In a highly anticipated press conference today, the Washington Wizards officially introduced their new decision-makers; team president Michael Winger and general manager Will Dawkins. Sitting on the stage with team owner Ted Leonsis, Winger and Dawkins couldn’t hide their excitement about starting their new roles with the Wizards.
What stood out about today’s presser was the emphasis on patience and doing things the right way. Having worked together with the Oklahoma City Thunder between 2010 and 2017, Dawkins and Winger’s shared approach to team building is striking. Not only do they have similar basketball minds, but they also clearly love working together.
Both men started their statements with heartfelt compliments for one another. Winger stated that Dawkins was his first choice and always wanted the opportunity to hire him one day ever since their time together with the Thunder. The mutual respect was apparent in Dawkins’ statements as well, who praised Winger’s process-driven approach that connects people. Dawkins said what connects him most to Winger is the fact that he is a great person and a great father.
Collaborative decision-making will be key in the front office
Focusing on the individual rather than the basketball aspect was apparent throughout the presser. Dawkins stated that one of their primary goals is to create a prototype of a “Wizards player,” who is competitive and willing to be unselfish. Winger reiterated the same point by expressing his goal of finding players who love to play basketball, and that the ideal player is one that shows endless improvement “until the day they retire.”
Dawkins and Winger’s desire for collaborative work was heavily felt in their words. Daily basketball operations will be on Dawkins, but for any high-level decision, a collaborative process involving Winger will be followed. Despite this, Winger emphasized that he is the “first accountable” for any mistakes or failures.
Even though both executives demonstrated visible excitement and gratitude for their new positions, they also acknowledged the weight of daunting decisions waiting for them, starting with the draft and looming free agency. Answering one question in particular, Winger said he has “full authority for a teardown of the roster” if they decided to do so but they haven’t made a decision yet. He refused to answer whether Bradley Beal, Kyle Kuzma, and Kristaps Porzingis will be on the team come training camp.
Winger: It takes time to build a ‘generational contender’
This level-headed, patient approach should be celebrated. Both decision-makers underlined the importance of meeting with all three players, and having conversations with them before making any final determinations. Asserting that he only heard wonderful things about Beal and that he has the utmost respect for Kuzma and Porzingis, Dawkins underscored the fact that they need time and collaboration to figure out the next step for the franchise.
Winger pointed out that the Wizards are not “starting from zero” and that there is a lot of talent on the team. The trick is to position the talent in a way that fits one another. As emphasized throughout the press conference, this takes time. Although Winger declared that the eventual expectation is to create a “generational contender”, he couldn’t promise when.
And that is fine. All the Wizards needed was a direction and smart basketball minds who could execute that direction. Now it finally seems like they are on the right track. It will be fascinating to see how Winger and Dawkins execute the carte-blanche they have from Leonsis. An exciting summer awaits us in Washington.