The Washington Wizards: Washington’s Best Pro Sports Team

DCOn a cold and cloudy day just outside of the nations capital, the Redskins had just defeated the Philadelphia Eagles to all but knock them out of playoff contention. The Redskins improved to 4-11 with that win. All the talk of the Jay Gruden-RG3 relationship talk subsided and now people were asking “Think Robert is the quarterback of the future now?” I turned on the local news and the lead stories were about the Redskins’ win, RG3’s performance, Jay Gruden’s coaching decisions, analysis of a meaningless 4-11 team. It went on and on and on. You would have thought the Redskins had won the super bowl.

Meanwhile in Chinatown, the Wizards were practicing before a game with the Phoenix Suns. At the time, the Wizards were 19-6 and 13-3 at home. No mention in the news, nothing in the papers. The Wizards are hands down the best team in Washington, D.C. and have hands down the best player in the city yet they get next to no acknowledgment from the media. Why is it? Maybe it’s because folks in D.C. still associate the Wizards with Gilbert Arenas? Maybe it’s because people are still thinking about the gun incident with Arenas and Javaris Crittenton? Or maybe it’s because people think of a perennial loser whenever the Wizards are brought into conversation?

The Wizards are off to their best start since the 1975-76 season. They have an all-star point guard and a very solid mix of young and veteran players. The two best players on the team, John Wall and Bradley Beal are 24 and 21 years old respectively; and attendance is down this year. The Wizards need Washington’s support and now is a great time to jump on the bandwagon. Here’s why:

The Redskins are perennial losers. Every year it’s the same story, quarterback controversies, coaching controversies, name controversies, ownership controversies. Aside from 2012, can you name a year when there was no cloud hanging over this organization? Folks, if we didn’t rip off seven straight wins in 2012 to win the NFC East, we would be looking at three playoff appearances, THREE!!! Since the 1992 Championship.

In addition, what have the Redskins done via the draft or free agency to make fans believe that things might be different going forward? We stopped paying crazy money to over the hill free agents (Deon Sanders, Albert Haynesworth, Donovan McNabb, Antwaan Randel El, Jeff George, Adam Archuleta) and would build through the draft.  Well, how about the draft? We traded away three years worth of first round picks to draft a quarterback who might not be on the team next year. Lastly, we drafted Malcolm Kelly, Devin Thomas, and Fred Davis over now our best receiver, DeSean Jackson. None of the three players the Redskins drafted are currently in the NFL.

A once proud franchise has now turned into the east coast version of the Raiders. Really think next year is going to be better?

The Capitals used to be the hottest ticket in town. The team made the Stanley Cup finals in the 1997-1998 season but ultimately lost. The Capitals struggled in the Early 2000’s either losing early in the playoffs or not qualifying at all. The buzz around the Capitals was lost until they drafted Alexander Ovechkin with the Number 1 overall pick.

The Caps didn’t win right away but they were exciting to watch. Mainly because there was a superstar in the making skating up and down the ice for the home squad. The Caps started to build nicely around Ovechkin and the Caps were the talk of the town once football season was over. Capitals tickets became the toughest ticket in town.

Add in a rivalry with another budding superstar, Sidney Crosby, and the Caps suddenly became the talk of the town in the cold months. Playoff appearances were expected annually. In the 2008-2009 season, the Caps got out of the first round for the first time since that 1997-1998 Stanley Cup run. They ultimately lost to the Penguins in seven games but optimism was high.

The team cruised through the 2009-10 season to the best regular season record in the NHL. They were going to walk right through to the Stanley Cup right? With the pressure on and expectations high, the Number 1 overall seed lost to the 8 seed Montreal Canadiens in 7 seven games. The team followed that up with back to back losses in the Conference Semifinals in as many years.

The Caps failed to make the playoffs last year and the buzz surrounding the team is officially gone. Fans probably forgot that the Winter Classic is at Nats Park this year.

Which brings me to the Nationals. Everyone in the city was psyched when the team relocated from Montreal to D.C. back in 2005. We didn’t have to cling onto the Orioles from our friends in Baltimore up I-95. We’d have our own team. We don’t need to root for our little brother’s team right?

The Nationals somehow won 81 games their first year back in D.C. But that was short lived as the Nationals were the running joke of the MLB from 2008-2010.   In 2008, Nats stadium was built and that meant a new beginning right? The Nationals went 59-102 that year. On top of that, you couldn’t give away free tickets.

2009 would be different right? We did after all draft Stephen Strasburg… Nope. The Nats followed the 2008 campaign with another 59-102 record even with the new jewel Stephen Strasburg in town.

Several months into his career, Strasburg tore a ligament in his elbow resulting in him getting Tommy John Surgery. This sidelined the young star for a year. That was O.K. though because the Nats drafted Bryce Harper with the first overall pick in 2010.

As any 19 year old, Bryce loved being the face of a franchise in a big city. I mean at 19, who wouldn’t? Bryce helped the team improve to a improved 69-93 record in 2010. The front office was putting the pieces in place and the plan was for the team would make a serious playoff run in 2011.

That playoff appearance didn’t happen until 2012 when the Nats had the best overall record of 98-64. The controversy of shutting down Stephen Strasburg right before the playoffs divided the Nationals faithful. The team got the number 1 seed and had a matchup with the St. Louis Cardinals who had to sneak their way into the playoffs. The Nats ended up losing that series in 5 with game 5 being at home. The Nats followed that up by missing the playoffs in 2013 and another first round exit in 2014 even though they had the number 1 seed once again.

Seems to be a pattern here… The Redskins, Capitals, and Nationals have underachieved. Missing the playoffs, early exits, benching stars, the list goes on and on. But wait, there’s one team that actually overachieved last year. The Washington Wizards.

The Wizards went all in in 2013 just to make the playoffs. The front office made key trades and free agent acquisitions. This was going to be our year that we make the playoffs with the 7 or 8 seed and get swept by the Heat or Pacers to celebrate!

The Wizards hovered around .500 for most of the season. In the NBA eastern conference, that’s something to celebrate. The team ended the season 44-38. The team’s first finish over .500 since 2008. The Wizards went up against a tough Bulls squad. All the reporters, analysts, and writers picked the Wizards to lose. Well, the Wizards won that series 4-1 in dominant fashion. In all honesty, if it wasn’t for a bonehead play from starting forward Nene, the Wizards could have swept that series. The Wizards ultimately lost to the Pacers in the second round.

The Wizards have used the momentum from last year into this and it began in the off season. The acquisition of Paul Pierce and several other veterans has made a huge impact. Development from star John Wall, Bradley Beal, and other players has also led to this hot 19-6 start. The Wizards have the best player in any sport in D.C. in John Wall. John made his first all-star game last year and there will be many more to come. The Wizards were able to jump out to this hot start even with injuries to key players. And most recently, Paul Pierce yelled at the team after a win, yes a WIN calling out their bad habits and lack of focus.  Doesn’t sound like old Wizards’ teams now does it?

The stars are aligning. The Wizards could have a very special season. Do you want to root for a team currently 13 games above .500 a quarter of the way into the season or is it more fun debating who will be coaching and playing quarterback for the Redskins in 2015?

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