Washington Times columnist Mike Jones is reporting that Flip Saunders will likely become the new head coach of the Washington Wizards next season.
Saunders started his head coaching career in Minessota, where he led the Timberwolves to the playoffs in eight of his nine full seasons as head coach. However, after a dissapointing season in 2004-2005, he was let go by general manager Kevin McHale.
Shortly after, he replaced future Hall-of-Fame coach Larry Brown in Motown in 2005, and led the Pistons to three consecutive Central Division titles. However, he took over a team uninterested with regular season titles.
After just three seasons Saunders was let go as he failed to lead the perennial Eastern Conference powerhouse past the Eastern Conference Finals.
In 2009, he will take over a Wizards team that is embarking on their first losing season since 2003. Destined for the lottery, the team hopes to make a better choice than last time when the franchise selected Kwame Brown with the number one pick in the 2003 NBA Draft.
Nevertheless, despite being tied with the Los Angeles Clippers for the second worst record in the entire league (19-61), the Wizards appear confident heading into next season. 11-year veteran and team captain Antawn Jamison, in a recent interview with probasketballnews.com, declared that the Wizards "will be back next season".
That confidence banks on the health of a team that has been depleted due to injury since the 2006-2007 season.
Consistent eight-year veteran center Brendan Haywood has played in just five games this season, after having surgery on his right wrist in the off season.
Talented big man Andre Blatche missed several games this season as well as many of his teammates, as the team has been plagued by back, ankle and hamstring injuries.
Nevertheless, there is no bigger question mark on this team than the stability of the knees of Gilbert Arenas.
After signing a six-year contract worth $111 million, Arenas has participated in only two regular season games this season, and fifteen total in the past two years.
In a recent interview with David Aldridge, Arenas discussed how he has seen so much improvement within the conference, especially bitter playoff rivals Cleveland Cavaliers.
After knocking the Wizards out playoffs three straight seasons, Lebron James' Cavaliers hold the best record in the NBA this season.
Aldridge pointed out that in that 2006-2007 season, the Wizards held one of the best records in the conference at 26-13 record heading into February. Nevertheless, Arenas acknowledged that the landscape of the eastern conference has changed.
It will be the unenviable task of Saunders to lift this Wizards team to a contending level. Known as an offensive coach, Saunders will have his share of weapons in his arsenal. However, since the big three in Caron Butler, Gilbert Arenas, and Antawn Jamison was assembled in 2005-2006, the team has never won more than 43 games.
Heading into next season, the Wizards will have to decide if they can compete at a high level as currently constructed.
Does the team need an inside presence more than it needs the likes of Butler and Antawn Jamison?
Can it depend on the often injured Gilbert Arenas to take them to new heights next season?
Is Arenas really a point guard, and Deshawn Stevenson a starting 2-guard on a championship team?
These questions as well as many others will need to be answered by the Washington front office along with Saunders before he begins next season.
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