Wizards fire president Ernie Grunfeld

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Wizards owner Ted Leonsis said his goal for this season was winning 50 games and making the conference finals.

Washington is 32-46 and eliminated from the playoff race.

So, it’s time for consequences.

Wizards release:

Chairman and CEO of Monumental Sports & Entertainment Ted Leonsis announced today that Ernie Grunfeld has been relieved of his duties as president of the Washington Wizards.

“We did not meet our stated goals of qualifying for the playoffs this season and, despite playing with injuries to several key players, we have a culture of accountability and a responsibility of managing to positive outcomes,” said Leonsis. “I wish to thank Ernie for his service to the Washington Wizards. He and his family have been great leaders in our community and have worked tirelessly to make us a top NBA franchise.”

Senior Vice President of Basketball Operations Tommy Sheppard will report to Leonsis on all basketball matters beginning immediately. The team will begin a search for a new head of basketball operations (which will include Sheppard as a candidate) upon conclusion of the season.

Grunfeld had unusual job security given his pedestrian record. He ran the Wizards 16 seasons in which they went 568-724, made the playoffs only half the time and never advanced past the second round. Yet, Leonsis kept giving him secret contract extensions. Leonsis even gave Grunfeld an A grade for last offseason.

But the owner finally had enough.

Fans in Washington certainly had long ago.

Now, whoever succeeds Grunfeld must dig the Wizards out of their hole. John Wall, who’s guaranteed a projected $171 million over the next four years and seriously injured, has arguably the NBA’s worst contract. Ian Mahinmi‘s $15,450,051 salary next season is a burden. Even Dwight Howard‘s $5,603,850 player option looks like a liability. Washington has only one young player – Troy Brown Jr. – under contract beyond this season.

The bright spot: Bradley Beal, who’s locked up two more years. He’s incredibly valuable. Washington could build around him or trade him to get a head start on rebuilding.

But if he makes an All-NBA team this season, he’ll be eligible for a super-max contract extension this offseason that projects to be worth $199 million over four years. As Wall shows, those large deals carry major downside risk for teams, even when the player looks pretty good.

The next front-office leader must also navigate ahead with an owner who claimed he’d never tank. Maybe that’s just something Leonsis said. But it also might be a real mandate.

Leonsis has also shown reluctance to pay the luxury tax (which is why talented Otto Porter is gone). Another constraint.

Of course, Leonsis also just kept Ernie Grunfeld 16 years. The lure of that job security should draw candidates.

Watch Dinwiddie get ejected for elbow to Poole’s face; Mavs still win behind Doncic 41 points

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Dallas has gotten in trouble this season because of a lack of secondary shot creation behind Luka Doncic, so when Spencer Dinwiddie got ejected for an elbow to the face of Golden State’s Jordan Poole, it seemed like the Mavericks might be in danger of falling to the Warriors.

Doncic had other plans — and a 41-point triple-double.

The ejection happened early in the fourth quarter, when Dinwiddie drove the lane on Poole and, bringing the ball up, elbowed Poole in the face.

That was reviewed by the referees who ruled it a Flagrant 2. The league has cracked down on blows to the face and head — intentional or not — the past couple of seasons.

Dinwiddie being out just meant more Luka — and that was bad news for the Warriors.

Despite Doncic and his triple-double, the Warriors had a couple of chances in the final seconds. First, Stephen Curry got called for a travel.

The Warriors argued that call but got nowhere with the referees. But they got one more chance on a Klay Thompson 3 to tie, but it was just not their night.

The Mavericks got the 116-113 win. Tim Hardaway Jr. pitched in 25 points, including five 3-pointers for Dallas. Curry led the Warriors with 32.

Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns out 4-6 weeks with calf strain

Minnesota Timberwolves v Washington Wizards
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It’s not good news, but it looked like it could have been much worse.

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns is out for weeks with a right calf strain, the team announced Tuesday following an MRI exam. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports it is likely 4-6 weeks.

The injury occurred midway through the third quarter Monday when Towns started to run back upcourt and went to the ground without contact, grabbing his knee and calf. It looked scary — Achilles scary — and he had to be helped off the court.

Towns has averaged 21.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, and while his numbers are down this season — just 32.8% on 3-pointers — the team has struggled at times without him, particularly lineups with Rudy Gobert and Anthony Edwards together, an -11.8 net rating (in non-garbage time minutes, via Cleaning the Glass).

Kevin Durant on chasing MVP: ‘Not really, I’ve been there, done that’

Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets
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Kevin Durant carried the Nets to another win Monday night, scoring 45 points on 19-of-24 shooting, plus seven rebounds and five assists.

If you’re having an MVP conversation a quarter of the way into the NBA season, Durant has to be part of it: 30 points per game on 54.8% shooting (and a ridiculous 65.9 true shooting percentage), 6.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists a game, plus playing solid defense and being the anchor of the Nets. After his 45-point outing to get Brooklyn a win over Orlando, Durant was asked about MVP chants and the chase for the award and was clearly not interested.

Durant has MVP numbers, but so do Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum and others. If Durant is going to move to the front of the conversation, the first thing that has to happen is Brooklyn has to win a lot more games — 11-11 is not going to cut it when Tatum’s Celtics and Antetokounmpo’s Bucks have the two best records in the NBA. Winning games and finishing on a top-three team in the conference matters to some voters (and traditionally is one measure of an MVP).

Watch Herb Jones inbound off Pokusevski’s back, seal win for Pelicans

Oklahoma City Thunder v New Orleans Pelicans
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With 2.3 seconds left in the game and the Thunder down 2, they needed to steal the inbounds pass from New Orleans to have a real chance. That’s why when Aleksej Pokusevski walked on the court it looked like he was going to guard the inbounder, Herbert Jones.

Instead, Pokusevski turned his back to Jones, putting himself in position to step in front of anyone cutting to the ball to catch the inbounds. Except, Jones made the clever play to seal the game.

Pokusevski fouled Jones, who sank both free throws and sealed the 105-101 Pelicans win.

The Pelicans got 23-8-8 from Zion Williamson and picked up a win without CJ McCollum or Brandon Ingram in the lineup. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued his dominant start to the season and scored 31.