Somethings happening here

Willy YoderContributor ISeptember 11, 2009
Teams that lose 63 games aren’t supposed to be this confident, are they?

There is an odd atmosphere around the Washington Wizards this off-season. An atmosphere not felt just among the ball club but also by the local and national media as well as with the fans. It’s not a sensation often felt by a D.C sports club, a sensation that can best be described as silent confidence.

With the under the radar reports that the one-time man of the city, Gilbert Arenas, may finally be healthy again, apprehensive fans are starting to subconsciously get their hopes up once again.

Hope is a feeling that has not been kind to Washington basketball fans for a long time.

In the 1980’s the club was able to put together a mediocre squad for the good part of the decade, reaching and losing in the first round of the Eastern Conference First Round five years in a row (1983-1988). However the club was hardly anything to hope about, the team had a winning percentage of only .473 with a 194-216.

Come 1990 the mediocrity the Bullets displayed had quickly turned to flat our dreadful performances year after year. The club embarked on an 8-year stretch that saw them without a playoff appearance. In this stretch the club never won more than 30 games, despite being led by team legend turned coach Wes Unseld. It appeared there was room for hope in the mid 1990’s when the club combined two of the University of Michigan’s ‘Fab-Five’ to head a young squad of lottery picks. Juwan Howard, Chris Webber, Calbert Cheaney infused Washington with energy while free-agent acquisition Rod Strickland set the pace for a Bullets squad that recorded the franchise’s first winning season in 10 years and earned their first playoff appearance in eight.

But the very next season the hope that the youthful Bullets team brought slowly disappeared along with the team’s name and home. The club moved from U.S Airways Arena after only five home games in 1997/98 to their new home, the MCI Center, along with their move they changed their name from the Washington Bullets, to the Washington Wizards. It was a disappointing season to say the least for Wizards fans. Despite Chris Webber having a breakout year and Rod Strickland leading the NBA in assists, off the court problems and on the court inconsistency led to a 42-40 record, no playoff berth, and the trading of Webber.

So much for hope.

Bullets fans that invested their heart, soul, and pride into their team saw in a single season everything they had built their dreams around turned around completely. The Wizards would go on to suffer six more losing seasons, a number one overall pick bust, and even two sub-par seasons with the greatest player in history donning their uniform.

In 2003/04 the Wizards put together the pieced of the puzzle that would land them back in the playoffs the very next year. Gone was Phil Collins and Michael Jordan, in was Eddie Jordan, Ernie Grunfeld, and Gilbert Arenas. In 2004 the club brought in sixth-man-of-the-year Antawn Jamison and the stage was set for the club to make their first true playoff run in decades.
After the club stormed into the post-season, they took out another youthful club in the Chicago Bulls. The team’s season would end in the next round by the hands of Dwayne Wade and Shaq with the Miami Heat.

Hope continued to build however as the team acquired Caron Butler and boasted a talented trio dubbed ‘the big three’ by most of the league. But between Lebron James travels, and Gilbert Arenas knee surgeries, the Wizards failed to make it out of the first round for three consecutive seasons, while last year of course going an abysmal 19-63.

Things are changing however, and Wizards fans are silently turning their heads and whispering to one another. No one wants to say it, but this could be the best Wizards team in decades.

Still in tact is the big three, Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler, and Antawn Jameson. Now joining them however will be proven veterans Mike Miller and Randy Foye. These two players have been scorers their entire career and will provide much needed scoring depth. The Wizards up and comers are poised to break out too. For the last three years Andray Blatche and Nick Young have shown slow developing promise that many think will blossom this year. Last year’s athletic rookies, Dominic Mcguire and JaVale McGee now have a year of experience under their belt and hope to be forces defensively.

Leading the club now is new head coach Flip Saunders. Saunders of course if a veteran coach who has vast playoff experience, and unlike Eddie Jordan, may institute some defensive reliability.

The pieces are in place, the table is set, and hopefully the knee is healed. If it is, watch out Orlando, watch out Boston, and (insert expletive) Cleveland.