Thursday, July 2, 2009

Grunfeld interview on the Junkies

Ernie Grunfeld, general manager and president of basketball operations for the Wizards, was interviewed by The Junkies this morning on WJFK (106.7 FM). Grunfeld offered some thoughtful and honest answers on the NBA Draft, the trade for Mike Miller and Randy Foye, and the Wizards' (possible) approach in free agency. Randy Foye was interviewed earlier on the show, but it wasn't as interesting.

Here's the interview:

JP: "We just had Randy [Foye] on the show, really nice guy, amazing story actually, to come out of Newark, and we were kinda debating amongst ourselves on the show. Eric, you can talk about your opinion."

EB: "Well here's the thing, Ernie, Cakes and I are the two biggest Wizards fans here, we're the ones that are diehard, we're the ones that bleed, I guess, blue and gold, whatever the team's colors are. When you made the trade, I personally didn't love it, because I felt like...at five, if I looked back at the draft in the last 10 years, the fifth pick specifically hasn't been that great, but there's always been one or two guys picked after five that has become a multiple all-star. And I think it's up to your scouting department to find that diamond in the rough. And I feel like, as a fan, we punted on the opportunity to grab a superstar. So that was my criticism of the move."

Grunfeld: "Well, you're just assuming that all of a sudden we're gonna pick out, out of the 100 players, that superstar."

EB: "Yeah, you gotta find him. It's on your scouting department to find that nugget, right?"

Grunfeld: "Look, that's what's great about the NBA Draft. It creates a lot of excitement; there's a lot of conversations in it, and a lot of things go on. You know, it was my opinion that we were much better suited this time, because we have a very solid core. We're getting a lot of players back who were injured last year, and we have an opportunity to add two players to our roster that are going to be immediate-help players. I mean, Randy Foye is only 25 years old; he's been in the league three years. He was the seventh pick a few years ago, but he's already averaged 16.5 points and five assists a game. Now that number five pick may do that sometime down the road. I guarantee you no number five pick would have done that in the next couple of years for sure -- and maybe he might do that [at some point], but we have a proven commodity in Randy. And of course in Mike Miller, we get a six-foot-eight player who plays multiple positions, as one of the best three-point shooters of all time. He has a 40-percent career three-point percentage -- who is also a proven player. They both play multiple positions. So, with the addition of those two players, it's going to help us tremendously, and it's going to help us more than any player at the number five spot. Now, your point is well taken; in three-four years, a player at the fifth spot could turn out to be a solid player, but there's no guarantee. And this way, we get guaranteed, two very good basketball players."

Lurch: "Now be honest Ernie, did you think that Rubio would have slipped to five?"

Grunfeld: "You know, no I don't know where he would have been. I thought he would have gone six, seven, four, five -- you know, you never really know. But as I've said before, if it was Rubio, Tyreke Evans, Harden -- we liked all those players. But the only one I would have been upset if he slipped was Blake Griffin. And otherwise we would have made this trade for any of those players that were available there."

Lurch: "OK, what if Minnesota said, you know what, we don't want the fifth pick, we're going to keep Randy and Mike. Can you tell us who you targeted there at five?"

Grunfeld: "Well, like I said, we had a list of our players; we didn't know who was gonna be there. We liked all those players -- we liked Harden, we liked Tyreke Evans, we liked Rubio, and Curry is also a good player. So we felt like if we kept the pick we were going to get a good player, but it was going to be a player that we really had to wait on several years to come in and make an impact because all those players are 18, 19 years old."

EB: "Right, and to be fair to Ernie, it's been almost unanimous around the league; all the experts and everybody like the move. I'm the only idiot that wanted to take a flier and try to pick a superstar. But I will say this, Ernie, I was with you when the notion of picking up Gilbert's contract came up and I've always actually been the one guy that said...let's keep the core guys intact because I remember when we were at the all-star break a couple years ago, and guess who was coaching the all-star team for the best record in the Eastern Conference when all our guys were healthy...The players are the ones that got us there, and those players, when healthy, are still here, and I like the fact that you didn't break up the core that you recognized that injuries have really been the one thing that's kept this team from reaching their potential. How is Gilbert doing, and do you still feel that way?"

Grunfeld: "I still feel that way. Obviously at the time we signed Gilbert, we had to make a decision. People think that we could have used that money in some other way, and we really couldn't have, cause once we kept Antawn Jamison, we were right at the salary cap. And with our rules, you can exceed the salary cap to sign your own player, but we wouldn't have been able to go out and get another player of that magnitude and put him on our roster. So, obviously, the injuries were a tough situation, but I think once we get everybody together with Gilbert, Caron, Antawn -- having three all-stars -- our younger players are developing, they're getting better. Last year was very, very difficult, but the silver lining is that some of those young players got a lot of experience, a lot of playing time, and hopefully that'll pay benefits this year. Also, Brendan Haywood is back for us, and I don't think people give Brendan enough credit for how his game has improved. So we feel like we have one of the deepest rosters now in the Eastern Conference, and we feel we can compete with anybody if we can put everybody out there at the same time."

Cakes: "And Brendan's also in a contract year, I believe, which is big!"

Grunfeld: "Brendan is in a contract year; he's going into the last year of his deal, so that's gonna be motivation itself. But Brendan's a real professional, he's a very hard worker, and he's in great shape. You asked about how Gilbert is doing, and Gilbert has been scrimmaging everyday. He looks terrific; his weight is great. And he's real motivated, cause nobody's more frustrated than Gilbert about his injury situation because he's such a competitive guy and he loves to play. He's an absolute gym rat. So he can't wait to get back out there."

EB: "So, Ernie, are you telling me then that, in all likelihood, the roster is basically set?...You don't have enough depth with your big men."

Grunfeld: "...If you look at our roster, we're very diverse. We have a lot of players that can play multiple positions. At the five spot we have Brendan, we have Andray Blatche, and we have JaVale McGee. So we have three players, and what I like to do is have at least three players for every position, and we have that. We have three point guards with Gilbert, Randy, and Javaris Crittenton. We have three guys who can play the two with Nick Young, Mike Miller, Randy Foye can play there, as can Caron. At the three spot, we have Caron and Dominic McGuire -- Mike Miller could also play there. At the power forward position, we have Antawn, Andray, and Dominic could play there, and then the three centers. Now we'll also be looking for another maybe backup, another big body, someone that could come in occasionally and give us six to eight minutes. But you can only play five guys at a time, and most coaches only play eight or nine players anyway, so we feel we're a pretty deep team, and we have a lot of players that play multiple positions. So we'll have all positions covered. Obviously, I'm like you, I'd like to have five all-stars at every position. But that's very hard to do."

Lurch: "What do you envision...Randy's role as on opening night? Do you envision him as the starting point guard and moving Gilbert to the two, or vice versa, or bringing Randy off the bench?"

Grunfeld: "Well, Gilbert is our point guard -- we're not gonna move him to the two. He's gonna be running our team, and with the way Flip runs [the offense], the point guard has the ball a lot and runs a lot of pick-and-rolls, so I think you'll see Gilbert do an outstanding job at that spot. And as far as Randy's position is concerned, it's going to be determined in training camp. It's going to be a very competitive situation. The good thing about Randy is he can play both spots, you know, he's six-foot-four, and he can play the two, he can play the backup one. And that's gonna be up to Flip and really the players themselves to see which combinations fit best together and how we can be most effective. But whether he starts or comes off the bench, he's gonna get a lot of minutes for us. And he's gonna be a big contributor."

Say what you will about Grunfeld, but at least he's been consistent in wanting to build around the big three -- hopefully it works out.

Also, it's worth noting that Grunfeld didn't mention DeShawn Stevenson and Mike James during the interview, so those two could be out the door in the near future.

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