I was in the midst of watching the Washington Wizards put on an impressive display of first quarter basketball against the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday when Tweet Deck displayed a new tweet from ESPN’s Ric Bucher. Given that the trading deadline was less than 24 hours away, and given that Bucher is one of the few NBA insiders who is really plugged into what could be happening, I figured I should check it out right away.
I clicked on his tweet and discovered no upcoming trade information, nor were unnamed sources tipping him off. Instead, Bucher offered some insight as to what fans, writers and even other players could expect over the remainder of the NBA regular season:
“NBA comp going up another notch, as it always does, post-All Star weekend. Separation of men from boys, pros from pretenders, begins now.”
I closed out of his tweet, mentally processed what he said and then went back to watching the Sixers/Wizards tilt. By that time, the Wizards’ first-quarter dominance had morphed into second quarter incompetence (and third, and fourth), and they were eventually blown out 117-94, just one night after being blown out by the Indiana Pacers at home 113-96. Afterward, John Wall was upset about the lack of effort his teammates displayed — further evidence that the Wizards are in the boys/pretenders group of NBA teams:
“I haven’t lost this many games, and it ain’t just about the losing, I’m listening to my coaching and development, and they don’t want me to get in no losing mind set. But it’s just so frustrating to see that certain guys seem like they don’t have the effort to be out there, like they don’t care. That’s the toughest thing for me … no matter if I’m having a bad game or good game, I might show frustration in my face, but I’m going to compete. That’s one thing I’ve always did my whole life is compete, and that’s all we asking for from everybody.”
Meanwhile, on the other side of the spectrum, the Miami Heat, who the Wizards take on tonight in South Beach, started off strong in their two post-All-Star performances. First, they blew out the lowly Sacramento Kings by 20, then they lost a hard-fought battle to the Chicago Bulls last night, 93-89. There were no complaints about effort coming from the Heat locker room in either game because a) they are fully aware that they are playoff-bound, and b) the mental notes made after every loss will surely benefit them come playoff time.
I then thought back to something Dwyane Wade said after the All-Star game last Sunday, and it served as one of many reminders as to why the Heat are contenders. Wade was asked about his approach to the second half of the season, and his answers were exactly what you would expect from a man with a championship ring:
Now, it is entirely possibly that the newly acquired Mike Bibby, Maurice Evans and Jordan Crawford can provide that energy and passion that the Wizards have been lacking the past two games. It is also possible that Wall’s teammates heard his harsh words and have collectively decided to step their game up and give more than 100-percent. Unfortunately, it is also possible that the Heat will be hungry and angry after last night’s loss to Chicago, and look to put the game away quickly regardless of the Wizards’ effort.
Of course, the best case scenario for Washington is a victory over a contender. But if they fall short of that goal, they can still look across the floor at the playoff-bound Heat and make some mental notes for the future. Because that’s all NBA pretenders can do at this point.