A few years ago, one could argue that the Wizards became the darling of the NBA. Under Ernie Grunfeld and Eddie Jordan the Wizards made the playoffs four years in a row and, as many of us who live in the DMV have heard much too often, they even had the best record in the East - prior to the 06/07 All-Star break. Hell, as recently as this season, the Wizards were a popular candidate to again compete with the best in the East.
However, today most in the popular press want to lead off their Wizards draft lottery stories by focusing on the infamous gun issue and use it to describe what prevented the Wizards from recapturing the glories of its recent past. More insulting still, they want to use it as a means to describe the Wizards franchise as a fatally flawed organization that no one would want to play for. And while that incident clearly, was a significant contributing factor, there were many other issues that plagued the team. And all of those issues in total, ultimately wrecked the 2009/10 Wizards season. (I highly recommend reading Michael Lee of the Post, Truthaboutit and Bulletsforever to get a broader perspective on all of the issues that undermined the 09/10 Wizards season.)
It is easier, however, to focus only on the more salacious and dysfunctional story of Gilbert and the guns. It is also easier to characterize the Wizards organization as the Raiders of the NBA or the Clippers of the East. And while the Wizards have not had the same level of success as it did in the 70s, it is not accurate to describe them in the same manner as the Clippers. It may shorten your copy to pretend as if the Wizards recent stretch of playoff appearances did not occur. Selectively focusing on a few facts tightens up the story, but it also serves to aggravate those of us who follow the team faithfully.
This post isn’t just about the way in which the franchise has been characterized. I also have issues with a number of story lines and/or recommendations that have been floated since the Wizards won the draft lottery. I have paraphrased and responded to some of my favorites :
The Wizards may trade the pick:
This thought is just insane and I will not waste any more keystrokes on this.
Winning the lottery means that the Wizards will/should trade Arenas:
There were multiple variations of this floated by many different journalists and “experts.” I believe this is a ridiculous claim and I will pick this up later in this posting. However, those who floated the idea have clearly not listened to the things that Ted Leonsis has said publicly. I believe that Gilbert Arenas will be (and should be) a Wizard next season.
Should the Wizards take Wall or Turner with the first pick?:
Most have said that the Wizards should draft Wall – and I am of that camp. However a few, including Tim Legler on ESPN, floated the idea that they should take Turner – even though he contradicted himself by saying that Wall would be the first pick. There are plenty of places on the net in which you can find stats on both players until you are warm and fuzzy, but here are a couple thoughts that jumped out to me:
· Magic Johnson who I believe is the best PG ever immediately stated that the Wizards have to take Wall because he will be a special player. I am inclined to believe that Magic has forgotten more about the position of PG than the majority of us have ever known. So his recommendation carries more weight for me than nearly every other person who is not named Earvin “Magic” Johnson. Sorry, Tim Legler that goes for you too.
· While Turner appears that he will be a very solid (if not special) pro, I give Wall credit for having to play the entire season with the label as “the man.” Just as importantly he did not fold or disappoint, while carrying that label and he outplayed most on his more talent rich team. Many did not start talking about Turner until some of his more amazing performances in March. I will continue to lean towards a person who had more pressure and performed consistently at a high level for an entire season.
Gilbert Arenas and John Wall can’t play on the same team or in the same backcourt:
I believe this opinion is based on feelings and not based in fact. Not only do I think that these two can and will play for the same team. I think that they will form an incredible backcourt.
First, let me point out that I believe that Gilbert will grow following his recent self-inflicted wounds. He is no longer the youngest guy on the roster, this last issue almost sent him to jail and nearly ended his career. I believe that this served as the wakeup call that he needed. I also believe that he will come back more highly motivated than ever.
Those who don’t think Gil can play with Wall clearly forget that Gil truly enjoyed playing in a two guard system with Larry Hughes. More pressure was put on him to score when Larry left and then he had to share the backcourt with combinations that included Daniels, Butler, and Stevenson (during the 05/06 and 06/07 seasons) – none of which struck fear in the competition. Adding someone as dynamic as Wall will provide Arenas with his best backcourt mate since Larry Hughes, while reducing the need for him to constantly handle the ball and run the offense. Just as importantly, it puts pressure on the competition to decide how best to match up with the two of them.
And for those that want to talk about Arenas’ knee injury and whether he had fully recovered, it is true that early in the season he had struggled, but much of that was fitting into a new system with additional responsibilities. Prior to the suspension, Gilbert was having a comparable season, Per 36 minutes, to both the 05/06 & 06/07 campaigns. In December Gilbert appeared to be rounding back into form and while his scoring numbers were in his normal range, more impressive was that he had superior assist numbers.
I don’t believe that Gilbert is going to come back and be a problem. I believe that he will be highly focused and motivated, and when you combine that with his already high work ethic and the stage is set for an extremely productive season. Pairing him in the backcourt with a talent like John Wall could create a tandem that you cannot find in the NBA.
One of the weaknesses that the Wizards have had is the lack of a true Point Guard. Well, with some poor play and a great deal of luck they have the opportunity to select a potential star at the position. I suggest they take the potential star and deal with any “potential” issues as they develop. Unlike many in the popular press, I don’t think there will be any issue between Arenas and Wall. Gilbert has proven that he is willing and able to adapt his play to fit with another talented guard.