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Andray Blatche May Be Gone, but Success for Washington Wizards Still a Ways Away

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 06: Andray Blatche #7 of the Washington Wizards before the start of the Wizards game against the New York Knicks at Verizon Center on January 6, 2012 in Washington, DC.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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Matthew BrownCorrespondent IJuly 29, 2012

There are only a few circumstances where paying a player $23 million to go away is a good thing, but the Washington Wizards had not choice but to part ways with forward Andray Blatche. The move comes as no surprise and finally severs the ties between the current Wizards and a roster of knuckleheads.

However encouraging the new, knucklehead-free direction may be, it doesn't change the fact that the Wizards aren't going to contend in the next few years.

It's easy to look at the recent acquisitions the Wizards have made as signs of a change in the team's culture. It is not as easy to look at the new-look roster, and say, unequivocally, that the Wizards will have a winning record and make the playoffs this season.

A team that has come back from as much dysfunction as the Wizards does not blossom into a contender overnight.

Washington has not been a popular destination for elite players the way New York, L.A. and Miami are, and the Wizards know that. They tried to fix that image by trading Rashard Lewis to the Hornets for Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor.

No one told the Wizards that Ariza can't shoot, Okafor has seen his career averages drop every year since 2007 and neither one of them are worth the contracts they're bring along.

Between Okafor, Ariza, Nene and the amnestied Blatche, the Wizards have close to $111 million invested in 10 total contract years for unwanted veterans. The Wizards just finished shedding dead weight from their cap, and now, they're willingly taking on water again.

That isn't to say that Okafor and Nene aren't going to be solid contributors, but the Wizards went from having a fair amount of cap room to having the 10th-highest team salary in the NBA.

The top teams in the NBA sink their money into their elite players, like the Lakers with Kobe Bryant, the Knicks with Carmelo Anthony and the Nets with Deron Williams.

The Wizards have their biggest contracts with two former All-Rookie First Team players and not their franchise centerpiece John Wall.

Wall's contract isn't up for another three years. The final year is a qualifying offer the Wizards would be foolish not to extend. This means the Wizards need to surround him with complementary talent and move from resident basement dwellers to playoff contention before then.

Is Wall going to endure a two-year growth period, at the end of which Grunfeld and head coach Randy Wittman's contracts will be completed, likely ushering in a new era of change?

As promising, and as talented as Wall, Bradley Beal, Kevin Seraphin, Singleton, Booker, Nene and Vesely are, how can the Wizards continue to change the environment before they've tainted their talent pool?

Using the amnesty clause was just the close of a regrettable chapter in the team's history; it did not guarantee a new brand of troubles wouldn't befall the Wizards.

The Washington Wizards are going to have their work cut out for them and are not going to win a lot of games in the next couple of years. The future is still bright for the young squad, but it seems to get further out of reach with each new change.

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