For the last three seasons, the Washington Wizards have quietly declined. For the most part, they haven't been able to pick themselves back up when it mattered most.
Due to numerous injuries to guard Gilbert Arenas, guard/forward Caron Butler, and forward Antawn Jamison—a potentially lethal trio—combined with injuries to solid role players, the Wizards were eventually minimized to a duo of Butler and Jamison, playing alongside what us fans call scrubs—the leftovers gathered from other teams.
It didn't seem long ago that a fair amount of Wizards fans were declaring that Butler was an MVP candidate for his ability to shoulder the hefty load left after Arenas fell to injury, tearing his way into the playoffs for what eventually resulted in a third consecutive loss against a more-powerful Cleveland Cavaliers team.
In fact, just last season, these Washington Wizards defeated the Boston Celtics in three of the four games they played—the only team in the NBA to win the regular season series against the eventual champions.
We may not all be Wizards fans, but we can't help but feel sorry for the franchise. Should we not?
After re-signing the injured Arenas to a contract that will end up paying him roughly $22 million in the 2013-2014 season, the franchise could have made the decision to replicate what the Orlando Magic did with guard Tracy McGrady in 2004. In that case, they traded him to the Houston Rockets for guards Steve Francis and Cuttino Mobley, avoiding the possibility of feeling obligated to pay McGrady for years of mediocrity.
Francis and Mobley became non-factors for the Magic on the court, but a little over four years later, Orlando's fans are celebrating many more wins than losses, and a possible NBA Finals berth if all goes well.
On June 30 the Wizards organization decided to hand over a four-year, $50 million deal to Jamison. Some believe that this was another way to convince Arenas to stay in Washington.
Similar to Jamison stating that he would love to end his career with the Wizards, possibly hoping that he, Arenas, and Butler could get together for a run at a 50-win season, and a higher seed in the playoffs—to avoid Cleveland, of course.
However, a run like that would be amazing for a Washington franchise that has not won more than 45 games since 1979, one year after winning their first and only NBA championship. With that in mind, it was also 1979 when the formerly-named Washington Bullets finished first in their division.
If that isn't bad enough, nine of their last 10 playoff visits have resulted in first-round losses, with 15 seasons in between where Washington failed to get into the playoffs, which actually group into seven and eight consecutively.
While many were cracking jokes at the Atlanta Hawks for not making the playoffs for eight consecutive years, the Washington Wizards may be one of the worst current franchises in NBA history. Atlanta had three 50-win seasons in the '90s, stayed fairly healthy, and found their way out of the first round four times since 1993.
With a record of 9-33, Arenas missing another season, a new coach, and absolutely nowhere else to go but up, it's probably time to rebuild. Ship out the big contracts, keep the young talent, and bring in fresh, healthy faces, ready to put out effort on both offense and defense.
The Washington fans deserve more than a repeat of what happened to the basketball fans in New York and, sadly enough, this is where the road begins in that destination to nowhere.
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