Opening Statements 40: Wizards vs Trail Blazers | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Opening Statements 40: Wizards vs Trail Blazers

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Updated: January 16, 2017

Washington Wizards vs Portland Trailblazers - Nov. 28, 2012

The Washington Wizards, I can’t say, have had a true turning point this season (yet). But I can tell you around when they stopped feeling too sorry for themselves to put forth a quality effort.

It was three-game road trip that ended November and started December — at Oklahoma City, at San Antonio, and at Brooklyn. The first two were heartbreaking losses that magnified yet-to-mature talent, and the last was an avoidance of disaster. They allowed a bottom-3 NBA offense to score 66 points in the first half, and later found a way to beat the Nets. Since, the Wizards have been better at avoiding slip-ups instead of finding ways to lose.

Sure, there have been head-smacking losses versus Orlando (Dec. 6), in Miami (Dec. 12), in Milwaukee (Dec. 23), and in Dallas (Jan. 3). But the Wizards have also quelled quality opponents such as Charlotte (Dec. 14), Detroit (Dec. 16), the L.A. Clippers (Dec. 18), and a few times against the Bulls (quality debatable); and the Wizards have also bounced back in situations to keep teams like Milwaukee, Indiana, and Minnesota at bay.

Small steps forward for Washington Wizards,” was the title of Ted Leonsis’ blog post on Sunday. He hasn’t blogged about his pro basketball team much this season — there have been less-than-glowing things to say, and there are likely transitive properties involved. When Leonsis hired Brian MacLellan to be GM of his Washington Capitals in May 2014, MacLellan suggested that Leonsis could be a better owner by blogging more about the team and less about individual players. It seemed to have a quieted Leonsis in general.

There’s nothing wrong with Leonsis’ recent post, nothing much to pick on. He celebrates team success with a few hand-picked stats (at least one of which touts John Wall and Bradley Beal both being in top 20 of the NBA in scoring). He mentions an 18-11 surge after a 2-8 start.

Since beating the Nets on Dec. 5 (entering the game 6-12), the Wizards are 14-7, tied with the Utah Jazz for the sixth-best winning percentage in the league (third in the East after Cleveland and Atlanta).

Leonsis’ essential conclusion:

“As noted, these stats are just a small sample size. We will be at the halfway point of the season 41 games when we conclude our current homestand with games against Portland tomorrow and Memphis on Wednesday. We are taking small steps forward, and hope to take a bigger step in the next month with the return of Ian Mahinmi to the lineup.”

The 20-19 Wizards have 16 games until the mid-February All-Star break — seven will be on the road versus the Knicks, Pistons, Hornets, Hawks, Pelicans, Nets, and Pacers. Including today, Portland, Memphis, Boston, New York, the L.A. Lakers, New Orleans, Cleveland, Indiana, and Oklahoma City visit the Verizon Center.

The sample size grows by the day, as does the opportunity for Washington to show they are serious about contending in the East. Success and maturity happen incrementally, game-by-game, even. Slightly bigger picture, if the Wizards fancy themselves a true contender in the East, their current 4-13 road record must be 8-16 or 9-15 by the break. They can’t slip up at home, either — currently 16-6 with an 11-game winning streak. They can’t be any worse than 22-9 at home at the break, potentially giving them more than 30 wins with a brutal stretch of 27 games left (17 on the road).

Every game is a chance not necessarily to “turn things around” but rather to build on what works. But only so much is under control of the players, and the coach, Scott Brooks. Issues with personnel and their limitations (i.e., Washington’s bench), even with the one-day presence of Ian Mahinmi, are not going away any time soon. The question of if these issues will drag everything else down still looms. But at least the foundation, leading stars and coach-wise, is more solid than ever.


 

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Kyle Weidie
Founder / Editor / Reporter / Writer at TAI
Kyle founded TAI in 2007 and has been weaving in and out the world of Wizards ever since, ducking WittmanFaces, jumping over G-Wiz, and avoiding stints on the DNP-Conditioning list. He has covered the Washington pro basketball team as a member of the media since 2009. Kyle lives in D.C. with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.