Last night, the Washington Wizards beat the Los Angeles Lakers to clinch their first Southeastern Division title since 1979. On the surface, a division title doesn’t look like a big deal as it no longer guarantees home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Hell, it doesn’t even guarantee a playoff birth.
For the Wizards however, this is a monumental achievement.
As us Wizards faithful know, this team has been stuck on the treadmill of mediocrity for the last 35+ years and is on full display at the Verizon Center. It is one of the few arenas where they hang jerseys of players who spent minimal time in Washington and banners for merely making the playoffs. This franchise has gone through several dark periods and now has something to hang their hat on which is more impressive than a star who played just one year with the team or making an appearance in the postseason.
It isn’t winning the division title that’s important, as it doesn’t provide any postseason advantages, but it gives this small yet diehard franchise something to cheer about. For the first time in a long time, the Wizards have a legitimate shot at making and winning the Eastern Conference and have an outside shot at a finals appearance and potentially a championship.
During the days when Gilbert Arenas was the star of the show, it always felt like the team was playing with house money. If they made the playoffs then great but if not, it’s just the ‘same ol’ Wizards’ that we’re used to. Unfortunately during that era, Dwayne Wade and Shaquille O’Neal joined forces in Miami, a Southeastern Division foe. So although the Wizards were fun and exciting during that time, they couldn’t get past the Heat during the regular season.
After the infamous ‘gun gate’, the Wizards began digging themselves out of that dark hole. But they had another problem. The big three of LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and Dwayne Wade joined forces in Miami. So long to winning the division with that core three intact.
But things are different now. Yes, the Southeastern Conference is very weak compared to years past but there’s one thing we cannot overlook. For once, the roster orchestrated by the front office has a chance to be cemented into this franchise’s history and the byproduct just so happens to be a Southeastern Division title.