As offseason begins, Wizards' Grunfeld ready to commit to 1 thing: Pecherov Print
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Thursday, 03 May 2007 11:39
NBA Headline News

 WASHINGTON (AP) -For all the questions facing his Washington Wizards as their offseason begins - Will center Brendan Haywood be traded? How many free agents will stay? Will coach Eddie Jordan's assistants return? - there's pretty much only one thing Ernie Grunfeld would commit to Thursday:
He plans to have his 2006 first-round draft pick, 7-foot Ukrainian forward Oleksiy Pecherov, on next season's roster.
Otherwise, the Wizards' president of basketball operations dealt mainly in generalities during his annual ``state of the team'' news conference, a few days after Washington was swept by Cleveland in the first round of the playoffs.
Haywood didn't play a minute in Game 4 of that series, and the nameplate was gone from above his locker after the game. Without getting into specifics, Grunfeld said he spoke to Haywood.
``There's a certain decorum and certain way that you should act during a game and after a game,'' Grunfeld said. ``And that message has been relayed.''
And Grunfeld did return Thursday to a theme heard often around these parts in recent years, saying the Wizards need to get better defensively if they're going to ``make some noise in the playoffs.''
``That's going to be our goal for next year - to move up, not just to make the playoffs, but to do something in the playoffs,'' Grunfeld said. ``And I don't think that can be accomplished unless we improve on the defensive end.''
Washington allowed an average of 104.9 points, surpassed in the 30-team NBA only by Memphis and Golden State. On the other hand, led by Gilbert Arenas, the Wizards ranked fourth in the league in scoring, averaging 104.3.
Asked whether the responsibility for defense comes from a coach and his system or the players, Grunfeld said: ``Everybody has to have a defensive mind-set. ... We have to want to do it.''
He wouldn't say which of Washington's eight potential free agents he would like to have back. Nor would he pinpoint priorities for how the roster could be helped.
``I'd like to keep the core of this team together because they've shown that they can compete on a very high level,'' Grunfeld said. ``I think our future is extremely bright.''
Grunfeld did talk about the 21-year-old Pecherov, the 18th overall draft pick. He's playing for a team in Kiev, Ukraine, and scored 20 points, including 3-for-3 on 3-pointers, in a game Wednesday.
``We anticipate bringing him over probably in the next month or so. He'll be playing with us in the summer league,'' Grunfeld said. ``We can't sign him to a contract until July, but at that time we anticipate having him here and having him with us for next season.''
It's less likely that Juan Carlos Navarro, a guard drafted in the second round in 2002, will join Washington. While Grunfeld called Navarro ``one of the best guards in Europe, if not the best guard,'' his contract with his Spanish club has a seven-figure buyout clause, and NBA rules prevent the Wizards from paying more than $500,000.
``I don't want to put any odds on it,'' Grunfeld said, ``but we have had contact with his representatives and we'll continue to talk.''
 

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