[Wizards, Wall & Wale... highlights from Fan Fest...]
The hope is that the fun of last Saturday’s Fan Fest at the Verizon Center was not just a reprieve from things to come for the Washington Wizards after Friday night’s debacle against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Tonight, the Wiz Kids will get a chance for preseason redemption in the City of Brotherly Love, as well as in front of a national audience on NBA TV. It might merely be a minor speed bump en route to a shortened 66-game season slate, but when the next game on December 26 counts, it’s not a bump to be taken lightly.
So before people pile on how bad this Wizards team might be, or rather, lack of evident improvement in this season from the last, let’s give John Wall’s bunch a chance to digest Flip Saunders’ harsh words, to think about their film session that didn’t lie, and for the fearless point guard leader himself to stand by his words of inducing better offense and more astute defense.
But aside from franchise development angst, Wizards Fan Fest was a pretty great event. After about 15 minutes of rest after practice, the team took center court in the Phone Booth for an exhibition display. The feature was two 15-minute, running-clock scrimmages — light in their demeanor, as expected — that brought this NBA follower back to summer exhibition basketball action — little defense and dunking galore. (Actually, with exception, Capital Punishment surprisingly melded entertainment and competitiveness.)
Before, during and afterward, D.C.-area rapper Wale entertained the crowd, serving as the magnet between community and professional basketball to the likely delight of team owner Ted Leonsis. While forever connected to the District, Wale hasn’t always represented the pro basketball team in his city adequately.
There’s the indisputable fact that Wale once openly expressed his preference for the Cleveland Cavaliers and Denver Nuggets over Washington, for reasons unclear, although the suspicion has always been that he simply didn’t get along with some Wizards players from the old guard.
To quote Wale from a November 2009 interview with Passion of the Weiss:
Q: What basketball team do you root for? You a Wizards fan?
A: Yeah, but I gotta be honest, I’m not the biggest Wizards fan. I usaully [sic] root for the Nuggets and the Cavs.
Since, Wale has had ambition for redemption in terms of his home team loyalty. In July 2010, Wale started to re-embrace the Wizards after they won the NBA Draft Lottery and landed Wall. It also helped that cats such as DeShawn Stevenson were no longer playing in Washington. Wale continued to make himself present at several Wizards games during Wall’s rookie campaign. Prodigal rooting interests also likely returned with LeBron James’ migration from Cleveland to Miami, and later, Carmelo Anthony’s unnecessarily dramatic exit from the Denver Nuggets and into the arms of New York City. Wale’s old “teams” found themselves rebuilding, just like the Wizards.
Fast-forward to November 2011… the Washington Post’s Michael Lee featured Wale in a Q&A on Wizards Insider.
“I’m always rooting for my Wizards,” the historical revisionists told Lee. Wale also used the claim “We,” and spoke of fair-weather fans like he never left. Leonsis gave a thumbs up.
So here we are in present-times… Wale reps hard with this No. 2 new-style Wizards customized jersey… He performs free mini-concerts at Fan Fest… He seems with it like he always should have been. And maybe Wale never actually left his Wizards fandom. Maybe rooting for Cleveland and Denver were simply flirtations of convenience.
And maybe the past doesn’t matter. As Ted Leonsis told his little tale on media day about the founder of the Ferrari being the first to remove the rear-view mirror from his race cars, in an attempt by Leonsis to draw a comparison to only wanting his franchise looking forward and not back, the aim is clearly toward a more hopeful future. The problem is, of course, for safety reasons most all race cars these days have a rear-view mirror in some form of another.
Otherwise, there is always game film, or blogs, to reflect on a past reality intermittently spliced amongst present-day basketball fun, closely connected musical creativity, and blog posts about nothing.