(This year, I will take a crack at comparing the current state of all 30 NBA teams to old Hip-Hop records. All this useless knowledge, finally put toward something…)
It was 1996, and Tupac was fresh out of jail, having been essentially rescued by Suge Knight when everyone else (including his record label) turned their backs on him. Having been granted a reprieve and a new lease on life, Pac got straight to work the minute he arrived home, and the results of his labeor were the record most consider his best, two whole albums of a master storyteller at his peak.
Well, metaphorically speaking, the Wiz just got out jail. After toiling for the last few years sporting a fantastical collection of thugs, knuckleheads and wayward basketball souls, they spent last season cleaning house, setting all of the deadwood adrift. Gone are the infamous Javale McGee, Swaggy P, Gilbert Arenas and the biggest misfit of all, the one and only Andray Blatche.
Yeah, it took longer than it should have, but at least now they’ve given themselves a chance to build around their backcourt of the future, John Wall and Bradley Beal. Add solid veterans like Emeka Okafor, Nene and Trevor Ariza and this team, at long last, has the chance to get out of the jail of 20 win seasons and continued fan apathy.
It’s a new day in Washington D.C. Picture them rollin’, racking up wins and goodwill in a city that is presently focused on RG III and the Nationals. Things could (and should) be lookin up around these parts.
As long as they stay clear of Vegas…
BREAKING DOWN THE 2013 WASHINGTON WIZARDS
Head Coach: Randy Wittman
G- Jordan Crawford
F- Chris Singleton
F/c- Kevin Seraphin
F- Jan Vesely
“Ambitionz az a Ridah” (or If all goes right…)
The new roster (and new leadership of coach Randy Wittman) gels sooner than later. This team sports plenty of youth and now has some experienced professional players who are familiar with what it takes to win at this level. The benefit of being shitty for a sustained period of time is that they were able to stock up on high draft picks. Wall, Beal, Kevin Seraphin, Chris Singleton and Jan Vesely all have the chance to be very good, or at the least very serviceable NBA players. If the young guys produce, this could be a borderline playoff team with the chance to do even more damage in the near future.
Look, I know this ain’t a video game. It’s gonna take some time for the roster to coalesce and for the young guys to learn and embrace a culture of winning. What we still don’t know for sure is how much the old, asshole-laden roster might have rubbed off on John Wall in terms of attitude, work habits and such. He seemed to respond well to the coaching change at the end of last year but by then the Wiz were playing out the string.
Right now I’d say they have some positive momentum for the first time since the Arenas-Jamison-Butler days, but as of today it’s merely on paper. Wall could really break out this year if he continues where he left off and the trio of veterans they brought in are all known commodities. What they’ll need to figure out this year (and in the next few after that) is exactly what they have in Vesely, Singleton and Beal. What happens with them could be the difference between a middling team and the makings of something serious.
“No More pain” ( What If all goes wrong?)
They’ll prove themselves to be not-quite-ready-for-primetime. Wall had an awesome second half last year, as if he finally figured something out. If he regresses, or if their newly acquired veterans get hit by the injury bug, (Nene and Okafor in particular have injury histories) this team could struggle a bit.
Still, it’s hard to imagine them not winning more than they did last year at the very least. There’s enough depth to cover for injuries and enough youth and enthusiasm to ensure they will play hard on a nightly basis, if nothing else.
First things first, though. A losing culture is a real, tangible thing. Some teams just know how to do little else but suck. With few exceptions, the Wizards have been shitty for the better part of 30 years. That’s not easily overlooked, nor is it easy to change that kind of negative pattern. Yeah, they’ve taken the first few steps towards changing that, but alot is going to have to happen between now and winning. It’s a process. Everyone has to be put in their proper place, then they have to learn how to play together, then they have to learn to win. Sometimes it takes years, sometimes it never clicks.
For this lot, the jury is still out.
I really see the Wizards winning 40 games and sneaking into the Eastern playoffs. The second-tier of the Eastern Conference is in flux and I see enough here to believe they can make a decent sized leap. They’ve got the personnel to play uptempo and they should be worlds better on defense. A starting lineup of Wall-Beal-Ariza-Nene-Okafor is none too shabby, and the kids off the bench should make hay against most teams.
The key is gonna be Randy Wittman. They showed energy and desire after he took over last year and if he continues them in that same direction, they could make the same kind of leap the 76ers made when Doug Collins took over there. They whole thing boils down to attitude and culture. If Wittman can change that much, shit will turn around in a hurry.
I’m betting it will.
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