Brad Mills-US PRESSWIRE
Nene brought with him a positive work ethic that the young players bought into.
The Wizards are often referred to as a young team, but this is often used as an excuse when it should be a highlight. Their problem has been with the guidance, or lack of it, from the veterans.
Blatche, McGee and Young weren’t rookies, and they should have been setting an example for newly-drafted players. Instead they preferred to coast through the NBA like it was high school and they could rely on their athleticism to get them by.
The salary of Rashard Lewis sat like an anvil on the chest of the franchise, limiting all movement. If Lewis had been posting triple-doubles every night, then it wouldn’t have mattered, but all he seemed to be teaching the younger guys was that if you’re injured, you still get paid.
Getting clear of the four names above was integral to the development of others, but the cost implications were never going to sit well with Ted Leonsis.
Using brilliantly warped logic, Jim America wrote for Bullets Forever that the combined cost of ditching Blatche and Lewis would be to Leonsis “like paying $750 to euthanize your two cats that constantly poop and vomit in your mouth as you sleep.”
Now, despite the veterinary metaphors, Leonsis sort of followed that advice. Amnestying Blatche forced him to cut his losses and accept that there was no other choice, given that the interest from other teams would be minimal. Still, he was determined to get something for Lewis.
While Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza aren’t superstars, those options were never on the table when dealing for Lewis. What they do provide is a focus on defense that has been lacking from the Wizards roster, as well as continuing the change in the locker room culture.
Along with the reliability that Cartier Martin showed towards the end of last season, it marks a balance between young players and veterans that will have a positive effect on the team.
Instead of coming to Washington for one last paycheck like so many Redskins before them, the veterans want to get the best out of a team that has the potential to be so much better than its results would suggest.
Martin himself alluded to the same thing when he spoke to Michael Lee:
I think they’ve made some great moves. We’re headed in the right direction and I think they’ve brought in some good pieces to help that. I’ll come in, defend, rebound, shoot open shots and be a team player. Be a team player and a good person in the locker room. That’s where it starts.
It seems that the Wizards’ front office is starting to realize that, too.