Here we are in August and amongst the Wizards’ fan base there is legitimate excitement about this upcoming season. It’s an feeling that most of us aren’t used to, at least not recently.
A lot of things around the Wizards are rosy and positive now, but do you remember back to late April? Sure, the Wizards were reeling off wins left and right en route to winning their final six games. But during that string of victories, team president Ernie Grunfeld received a contract extension. The news nearly set fans into a riot and it got the off-season off to a bad start before it even began. Automatically, many began to assume that Andray Blatche would be back on the roster for this upcoming season and that the Wizards would be awarded the fifth pick in the draft lottery, which was the lowest possible pick they could receive. That’s how it always go, right?
But not even an Ernie Grunfeld extension could derail this overwhelmingly positive off-season for the Wizards, which in turn has led to a renewed optimism and heightened expectations.
Gone is Andray Blatche. Ernie Grunfeld selected Bradley Beal with third pick in June’s draft. The Wizards acquired Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza for Rashard Lewis’ contract and a second round pick. Randy Wittman hired well-respected coach Don Newman to be his top assistant. And the team just recently signed Martell Webster to a one-year contract.
What do all of these things mean? They mean that the Wizards are no longer cellar dwellers and they’re no longer a joke around the NBA. These moves might even mean that the Wizards are a playoff team next season. . . maybe.
During the past few seasons there has been excitement and some level of optimism, but ever since the days of Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison, optimism around the Wizards has been reserved for individual players — for example, John Wall’s rookie season in 2010 or JaVale McGee and the annual question of “will he finally put it all together?”
While the Wizards have kept us interested, entertained, and hopeful, we never had the expectation that the Wizards would be a consistently competitive basketball team, let alone be a playoff contender. However, this year, that’s the case.
I don’t want to get too carried away and proclaim the Wizards to be a playoff lock, because that’s not the case. Instead, the Wizards are now relevant in preseason playoff discussions, and it’s been way too long since that was the case. Now the Wizards and their fans have reason to believe that their team is capable of playing the playoffs, and that’s a really good feeling.