I did NOT want the Wizards to defeat the Jazz last night. Not at all.
I didn’t realize my thought pattern would veer in such a direction as John Wall ran roughshod over the Jazz to the tune of 24 points in the first half. It was refreshing to see Wall put the shorthanded Wizards squad on his back and decide he was not going to let them lose. Jordan Crawford had been assuming that role of late, which is fine and much appreciated, but it’s better to have the No. 1 draft pick (aka the “Game Changer”) assume that role too — and for the first two quarters he did just that.
Even in the third quarter, as Crawford and JaVale McGee combined for 13 points, helping the Wizards maintain a 73-63 point lead, I continued to hope Washington would be victorious. Wall had fallen off his torrid pace, but Crawford was finding ways to score, McGee was ruling the paint as he had against the Warriors, and even Cartier Martin came back from the dead to hit a timely three-pointer. The little-used, but desperately needed (on this night, at least) Martin made his first shot, a three-pointer, in the second quarter, but missed his next five shots, four of them from deep, before making his next shot, a three late in the third.
Not only had the Wizards put together three quarters of decent basketball, but they were playing strong on the road as they had done against the Los Angeles Clippers last week and against the Golden State Warriors the night before. I was encouraged that the dismal team I had been writing about all year was showing late-season improvement, and I couldn’t wait to write about it.
Around the 5:13 mark of the fourth quarter my thought pattern changed drastically. The score had been stagnant for about a minute, 82-75 in the Wizards’ favor. The brand of basketball turned from crisp and calculated to panicked and sloppy. Then Crawford missed two long jumpers, and the third pick in the 2010 draft, Mr. Derrick Favors, scored five straight points for the Jazz to pull Utah within 82-80. The Wizards hadn’t hit a field-goal, much less scored in five minutes. Because of Favors, the momentum that neither team wanted for two minutes was in Utah’s favor (sorry, I simply could not resist).
My brain immediately assumed the worst for Washington, thinking about articles I could write relaying how devastating a loss to Utah would be on the heels of the losses to the Clippers and Warriors that ended in similar fashion. Words formed in my mind about how yet another road loss would upset and frustrate youngsters like Wall, Crawford, Seraphin and McGee, and how such futility could only build character and experience for next season. I even thought about writing a piece encouraging Flip Saunders or another Wizards player to throw an Antawn Jamison-like temper tantrum in the locker room. Scattered honey-dew melon or not, someone needed to get desperate and angry enough to snap the team out of their road doldrums, I thought.
These diabolical plans and more all started after just two minutes of stagnant basketball from the Wizards that was countered by inspired basketball from the Jazz. Washington has been playing poorly — mainly because of inexperience, injuries and occasional bone-headed plays — for so long that it has become easy (bordering on lazy) for me to slam the team and focus on the negative aspect of its performances. Even when someone does play well, and I choose to focus on it, I am still put in the position of trying to find the good in a loss, and what I end up writing feels hollow (please still read them though).
The momentum the Jazz built halfway through the fourth quarter continued until the end of regulation, then the Wizards took it right back in overtime. With 4:26 left, Crawford jumped the passing lane, stole the ball and dunked it home. On the next possession, another steal for Crawford as he swiped the ball from Gordon Hayward, sprinted the other way, drew a foul, and then hit both free throws to put the Wizards up by seven. Maurice Evans proceeded to hit big shots from both the three-point and foul lines. Wall hit three free throws as well, and the Wizards held off the Jazz 100-95. I was not a happy blogger. I felt like a villain who had successfully mapped out his plan for world domination, and Superman swooped in, stole my plans, and forced me to do the “right” thing.
All the lazy, negative (and sometimes correct), sky-is-falling articles I really wanted to write were now replaced by positive, encouraging thoughts. I mentally re-visited the concept of a Wall-Crawford backcourt beyond this season. Thoughts of writing how much I loved McGee putting together two strong games came to mind. I even noticed Coach Saunders cracking a bit of a smile on the sidelines (as did Kyle Weidie) and considered that something to sprinkle into a feel-good article as well. Yes, the Wizards were still 2-37 on the road. And yes, they were still lottery-bound. And hell yes, the talent injured players far outweighed the healthy ones not named John Wall. But on this night in Utah, against the Jerry Sloan and Deron Williams-less Jazz, the Wizards ended their road losing streak and put it all together.
I wasn’t up to writing that type of article, and I was irritated that the newly resurgent Wizards had even put me in a position to do that. Plus, I wondered what would happen if I wrote a sparkling article about the Wizards, only for them to get blown out at home on Wednesday against Miami (no shame in that) and at home again on Friday against Cleveland (shame would definitely be a factor). As rosy as my post-Jazz article could undoubtedly be, I’d have to tear it all down and revert to the negative, moral victory articles that have become the norm over the past month or so. Who wants to be jerked around like that? Why not continue to insert sarcasm and bitter feelings into my articles, and justify it by saying I’m a passionate fan/blogger who just wants what’s best for the team? Based on what I’ve seen on twitter, read on the interwebs, and occasionally heard around the Verizon Center, I’d be in good company with that line of thought.
Besides, March Madness has me in an NBA draft state of mind, and players like Arizona’s Derrick Williams, North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes, and Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger have all shown that they have NBA potential. The more games the Wizards lose, the better their chances to get another game changer. Another high draft pick would bring Washington closer to that beloved Oklahoma City Thunder model of success, which would mean a shorter rebuilding process. But none of this would be possible without more losses, and by defeating the Jazz, the Wizards had foiled both my article and my personals visions for their grandeur.
I chose to sleep on it. On Tuesday morning, I came to my senses and realized my task is to write about what’s going on with team — win or lose, good or bad — and my personal feelings, biases, wishes and desires really have nothing to do with it. I could have just ignored that I ever felt like this and written an analytical article about last night’s game the way Mr. Weidie did, but that felt awfully disingenuous.
Instead, I decided to write about my temporary trip to the Dark Side to see if anyone else had joined me there. I’m hoping other Truth About It readers and followers made that same short-lived trip, so that the comments section will be filled with co-signs and understanding remarks.
But if you want to criticize me and hang me out to dry the way I did to the Wizards last night, I totally understand that as well.
[The author of this post: Rashad Mobley is from the Washington, D.C. area and has been covering the Washington Wizards with credentials for three years. To learn more about him click here. To follow him on Twitter: @Rashad20.]