WASHINGTON — Here in our nation’s capital, there is hope. And while the Washington Wizards aren’t a surprise, or making casual NBA observers look twice, they are giving their fans something authentic for which to cheer.
As you likely know by now, the Wizards surpassed a .500 record this season. That made news because it hadn’t been accomplished since 2009. One double-overtime loss to the San Antonio Spurs later, the Wizards were right back to even.
But even at 24-24 (where they stand entering Friday’s home game vs. Cleveland), the Wizards can boast.
For one, John Wall may be the best point guard in the Eastern Conference this season.
Following another injury to Chicago’s Derrick Rose, the late arrival of Boston’s Rajon Rondo and the strange 2013-14 odyssey of the Cavaliers’ Kyrie Irving, Wall has emerged as a floor leader in the truest sense. He’s fast, he distributes, he scores, and seems to suddenly possess a complete understanding of when to push it and when to not force a thing.
In his fourth pro season, Wall has remained every bit as dynamic, but now allows the game to come to him — as opposed to the first three years of trying to figure out that balance.
And he is no longer alone.
A lot of folks assumed Randy Wittman was coaching to save his job — that if the Wizards couldn’t come closer to pulling it together, he would be tossed aside faster than you can say "Stan Van Gundy."
But with the help of a trade that brought center Marcin Gortat, the relatively good health of forever underrated power forward Nene, and the continued emergence of second-year shooting guard Bradley Beal, the Wizards have supported the theory that the unassuming Wittman is the perfect personality to lead them.
So what you have today is a young team, an unselfish team, with some big victories (Miami, Portland, Oklahoma City, at Golden State) that has won eight of its past 13 games entering Friday night.
"This is the first time, we’re at a winning point of the season this early," Wall told the Washington Post. "We usually always wait until we go on a seven-, eight-game winning streak at the end of the season just to get 25, 26 wins."
"To be at that margin now is pretty good. But we’re not satisfied. We know where want to be and the biggest thing is to take it one game at a time and to try to be over .500 going into the all-star break."
The Wizards still have a West Coast trip in late March. They still have to stay fairly healthy, as this is not necessarily a team with great depth. And they still have to avoid those occasional defensive slip-ups, as Wittman has been known to describe them.
But they have arrived, they are for real and they are offering hope for some long-suffering basketball fans here in DC.