—which was so bad that, along with the insane Rashard Lewis contract Grunfeld later took on in exchange for unloading Arenas, it directly precipitated the 2011 lockout and the current CBA’s amnesty provision. Leave all that stuff aside, and just consider the time he traded the fifth overall pick in the 2009 draft—a pick that could have gotten him Steph fucking Curry—to the Minnesota Timberwolves ... for Randy Foye and Mike Miller. What I am saying here is that Ernie Grunfeld belongs in fucking prison.
The Wizards can’t send Ernie Grunfeld to prison. They can’t banish Randy Wittman to a 1962 Indiana high school where his notions of how to play basketball would fit and make sense. But, God and/or Ted Leonsis willing, they can get those two incompetent doofuses fired. They’ve done about all they can, and dammit, that’s something to feel good about.