PHOENIX - FILE: Head coach Flip Saunders (R) of the Washington Wizards watches from the bench with Assistant coach Randy Wittman during the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center on December 19, 2009 in Phoenix, Arizona. According to reports January 24, 2012, the Washington Wizards have fired Saunders and Assistant coach Randy Wittman will take over as the head coach. 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 Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
The Wizards trying to Flip the season around, the Capitals' star is taking his stick and going home instead of to the All-Star game and the Nationals swing and miss on a Prince.
Tuesday was a big news day for the other "three" pro sports franchises in Washington D.C., which is sparing us from playing Mel McShay in this space on the Senior Bowl and Redskins possibilities in April. We could bore you with another Peyton Manning to the Washington Redskins scenario or discuss LaRon Landry's decision to pass on surgery -- at least for now -- on his Achilles tendon.
We could also talk about how amazing it is that the New York Giants, who the Redskins swept, are Super Bowl bound. Does this mean Devin Thomas was a good draft pick? (NO Vinny it does not). We could also break down whether we should be happy Carlos Rogers season is over and whether the Redskins should bring him back.
Or, we could do none of those things. Yeah, let's go with that. I want to say thank you to the Wizards, Capitals and Nationals, who are all that covered in this edition of Chain Reactions.
Wizards try to Flip Season Around, Oust Saunders
It was just a matter of time that someone would be thrown overboard with the Washington Wizards, and in this case, thrown into a really comfortable life boat. Flip Saunders not only no longer has to coach this hopeless team, but he also gets paid approximately $8 million not to be there.
I know Flip is a competitor, and unless Coach K can help him out, the 51-130 stays on his permanent coaching record. But the funny thing about the NBA, where the players have the largest impact of any other pro sport, is that there is never winning percentages or win/loss records stuck next to points per game, rebounds, assists and block shots. No, coaches get all the W's and L's, whether it is fair or not.
That being said the Wizards had to do something 17 games into this shortened 66 game season.
"Flip is a very good, outstanding basketball man," Ernie Grunfeld said in a news conference. "I felt like at this time our players were not responding, that I think we needed a different voice."
No question, the Wizards needed to make a change, and they may even play a little more inspired for a while. For the guy who made the decision, he had to make a move to show fans that the effort is not acceptable. I didn't mention losses for a reason because this roster is not ready for prime time yet.
The effort level, though, for a "young" and allegedly hungry team is embarrassing all too often. Maybe Randy Wittman's more fiery style will wake those guys up. More likely, though, it will only serve as a short term jolt, because at this point, most of the players are who they are as professionals. In the case of the "little three" (Andray Blatche, Nick Young and JaVale McGee) this will be their fourth coach in five years, but not much has changed with their play and habits. I actually do think McGee paired with the right kind of power forward and leadership could be worth keeping, but the question is at what price.
Twitter was ablaze with fans wanting Grunfeld to go next, as he was under fire during the news conference. The next few months will likely determine his long-term status with the organization. Can he pull a rabbit out of the hat and get Andray Blatche out of town? Can he get that other piece to help John Wall? Will this year's draft picks show enough promise down the stretch for fans to feel confident that the transparent plan is working?
I understand owner Ted Leonsis believes drafting and being patient can work because of the Capitals' success. However, sooner or later this team has to show some real progress or they will continue to be a punch line in the NBA. Good luck Randy Wittman for the final 49 games.
Alex Ovechkin Misses the Mark with his Protest
First of all, I thought the three-game suspension on Alex Ovechkin was an overreaction by the NHL's punishment Czar Brendan Shanahan. Anyone who has followed the Great 8 knows he has done much more harm on the ice. That is also why Shanahan says he hit Ovi with the three games. I know he plays with an edge sometimes that seems reckless, but that is exactly what fans of the Capitals love about him.
The Capitals and Ovechkin are not happy with the NHL's decision, so Ovechkin is passing on the NHL's Showcase weekend in Ottawa.
"My heart is not there," Ovechkin said in regards to the All-Star Game. "I got suspended, so why I have to go there? I love the game. [The All-Star Game] is a great event. I love to be there, but I'm suspended. I don't want to be a target. I feel I'm not deserving to be there right now. I got suspended. I have to be suspended so that's why I give up my roster [spot]."
Certainly, you could argue the merits of Ovechkin's selection to the game in a down season for the Capitals' captain. Did someone in the league say he was suspended for the All-Star game? Of course not. They wanted him there because he is one of the league's best. So does that mean they should give him a pass if they think he is playing dirty? I think Ovechkin is missing the mark here, as are the Capitals for supporting the decision.
"Because he's a suspended player, he doesn't feel like he deserves to be there, so he's not going to go," McPhee said about Ovechkin's decision not to attend the All-Star Game, which he supports. "He doesn't want to be a distraction to the event."
The fans want him there so he should be there. The NHL has so few moments to get showcased, so you need to take advantage of it. Sure, Ovechkin does not want to be a distraction. but by not being there, you are being what aain? Do you think NBC is going to not talk about him during the game and skills competition? Is ducking the national media really making the situation better?
Truthfully, does anyone think Ovi is sad that he will not be at the All-Star Weekend? He is getting a nice vacation, which big picture could be great for the Capitals' captain down the stretch. However, protesting a league decision is not going to change their perception of the way you play. It may also make them less tolerant of you in the future.
Many NHL analysts have pointed to the lack of consistency of the NHL punishment rulings and the bias against a Russian player, which all may be true. These are things your organization and NHLPA could take up on your behalf. I just do not see how taking your stick and going home is going to suddenly change the perception outside of D.C. and Russia on Ovechkin's style of play.
No Prince in DC
The Nationals found out yesterday that despite their wonderful working relationship with super agent Scott Boras, they still would not be landing free agent Prince Fielder and his big bat. Why? Too many years and money, as Prince signed on with the Detroit Tigers for nine years and $215 million. I agree that nine years is WAY too many, though for the Tigers, it could work because he can DH. For the Nationals, it would not have been a wise decision.
"Our pockets are deep, but they are not that deep," Nationals manager Davey Johnson told reporters at the Baseball Assistance Team dinner in New York shortly after the news of Fielder's signing broke.
No doubt it was disappointing to see, because with Fielder, the Nationals could have been a contender in the NL East this season. They still may be with some guys returning to old form (i.e. Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche), and they seem to have plenty of pitching, but will they have enough offense? Fielder would have alleviated those issues.
Despite the disappointment, one thing Nationals fans can take away from this experience is this franchise is a player in free agency. This is the second straight offseason they have been willing to shell out big dollars. This is not Kansas City and it is refreshing to see the franchise no longer operating like it.