SPORTS

Leonsis wants to change culture of Wizards

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WASHINGTON (AP) - Owner Ted Leonsis believes his Washington Wizards can become a "destination" - the sort of NBA team top players strive to join.

That will take some time, Leonsis acknowledges. He makes it clear that the Wizards are still early on in the process of reconstructing around No. 1 overall draft pick John Wall.

Leonsis used the word "build" or some version of it more than a dozen times, as in: "I hope I've been honest and transparent ... (about) rebuilding the team."

Coming off a 23-59 season, Washington will play the first of its two exhibition games against the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night at home. The Wizards' first regular-season game is Dec. 26, at home against the New Jersey Nets.

The abbreviated preseason and 66-game regular season come after a lockout, and Leonsis opened his appearance Thursday by talking about a documentary he watched recently about the founder of Ferrari.

"He was the first race-car owner and driver to get rid of the rearview mirror on the car. And when they asked him why, he said, `I don't want anyone looking back. I want my drivers only looking forward.' And I think that's an appropriate way to kick off the season," said Leonsis, who voted in favor of the deal that ended the work stoppage.

"We just came off a couple of months where there was lots of angst and drama and discussions and pixels being generated. I don't care about any of that. ... I'm very excited and very positive about what we're building here," he continued.

Leonsis probably would prefer if fans agree to not look back at the lockout - or at the way things have gone lately for the Wizards, both in terms of wins and losses and the gunplay episode involving Gilbert Arenas.
Ticket sales are on the rise, Leonsis said, and he vowed that the on-court product will improve to the point that Washington becomes a place people want to go.

"We'll have enough assets to make trades and have cap space at some point to bring in difference-makers, and I hope to have our team ... considered a destination where players want to play," Leonsis said, "and that will come from filling the building. Everyone knows that this is a fantastic city."

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