Washington Wizards owner Ted Leonsis is sick and tired of watching his team lose. Well, it's more like he's sick and tired of watching them lose handfuls of games at a time and sink to the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings. Before the start of the season, Leonsis essentially set a vague goal for the team: don't be terrible at basketball. Here's what he said back in July (via the Washington Post):
"I won't be happy with our plan if we're back in the lottery," Leonsis said. "If we just miss making a playoff spot, no, the world is not going to end. If we're picking third because we have the second-worst record, no, I will not be happy.
The Wizards (9-31) currently own the worst record in the NBA, so things have not gone according to plan. However, there are reasonable excuses to be made for the team. Star point guard John Wall missed the first 33 games of the season, and rookie shooting guard Bradley Beal struggled to step up immediately and fill the void.
It's nearly an impossible task to redeem this season after such an awful start, but Leonsis seems willing to restructure his goals. Now that Wall, Beal and Nene are on the court together, he has modified his modest aims for the rest of the 2012-13 NBA season: play .500 basketball (via the Washington Post).
"I did think we could compete and be a .500 kind of team, and if we had played .500 we'd be in the playoffs right now, or at least the playoff hunt. So I'd like to see us play .500, playoff-caliber like basketball for the next 45 games, 48 games, whatever's left this year, and just see what we've got.
"Yeah, it's been disappointing, but now we see John, and we see what he's capable of. But he can only play 20 minutes. We've got to ease him back in. And Nene's just up to 25 minutes. So we are playing a lot better, but I really want to see what the team's like when everyone's healthy, [when] we add another piece here or there. And my bet is that going into the rest of the year, that we'll be much improved, and we can have a lot of upside for our next season."
As Dan Steinberg notes in that piece, the Wizards would end the season with a 30-52 record if they met Leonsis' stated goal. Chinese philosopher Confucius once said, "A superior man is modest in his speech, but exceeds in his actions," so maybe the owner expects more but simply does not want to risk further public embarrassment by announcing a more ambitious goal.
Then again, Confucius also said: "The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential... these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence."
It's unclear whether Confucius could summon up an affection for this Wizards team, and it's equally hard to tell if Leonsis is at all receptive to the team that general manager Ernie Grunfeld has assembled. Could this finally be the year that Grunfeld gets the boot?