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News » Grunfeld, Wizards want to forget 'fluke' season

Grunfeld, Wizards want to forget 'fluke' season

Grunfeld, Wizards want to forget 'fluke' seasonWASHINGTON (AP) - Last season, Ernie Grunfeld fired the most successful Washington Wizards coach in decades and replaced him with someone who had no NBA coaching experience. He also watched his new $111 million player suit up for just two games.

The final product: 19-63, one of the worst records in franchise history.

"It was not our team," Grunfeld said Thursday. "That was a fluke season for us last year."

It's no surprise, then, when Grunfeld adds that the new NBA year "can't get here fast enough." Not only does the team's president want to put the bad memories behind him, he also for the first time is entering training camp with a Wizards organization in which all the basketball parts were assembled by him.

Grunfeld's new coach is Flip Saunders. The entire roster consists of Grunfeld signees - only Brendan Haywood was pre-Grunfeld's arrival in 2003, but he has since been re-signed. Most importantly, Grunfeld is banking his hopes on the expectation that three-time All-Star Gilbert Arenas will start earning his money by returning to Agent Zero form after missing most of two years because of knee injuries.

"We take ownership of what is here," Grunfeld said. "And we feel good about what we have."

It's rare for a 19-win team to talk playoffs so quickly, but Grunfeld and Saunders are doing just that. Grunfeld said none of the players with significant injuries last season - including point guard Arenas, center Haywood and guard DeShawn Stevenson - should be limited in practice when training camp opens next week in Richmond, Va.

The Wizards also added forward Fabricio Oberto and scoring guards Mike Miller and Randy Foye, but Grunfeld kept harping on a familiar refrain: Once upon a time, way back when the trio of Arenas, Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler were all healthy at the same time, the Wizards were a pretty good team.

"They want to get back to where we belong," Grunfeld said. "That's the playoffs, and when we get there, we want to do some damage there."

Grunfeld also heaped praise on Saunders, saying the new coach has brought "an energy, a new enthusiasm, a new type of professionalism" to the team. That's quite a contrast from Grunfeld's final verdict on Eddie Jordan, who was fired last season after 11 games because Grunfeld felt the team needed a new voice. Jordan, who was replaced by interim coach Ed Tapscott, had led the Wizards to four straight playoff appearances.

Reviews of Arenas' offseason training regimen have been positive - the Wizards even released a three-part video on their Web site to demonstrate his progress - but Arenas also gave a recent interview with The Washington Times in which he was very critical of team management for not asserting more control over his previous failed rehabilitation attempts.

Asked for a response, Grunfeld attributed the comments to player frustration.

"I've talked to Gilbert about the situation, and you're frustrated when things don't go well," Grunfeld said. "The bottom line is he's healthy now."

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: September 24, 2009


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