Ted Leonsis on the Washington Wizards New Direction

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Last year the Washington Wizards went 26-56 and were the only team in the NBA’s Southeast Division not to make the playoffs. Wisely, they blew up their roster this past season. And truly begin the re-building process this fall. The Wizards are starting over with a new Owner (internet pioneer and Capitals owner Ted Leonsis) and franchise player at the point guard position (NBA Draft #1 overall pick John Wall).

Leonsis, whose net worth is in the billions, was gracious enough to take time out of his very busy day to answer my questions about where the Wizards are going.

I first asked Leonsis about John Wall’s supporting cast, and if the other pieces around him will aid his transition into the NBA (similar to what Chicago did with their fanchise, #1 overall pick point guard Derrick Rose).

“I think that great next generation point guards are very rare, and difficult to find,” Leonsis said.

By Paul M. Banks

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“And when I say next generation point guard, I mean John Wall’s physiology as a specimen. He’s 6’4” with a wingspan of a 6’11” player. He’s really strong, jumps through the roof and he’s wickedly explosive and fast. But you wrap that in a gifted, intellectually astute player who is intrinsically happier when someone else is scoring, not just him,” he continued.

Leonsis then brought up the Wizards’ other guards.

“And we have Gilbert Arenas returning, one of the best guards in the NBA, and we were able to make the trade with Chicago to bring in Kirk Hinrich, so we think we’re going to have a very good back court,” he said.

Ah yes, the Gilbert question. Arenas was one of the biggest stories in the NBA last season, and for the wrong reasons.

On December 24, it was revealed that Arenas stored unloaded firearms in his locker at the Verizon Center and later surrendered them to team security. This violated NBA rules against bringing firearms into an arena. On January 1, it was reported that Arenas and teammate Javaris Crittenton had unloaded guns in the Wizards’ locker room during a Christmas Eve argument regarding gambling debts.

On January 6, the NBA suspended Arenas indefinitely without pay until its investigation was complete. NBA Commissioner David Stern acted swiftly in response to an incident prior to a home game with the Philadelphia 76ers. During the pre-game introductions, Arenas pretended to shoot his surrounding teammates with guns made from his fingers. The Wizards issued a statement condemning the players’ pre-game stunt as unacceptable. Later that month, Arenas and Crittenton were suspended for the remainder of the season.

On January 14, Arenas was charged with carrying a pistol without a license, a violation of Washington D.C.’s gun-control laws. He pleaded guilty to the felony of carrying an unlicensed pistol.

On February 2nd, Arenas wrote an open editorial in the Washington Post, apologizing for his actions and for “making light of a serious situation.” On March 26, Arenas was convicted for his crimes and sentenced to two years probation, 400 hours of community service, a $5,000 fine and 30 days in a halfway house. Arenas served his sentence this past spring.

To read what Leonsis said about Gilbert, and the rest of the exclusive go here.

For part one of this exclusive, discussing the business of the Wizards’ new direction go here.

Photo credit: Children’s National Medical Center

Written by Paul M. Banks, President and CEO of The Sports Bank.net , a Midwest focused webzine. He is also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, the Chicago Tribune’s blog network, Walter Football.com, the Washington Times Communities, Yardbarker Network, and Fox Sports.com

You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank and @bigtenguru

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