Washington Wizards: Russell Westbrook has saved the Wizards in more ways than one

Washington Wizards Russell Westbrook. Mandatory Credit: Doug McSchooler-USA TODAY Sports
Washington Wizards Russell Westbrook. Mandatory Credit: Doug McSchooler-USA TODAY Sports /

Before this season started, it had been a while since the Washington Wizads really gave us something to cheer about. After two seasons without a playoff appearance, hope was running low in the nation’s capital.

The first few months of this season were not much of an improvement, either. The Wizards looked like they were going nowhere for a third straight season. Then, things changed. Over the past month and a half, the Wizards have been one of the best teams in the NBA and keep racking up wins. With only four games left, this season feels far from a failure. And if there’s one person to thank, it’s Russell Westbrook. Westbrook, who is on the verge of breaking Oscar Robertson’s career triple-double record, has saved the Wizards’ season in more ways than one.

First and foremost, he’s saved them in the standings. Before April 1, the Wizards looked like a team that was lost; a team that may have lost the Russell Westbrook/John Wall trade; a team that was going to miss the playoffs again despite having some of the top statistical leaders in Beal and Westbrook. But then Westbrook — who recently revealed that he was playing through a torn quad to start the season — started looking like Westbrook.

Russell Westbrook’s recent run has turned the season around and saved the Washington Wizards.

Since April 1, Russell Westbrook has averaged 22 points, 13.9 rebounds, and 13.0 points in 22 games, 15 of which the Wizards won. As a result, they’ve risen from play-in hopefuls as the Eastern Conference’s 12th seed to near play-in locks that are now threatening the Charlotte Hornets for the Eastern Conference’s 8th seed.

Westbrook saved the season from being another disappointment, from being a lackluster, even boring, footnote during a stretch of seasons that have produced little excitement in Washington. No offense to Bradley Beal, who is truly one of the NBA’s most special scorers and a pure joy to watch.

Beal’s pre-All-Star game numbers were ridiculous. But that portion of the season was a whole lot less fun to watch than the past month and a half or so. Beal is still putting up otherworldly stats even though Stephen Curry passed him in the scoring race. However, if we had seen a repeat of the first half of the season, a trajectory that had the Wizards winning just 29 games this season and looking for luck in the lottery again, we might be watching Beal’s final games in D.C.

Another year in the gutter may have convinced Beal to request that trade the rest of the NBA has been begging for. Of course, Beal’s been nothing if not loyal, but it’s not crazy to think that this second-half run has saved the Wizards from having to deal with an unhappy star and the trade demands/rumors that come with that.

The Wizards haven’t won 50 games or made it to the conference finals in over 40 years.  Such a drought is a stark reminder of the mediocrity this team has waded in for years. In all likelihood, they won’t achieve either of those feats this season. But not because they petered out and came up short. Quite the opposite. This season, no matter where the Wizards end up, it’ll be because they went above and beyond what was expected, above and beyond what seemed possible less than 60 days ago.

These Wizards are different than anything we’ve seen in years. And there’s no question who’s responsible.

Westbrook’s tenacity has spread like wildfire through this team. You can see his ferocity imprinted on the rest of his teammates. There’s nobody like Westbrook, and it’s not just because of the triple-doubles. It’s because he’s full speed ahead, every time, all the time. There’s not switching gears for Westbrook because he’s almost always in the highest one there is. And there’s no way he’s shifting out of it.

And finally, Westbrook has saved the Wizards from falling into obscure irrelevance. It was just announced that the Wizards’ May 12th game vs. the Atlanta Hawks will be featured on ESPN. It will be the second time in two weeks that the Wizards are showcased on national television. For the first time in a long time, the Wizards are must-see TV.

dark. Next. 4 games that will haunt the Wizards during their final play-in push