Do Not Go Quietly: A Wizard is a Wizard or is It?
The Wizards are still alive, per ESPN Truehoop. Four-and-a-half feet under, perhaps. But drawing breath. We could do this dual alive/dead metaphor thing all day, but you get it, and thankfully there’s more where that came from in the above-linked piece.
Before Game 5, this team looked like they did during one of many “off” stretches in the regular season, sandwiching two close losses around a total collapse, blowing late game leads in Games 2 and 4. All of the recognizable restraints on success showed up: poor shooting, lack of fast break points, not taking advantage of home court, bad late-game execution … but something was missing, even though the Wizards finally looked familiar again after consistently dominating the Bulls.
Yes, something was off, even in the familiarity of another excruciating defeat. Where was the John Wall who transformed the 2012-13 Wizards team from 5-28 before his return from a knee injury to a team that finished a more respectable 24-25 with him on the court? Or the John Wall who joined Oscar Robertson, Magic Johnson, and Chris Paul as one of only four players to average 17.7 points, 8.3 assists, and 4.3 rebounds per game over their first four seasons?
Wall had a few off nights during the year, but more often than not, over the last two years, he has carried the Wizards on his back. It would have been too bad had he quietly exited this series without a game to call his own. It would also have been too bad to hear all summer how “young” he was.
There’s a difference between stealing a victory against a better team to extend the series, and what the Wizards did on Tuesday night. The win is gravy, but the beatdown was like the underbed of cocaine-infused mashed potatoes.
The Wizards secured another shot at the Pacers by collecting as many additional chances as possible. The team’s 18 offensive rebounds almost matched the Pacers rebounding total of 23 for the game. With each board, a previously faint pulse asserted itself within the rhythm of the game. By game’s end, even the Indiana crowd couldn’t match the percussion. The Wizards outrebounded the Pacers by 39, tied for the third-largest differential in NBA playoff history, and a discrepancy unmatched since 1971. TAI’s Kyle Weidie deftly bulleted all of the rebounding numbers after the game.
But perhaps the most unexpected thing that happened in Indiana on Monday night was that John Wall revealed that the NBA coach who most embodies “Get off my lawn” has embraced mobile technology—Randy Wittman uses SMS messaging. This nugget of information from Wall’s postgame interview could very well be the most important Wizards-related news of the year, and shame on us for not scooping this story earlier. It also brings up several interesting questions.
- Does Randy have a text limit or has he signed up for “unlimited” texts?
- Does he use emojis? Has anyone developed a custom #WittmanFace emoji set?
- Does Kevin Seraphin send him links to questionable memes?
- Has he ever regretted a late-night text to Eric Maynor?
What’s next? What’sApp? Gilbert Arenas’s “Invisible Text” app? Something tells me Wittman is sticking to what works.
Jokes aside, relevance is fragile in the NBA, and these wins matter. How easy was it to forget all of Washington’s flaws after being exposed to the Bulls series and a Game 1 win against the Pacers? A good showing in the playoffs will absolutely be touted by the Wizards as evidence that this team is a worthy choice for free agents. As Ted Leonsis said in a blog post yesterday, it’s also important as the Wizards try to drum up local interest in a somewhat disinterested area of the country:
“And of course, games and playoff games won is the most important indicator of success to a community. We all believe that as fact.”
But that’s all a conversation for another day. Today, the Wizards have an Eastern Conference Semifinals Game 6 to win. As you prepare, go read “The Wizards Will Not Go Down Quietly” on ESPN TrueHoop.