January Forecast Gloomy for Washington Wizards

Shaun AhmadSenior Analyst IJanuary 3, 2009

The start of 2009 will not likely be any better for the Washington Wizards than the last half of 2008.  The Wizards already dropped their first game of the New Year to the Celtics on January 2nd in embarrassing fashion, getting dominated on offense and defense en route to a 25 point loss.  Next up are the Cleveland Cavaliers, a team that has been as big a thorn in the sides of Wizards’ players and fans as any team in recent memory.  

After a frustrating loss on Christmas day, Washington will try to harness the emotions of aggravation from the futility of the season along with the outright hatred they have for the Cavaliers.  It should make for an interesting Sunday afternoon to say the least; for those not watching the NFL Playoffs, of course, which conveniently coincide with the tip off time of 1:00PM.

The rest of the January schedule isn’t very forgiving.  After the home contest against Cleveland, the Wizards travel to an emerging contender Orlando Magic squad followed by a quick turnaround hosting the Chicago Bulls the next night.  

Following back to back games against the New York Knicks, Washington will pack its bags for a five day west coast road trip and face off against the Warriors, Kings, Lakers and Blazers.  They will return home to matchup against the Phoenix Suns and close out with games against the Heat, Sixers, and Clippers.  

Okay, so maybe the Clippers game won’t be so bad.  

With the playoffs pretty much out of the question, January, and the remainder of the season for that matter, will provide Wizards’ management and coaches with a chance to see deep into their players. 

Of course, talent and skill will be important.  But losing brings out a lot in players—often negative.  It will give the movers and shakers up top a chance to see the character of the younger players on the team and discover if they have the mettle to fit in with the direction Washington is trying to go in.  

It’s easy to smile and be a good teammate when the ball is moving around, points are being scored and wins are racking up.  However, being the joke of the league with a 6-25 record takes a different type of resilience.  

Will Andray Blatche take advantage of his increased minutes by blossoming into a forward that the Wizards can count on next season?  Will Nick Young grow in the remaining months into a high percentage shooter or will he blend into the background as so many do when fans stop showing up and the interest on the team dwindles.

January has been a good month for the Washington in seasons past, as they geared up for the playoff runs, but January 2009 will serve as a year in which the Wizards are gearing up for a different goal.  It will be interesting to see whose character shines through and who fades away into monotony.  

Don’t be surprised if the very players you see hustling for loose balls in a “meaningless game” are the ones starting for a playoff contender in 2009-10.  

Shaun Ahmad covers the Washington Wizards for Examiner.com.