Despite ending the season with a six game winning streak, including two wins against the Miami Heat, there were not any confetti or streamers falling onto the floor of the Verizon Center after the Washington Wizards ended their season with a 104-70 win over the Heat. A two seed heading into the playoffs, Miami chose to rest their big three for both games against Washington. On Thursday night both Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh were inactive, Miami opted to start the likes of Juwan Howard instead. The Heat had no problem falling to a 46-20 record to end the season. With a reciprocal 20-46 record, the Wizards are once again in the basement of the NBA, hoping for the lotto balls to fall their way. Despite a young athletic group and an infusion of talent from last year’s draft, the Wizards managed to do only slightly better than last year’s winning percentage. Instead of celebrating a win to end the season, the team continues on in the midst of a long rebuilding phase and for that there is no need for streamers at the end of the game.
Around this time last year we were stoked that the Wizards got rid of their ugly uniforms and were excited that the team landed a new crop of rookies including The Dunkin’ Ninja with a Hot Girlfriend. We also landed a veteran big man in Ronny Turiaf. That would perhaps end the Kevin Seraphin/Hamady N’Diaye experiment.
Then the Lockout happened and it looked like we weren’t going to have basketball. After that got resolved around Thanksgiving. The Wiz didn’t really roar out of the gate, the team dropped their first eight games and the city found a new level of hate for Andray Blatche.
Blatche wasn’t the only headache on the team. JaVale McGee continued to aggravate fans by mixing in moments of raw athletic ability with moments of pure stupidity. Whether he was giving himself an alley-oop while losing a game or spiking the ball into the bleachers, McGee was a question mark when it came to the team’s future plans. The team finally made their decision when he was shipped out of DC along with Nick Young and Turiaf at the Trade Deadline in exchange for veteran All-Star Nene. Despite the team’s best efforts to trade Blatche away, it appeared that nobody else in the NBA wanted to take a chance on him. He was relegated to the inactive list, sitting out of the remainder of the season due to “conditioning issues.” If the team couldn’t get rid of him, they could certainly hide him.
Instead of sitting on the bench at games, Blatche spent most of the second half running on the treadmill and hitting the weight room. While Blatche has been shedding pounds (he’s currently lost 12 pounds) he’s still the same old Dray. Before Thursday’s game he walked into the locker room in between conditioning sessions. While drinking a bottle of water he asked me and other reporters if we were going to the Wizards end of the season party that he was hosting at Eden. He then went on to tell us how he was disappointed in himself this year.
“How I played this year was terrible,” Blatche said, “I am way better than the player I was this season.”
Another casualty of the season was coach Flip Saunders. In January he was replaced by assistant coach Randy Wittman. Wittman has been adamant about his feelings towards head coaching, will he be back with Washington in some capacity next year? After Thursday’s game Wittman wasn’t exactly sure but does expect to be a coach somewhere in the NBA.
“I’ll coach somewhere,” he quipped when asked about his future with the team.
And how can we forget about John Wall? While it is still a bit too early to pass judgement on Jan Vesely and the rookie class, many around the league pegged Wall as the player to make the jump from good to elite this season.
Unfortunately that didn’t happen.
According to the information over at Hoopdata, Wall has simply maintained his offensive stats compared to last year. The only notable changes is that his FG% went up from 40.9% to 42.3% and his 3-point shot attempts fell from 1.7 per game to .6 per game. He still looks like a freak of nature in the speed department but still needs a better jump shot.
Will Wall be able to take the next step? Maybe it’s a problem of the pieces around him than his natural ability. With a newly extended contract, Wizards general manager Ernie Grunfeld is still at the helm and perhaps the Wizards will rise up to mediocre/good with the right off season moves. We can expect a core of Wall, Nene, Jordan, and perhaps even Kevin Seraphin- who has shown encouraging signs of growth towards the end of the season. Next year we will look more at Jan Vesely, Shelvin Mack, and Chris Singleton as role players with the potential to grow into real NBA contributors.
However what the team still needs is leadership. I haven’t seen it from Wall yet and perhaps he may not be that kind of player.
With Bryce Harper ready to join the Nationals and RGIII hype in full swing, Wall is no longer the new kid on the block on the DC Sports Scene, for him the clock to prove himself is still ticking.