Capital Offense: Nobody Is Talking About The Wizards | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Capital Offense: Nobody Is Talking About The Wizards

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Updated: October 26, 2016

[Editor’s Note: Ben Standig (@BenStandig), friend of TAI and purveyor of D.C. sports, fantasy football, rockin’ and rollin’ and whatnot, stops by today with a column outlining an optimistic reality-check on the state of the Wizards. —K.W.]

The 2016-17 Washington Wizards owe a huge, Shaquille O’Neal-sized favor to the NBA community and those locals who view their hometown team from 30,000 feet.

Give a listen to sports radio, read NBA preview articles, or talk to most humans who even care enough to have an opinion on the John Wall- and Bradley Beal-led team. The Wizards don’t open their season until tonight in Atlanta and the masses are already dismissing their potential as they would the next M. Night Shyamalan movie.

“We’re used to not getting talked about,” John Wall told me after Tuesday’s practice and some 48 hours before the Wizards meet the Hawks. “Even when we beat the Bulls (in 2014 playoffs) and took Indiana to six, they said that was a fluke. We did the same thing (in 2015) and lost to Atlanta (in the conference semifinals) when I broke my hand. I think last year was probably the only year they ever gave us high expectations. Other than that, they never cared about us.”

Good thing the three-time All-Star has that approach because “they” still don’t.

Yes, the numbers guys have the Wizards generally around last season’s 41-41 record. Yes, NBA analyst Charles Barkley and info guy David Aldridge offer some hope, though the latter’s praise is backhanded compliment-ish. Otherwise, we’re talking disdain and apathy toward Washington’s pro basketball team, if we’re talking at all.

The closest question I receive from anyone that even hints at a positive outcome is, “Are the Wizards going to be any good this season?” Of course, the questioner’s tone would either break a sarcasm detector or oozes fear, a query akin to wondering whether some “Walking Dead”-style zombie is lurching their way.

Stuck on the story that Wall and backcourt partner Bradley Beal don’t sing Kumbaya nightly, an overblown national narrative to rival Y2K? Well, if you buy the analysis from those rarely or ever around the team, that’s on you.

Want to mock Ernie Grunfeld’s latest moves through the prism that he whiffed on Jan Vesely and traded away the fifth pick of the 2009 Draft for not much—and under orders to make such a move—and therefore is always worse than any Kevin James movie, that’s on you.

Yes, they didn’t get Kevin Durant. Neither did Oklahoma City. That they didn’t land a meeting with the DMVer is embarrassing. After two years of enduring KD2DC, you deserve a hearty chuckle.

Done? Great! Now realize that has zero to do with how the Wizards will perform this season.

On paper, these Wizards are potentially much better than last year’s edition that underwhelmed and missed the postseason after back-to-back appearances. Understand that potential doesn’t mean universal truth. If we can assume reasonably decent health to the main players—a big if with Beal, I grant you—put me down for 48 wins, which would be match their highest total since 1979, and homecourt in the first round of the playoffs.

Think that’s an outlandish prediction? It’s far more realistic than that main narrative out there. Maybe those spending less time thinking critically about the team than they do pondering life on Mars think this group would be lucky to win 35 games. Why focus on scouting the Hawks and Raptors when you can race to the bottom for the first overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft? Some went as far as to make absurd suggestions like trading Wall for future help because they see the present as Armageddon-bleak.

The Cavaliers are the overwhelming Eastern Conference favorite. The Wizards won’t beat them. Neither will anyone else unless Brad Stevens really is a Jedi. “The East will be fun,” Wall said. Yes, and challenging. But the penthouse isn’t full, and the Wizards aren’t standing outside waiting for the Sixers to exit the outhouse.

The mid-season addition of Markieff Morris dramatically improved the rebounding and defense (mostly by way of much-needed athleticism), not to mention the weakest position on the team.

This team went from old to young in one offseason. Otto Porter was better than you thought last year. Kelly Oubre oozes upside. Andrew Nicholson has more moves than Jagger. Import Tomas Satoransky isn’t afraid.

The All-Star point guard feels fresh after playing on two gimpy knees throughout last season.

They went from a roster loaded with one-year contracts and the potential for selfishness that comes with it to a set core pulling together under a head coach who treats them like men.

That doesn’t mean Wall, Beal, and crew will battle LeBron and Steph for a title. While I can sympathize with your disappointment now that the bar for “success” this season is a playoff berth—but if it’s ring-or-bust, that’s on you, especially in a relatively predictable league where the heavyweights are typically clear from the jump and the better team generally wins in a seven-game series.

The Wizards will be better this season. If you want to temper your enthusiasm because #SoWizards, that’s fair. History is on your side. If you want to dismiss the changes this year just cause, that’s on you.

“Last year we got off to kind of an OK start and then we started getting injuries and then it was an uphill fight from there,” Wall said. “Now that we have a legit (starting) five that we want, how we finished last year and bring that group back, we feel like we can compete against anybody. Then to bring in a great second unit. We got a lot of pieces we added this summer to help us out a lot.

“Our main focus is if we compete every day and give everything we got we’ll be fine. It’s a new excitement around because you have new guys and coaching staff. Fresh start for everybody.”

That includes those who just assume the worst.
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