NEW YORK – Flip Saunders isn’t the reason the Wizards flopped. Just ask him.
When Saunders took the Wizards’ job, he said after being terminated, he believed his staff had the opportunity to coach a veteran team that had a chance to make a run into the playoffs.
“That job description changed drastically, when we experienced the gun in the locker room situation,” he said.
Well, yes, that and the fact his 3-15 attention deficit disorders had minimal focus, even less direction and glacial progress through it all.
Still, team president Ernie Grunfeld must assume the brunt of responsibility for the lack of leadership part. He assembled the last few lottery lollapaloozas as well as this one. It’s on him there are no veteran leaders.
Rashard Lewis doesn’t vaguely qualify, and it doesn’t count for anything that fringe contributors Mo Evans and Roger Mason are union committee officers.
Of all the NBA teams, the Wizards needed guidance the most. This is one congregation that ain’t listening to any preacher, much less an obsolete coach.
That goes double for interim coach Randy Wittman, who alienated and anesthetized many a Timber cub in his brief stay in Minnesota — which is in his favor.
In case you haven’t caught the Wizards performance lately, the bad actors doing all the napping and at least one guy doing all the yapping come off as knowing it all despite having a combined four years or so of college experience.
This crew needs to see what the real deal is every day, every practice and every bus ride, not from coaches but from a made member of the association who still can bring it with him when he comes.
Somebody on their skill level and wave length who commands respect on the floor before demanding it in the locker room and on the team charter.
Somebody who can teach them how to prepare, how to play, behave, dress, chill, take care of their bodies and what not to feed them.
Hell, how to do everything.
Being a former player, Grunfeld should have been more conscientious in terms of importing character foremost. Instead, his emphasis has been talent, all of it disruptive, whether it be established players such as Gilbert Arenas and Josh Howard, or unmanageable young bloods such as John Wall, Andray Blatche, Nick Young, JaVale McGee, Jordan Crawford and, ah, yes, Javaris (“This is not who I am”) Crittenton.
Are the Wizards sincerely trying to build a successful squadron with one of these hombres as their pack leader?
For starters, that’s the question owner Ted Leonsis needs to ask himself.
So, the Timberwolves could have locked up Kevin Love for five years at maximum money without circumventing the salary cap, but instead team owner Glen Taylor chose to grant the 23-year-old the opportunity to fly west (Los Angeles), south (Miami) or east (New York or Boston) at his pinnacle after three years.
Something must have been lost in Viking translation.
Surely there must be a safe somewhere with a signed contract in it that guarantees Love a lifetime supply of enriched uranium and pledges he play out his career in Minnesota.
At least that’s Joe Smith’s take on this.
By all means, do not expect Love to utter a disparaging word about his four-year maximum security $62 million pact; even the slightest grumble from someone banking millions for raking in rebounds and racking up points tends to leave an image permanently stained. Love knows better.
Just as anybody wielding common sense these days knows how he really feels about the negotiation’s outcome and what is bound to happen in due course.
The Magic were doubly mortifying Thursday; first in honoring Dwight Howard for breaking Nick Anderson’s franchise scoring record (10,650) earlier this week, then squandering a 27-point first-half lead and then some in a 91-83 loss to the fabulously flawed Celtics.
The very most Howard deserved was a three-second call for having one foot inside and one foot outside the franchise for three straight months. I would have notified owner Rich DeVos earlier had I realized he would be the last to know, but sucking Howard’s thumb for him is not going to change his mind about wanting to be traded.
So why humiliate yourself?
Who does mismanagement think it’s fooling aside from DeVos?
This next part is really rich: The Magic allowed Anderson to share the same spotlight with Howard (with his papal permission, no doubt) at the genuflection ceremony.
That’s very nice considering Anderson played 10 seasons for the organization and has worked in many capacities for I don’t know how long.
Meanwhile, in all that time, mismanagement never acknowledged or honored his record until it was surpassed, much less entertained the notion to retire his No. 25 jersey.
Who can blame the Knicks for feeling their 33-point bagging of the Bobcats earned them a rest on their laurels?
Watching them watch the Cavaliers the next night I had to admire the acreage between them when Cleveland had the ball. There was so much room several realtors listed it.
This just in from column conniver Brian Kenny: “Mark Off-The-Wahlberg boasted that if he were coaching the Knicks, they would have the best record in the Eastern Conference.”
Column chondriac Richie Kalikow had a nightmare: “Stephen Hawking said his research refuted Carmelo Anthony’s hypothesis he should consider shooting less.”
Peter Vecsey covers the NBA for the New York Post.