Grun­feld talks, but doesn’t re­veal much on team’s plans

Gor­tat, Porter key to Wiz­ards

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - BY TODD DYBAS

Evad­ing ques­tions is an art with mul­ti­ple tiers. One strat­egy is to ask ques­tions in re­sponse to a ques­tion. That can prompt the in­ter­viewer to be­gin talk­ing about them­selves while limited time with a sub­ject ticks away.

An­other model is the short, terse an­swer. Think run­ning back Mar­shawn Lynch’s stance when he was in full anti-me­dia mode.

Last is the gen­er­al­iza­tion. This takes it own form of mas­tery and was put on dis­play Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon by Wiz­ards team pres­i­dent and gen­eral man­ager

Ernie Grun­feld.

Grun­feld had not spo­ken in a group set­ting with re­porters for al­most a year. The last time he han­dled a lo­cal gag­gle was

July 27, 2016, when the Wiz­ards glee­fully an­nounced Bradley

Beal’s max­i­mum con­tract ex­ten­sion. Since, Grun­feld has been around, am­i­ca­ble dur­ing side con­ver­sa­tions and oc­ca­sion­ally avail­able for one-on-one talks with re­porters.

Wed­nes­day, he was in front of the team’s pro­mo­tional back­drop in the Ver­i­zon Cen­ter.

Once prospect Al­pha Kaba fin­ished talk­ing, Grun­feld stepped in. He ad­dressed the news that Wash­ing­ton had be­come the 27th team in the NBA to buy a G League team (formerly the D-League). Then, the back-and-forth be­gan.

Grun­feld’s con­tract is one of lo­cal sports’ great white whales. Terms are con­stantly sought, but rarely ex­posed. Asked Wed­nes­day if he had re­cently re­ceived an ex­ten­sion or what the

time­line on his con­tract was, Grun­feld said, “I am under con­tract, yes.” Un­til when?

“Un­til I’m not.”

Then, he laughed.

Mov­ing through other topics — from the state of the East­ern Con­fer­ence to his de­sire to keep All-Star point guard John Wall long term — Grun­feld an­swered, but did not.

Would he like to talk to Wall, who has two sea­sons re­main­ing on his con­tract, this sum­mer about an ex­ten­sion?

“At the ap­pro­pri­ate time, we’ll sit down with John,” Grun­feld said. “We want John to fin­ish his ca­reer here. He’s our fran­chise guy. Him and Bradley have done a great job of im­prov­ing and lead­ing this ball club.”

Has he spo­ken with dis­grun­tled Marcin Gor­tat?

“March is with us,” Grun­feld said. “We’ve had him for four years. He’s av­er­aged a dou­ble-dou­ble for four years. Ev­ery­body has frus­tra­tion af­ter a tough loss and tough se­ries. March is with us and he’s go­ing to be a big part of what we’re do­ing.”

How does he view the im­por­tance of bring­ing back Otto Porter, who will be a re­stricted free agent this sum­mer?

“We’ve said all along we want to keep our core of young play­ers to­gether,” Grun­feld said. “Otto is an im­por­tant part of what we’re try­ing to do. When free agency starts, we’ll see what we can do to work things out and keep him here.”

Like most gen­eral man­agers and team de­ci­sion-mak­ers, Grun­feld is not go­ing to openly play his hand in pub­lic. June 30 will mark the 14th an­niver­sary of Grun­feld be­ing hired as pres­i­dent of bas­ket­ball op­er­a­tions. He hasn’t been open with re­porters in the past. It’s il­log­i­cal to think he would start now.

That doesn’t make his ret­i­cence any less rel­e­vant.

He does not have a de­ci­sion to make Thurs­day night. Wash­ing­ton held the 52nd over­all pick be­fore trad­ing it on Wed­nes­day. The Wiz­ards have mul­ti­ple needs which were un­likely to be served in full by a late sec­ond-round pick and Grun­feld men­tioned mak­ing calls to pos­si­bly move up in the draft.

Wash­ing­ton may have found a backup point guard for Wall in Tim Frazier on Wed­nes­day. It could use more depth on the wing and at power for­ward. Iowa State point guard Monte Mor­ris, who is ef­fi­cient and sea­soned, has of­ten been at­tached to the Wiz­ards. Grun­feld said the team will take the prover­bial “best player avail­able.”

Big pic­ture, he is work­ing like the rest of the East­ern Con­fer­ence to find a way to un­seat Cleve­land and LeBron James. That process could be ex­pen­sive. Grun­feld said the Wiz­ards, who are but­ting up against the salary cap, would con­sider mov­ing into the lux­ury tax for the “right player.”

“I don’t think we have a prob­lem go­ing over,” Grun­feld said.

Wash­ing­ton won its di­vi­sion in 2017 for the first time since 1979. How­ever, the team has limited flex­i­bil­ity both in cash and per­son­nel to make moves this off­sea­son that would al­ter its place in the league’s hi­er­ar­chy.

“We had one of the best sea­sons we’ve had here in long time,” Grun­feld said. “I think we’re pleased with that. I think our play­ers re­ally de­vel­oped. We still have a very young core, a very young nu­cleus. Our core play­ers have been in the play­offs.

“We’re one of only four teams in the league that has been in the sec­ond round in three of the last four years. So, we feel good about that and we feel good about our fu­ture and the de­vel­op­ment of our young play­ers. [Coach Scott Brooks] came in and did an out­stand­ing job, but we’re not sat­is­fied. We want to con­tinue to im­prove. We want to con­tinue to do bet­ter mov­ing for­ward.”

In all, it was an event­ful day for the Wiz­ards. They held their fi­nal group work­out of draft prospects. They came to an agree­ment to pur­chase a long-awaited G League team. Grun­feld vis­ited with re­porters. All are steps, even if they are limited in scope.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Wash­ing­ton Wiz­ards team pres­i­dent Ernie Grun­feld traded out of the NBA draft on Wed­nes­day.

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