The Top 15 Washington Wizards Screw Ups
Let's face it—everybody screws up.
It just so happens that over the past two decades (with the exception of the Eddie Jordan years), the Wizards have done it more than almost every other team in the NBA.
This isn't just a bad draft pick here or a bad free agent signing there. This is more than 20-plus years of idiocy and mediocrity in the front office, on the court and in public relations.
This is perhaps the most pathetic list in Bleacher Report history. In a short summary, I will rank the most frustrating, head-scratching and inexplicably unexplainable decisions, moments and events in the history of the Washington Wizards ball club.
15. The 2004 Detroit Pistons
Now I know what you're saying. How is another team winning the NBA Championship on the list?
Well, it's simple. Three of their five starters were Washington Wizards (Bullets) as rookies. Rasheed Wallace and Richard Hamilton were Washington lottery picks in 1995 and 1999, respectively, and Ben Wallace was signed as a rookie free agent in 1996 after not being drafted.
All three were traded within three years of their stints with the Wizards.
Ben Wallace became the face and cornerstone of the Detroit Pistons franchise and one of the most dominant defensive players of his era. He won the Defensive Player of the Year award four times, led the league in rebounding in back-to-back seasons (2002-2003) and made the NBA All-Defensive Team five straight times from 2002 to 2006.
Rasheed Wallace, Ben Wallace and Richard Hamilton all had great success in the NBA, combining for 11 All-Star appearances, and were all on the Detroit Pistons team that won it all in 2004 with Larry Brown. They returned to the Finals the next year, only to lose in seven games to the San Antonio Spurs in one of the greatest NBA Finals series of all-time.
The Washington Wizards practically handed the Detroit Pistons a dynasty. From 2003 to 2008, the Detroit Pistons made it to six straight Eastern Conference Finals—the second most in NBA history behind the Bill Russell's Boston Celtics (who made it to 13 straight Eastern Conference Finals between 1957 and 1969).
The Wizards haven't been to an Eastern Conference Final since 1979 when they were still the Washington Bullets.
14. The 2011 Dallas Mavericks
Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it, and, in 2011, the Dallas Mavericks reaped from the Wizards' woes.
Just one season after Washington traded Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson to Dallas, the Mavericks were hoisting the Larry O'Brien trophy. This was hardly a coincidence as the Wizards traded away the core and toughness of their team to a franchise who had long carried the stigma of being soft.
The Mavericks drastically improved in defense, and, after acquiring Tyson Chandler via free agency in the 2010 offseason, they made a spectacular run to their first NBA Championship since joining the NBA in 1980.
By the way, Tyson Chandler was taken second overall in the 2001 NBA Draft, right behind Kwame Brown.
13. Firing Eddie Jordan
Eddie Jordan was perhaps the best coach the Wizards had over the last 20 years and was unfairly pegged as the scapegoat for the horrible decision making in Washington's front office.
He joined the Wizards as their new head coach in 2003 after two successful trips to the Finals with the New Jersey Nets as an assistant coach on Byron Scott's staff.
Jordan's only losing season would be his first and he would proceed to turn the franchise around, leading the Wizards to four straight playoff berths and their first playoff series win since 1982.
Jordan continued to lead the Wizards to the playoffs despite numerous injuries to his star players and poor draft picks and free agent signings by the front office.
He was finally fired early in the 2008-2009 season after a 1-10 start despite no Gilbert Arenas, no Brendan Haywood and a team full of inexperienced and undersized players around Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison.
Since Eddie Jordan's departure, the Wizards have won only 71 games over the past four seasons and have only won 19 road games during that span.
12. The 1993 NBA Draft
Although at the time they were two solid picks by the Bullets in 1993, Calbert Cheaney (sixth overall) and Gheorghe Muresan (30th overall) would both have shortened careers due to numerous injuries.
Muresan's pituitary condition and large body caused him pain and therefore made him very prone to injury in the fast-paced NBA game. Injuries also kept Calbert Cheaney from reaching his true potential in the NBA.
The Bullets made the playoffs just one time during Webber and Howard's reign in Washington. A majority of their lack of success has to be attributed to the multitude of injuries that plagued much of the roster year after year.
11. LeBron James vs. DeShawn Stevenson
The now-legendary beef started in 2008 when LeBron James allegedly verbally degraded Stevenson's game. Stevenson responded by calling LeBron James overrated, and it eventually got so blown out of proportion that it had rappers taking sides.
Jay-Z, one of LeBron's acquaintances, recorded a song dissing Stevenson and the Wizards. What was more insulting is that the song was played at a local DC nightclub while LeBron James and some of his Cavs teammates were in the VIP booth. Several Wizards players who attended left with a bad taste in their mouth.
At Game 3 at the Verizon Center, Soulja Boy would join the fray, appearing in a DeShawn Stevenson jersey. He felt disrespected by LeBron James' analogy to describe the different levels he and Stevenson were on:
"...[Stevenson] trying to challenge me is like Soulja Boy trying to challenge Jay-Z."
Brendan Haywood also had a great quote in response to James saying Haywood had attempted to injure him during the series after his flagrant 2 foul got him ejected late in Game 2:
"If he wants to wear '23' and he wants to be MJ, he's gonna get hit like MJ did. [MJ] got hit much worse than this. Nobody is trying to hurt him."
Although the feud was certainly entertaining, the Cavs dominated the Wizards. None of the three series went beyond six games.
In the 2008 series, LeBron James averaged 31.3 PPG, 8.4 APG, and 7.1 RPG. Stevenson's numbers would be great for any starting shooting guard in the NBA (12.9 PPG, 3.6 APRG, 3.3 RPG), but against LeBron James, that's baby food.
That's why this made my list.
10. Their Horrible, Horrible Trades and Free Agency Decisions
The one constant in these terrible seasons is the Wizards' inability to make any solid acquisitions through trade or free agency. The Wizards have made several incompetent decisions in the front office and have missed out on numerous players because of it.
The Wizards traded Chris Webber to Sacramento for Mitch Richmond, who was clearly past his prime.
They also acquired Jerry Stackhouse for "Rip" Hamilton, and, while Stackhouse was proficient in his first season with Washington, injuries, complacency and feuds with Michael Jordan over playing time kept him from becoming a decent player with the Wizards.
Hamilton went on to greener pastures with the Detroit Pistons.
The Wizards let Larry Hughes walk via free agency in 2007 and would lose to Hughes and his new team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, the following year in the first round of the playoffs. In fact, the Cavaliers would make it all the way to the Finals that year.
Dee Brown, Mike Miller and Josh Howard couldn't stay healthy. James Singleton was undersized and couldn't shoot. Quenton Ross couldn't shoot either.
And Drew Gooden—who has played for nearly every team in the NBA—didn't want to play for the Wizards and requested a trade. Zydrunas Ilgauskas requested and was granted his release. And Mike Bibby played just one game in a Wizards' uniform.
The Wizards traded away the draft rights to the pick that turned out to be Devin Harris in 2004 and did the same when they traded the fifth overall pick in 2009 for Randy Foye and Mike Miller.
That pick turned out to be Ricky Rubio.
9. Only 5 Playoff Appearances Since the 1989 Season
Let's face it: Only a handful of teams have been worse for longer than Washington.
A combination of untimely and consistently crippling injuries, bad draft picks, free agent signings and trade acquisitions of past-their-prime players like Mitch Richmond, Ralph Sampson, Moses Malone and Bernard King have kept the Wizards away from the playoffs like it's quarantined.
Think about this: The Wizards went to the playoffs in 2005 and 2006, and it was the first time that the Wizards achieved back-to-back playoff berths since 1988.
We had the greatest player of all-time (though he was old) on our team for two years and still couldn't get a playoff berth.
8. Any First-Round Draft Pick Between 2001 and 2006
If an NBA team was comprised of the players that make up the Wizards first round selections from 2001 to 2006, they might just be the first winless team in the history of the league. This is perhaps the most pitiful group of lottery picks in a six-year stretch in NBA history.
Here's the starting five:
PG Juan Dixon (2002)
SG Jarvis Hayes (2003)
SF Jared Jeffries (2002)
PF Oleksiy Pecherov (2006)
C Kwame Brown (2001)
7. Gilbert Arenas and Juwan Howard's Ridiculous Contracts
The only thing more ridiculous than the Wizards' track record over the past 20 years is their lucrative contracts paid out to undeserving players.
Juwan Howard was a good NBA prospect in 1994 and played at an All-Star level at one point due to his superb offensive game and fierce rebounding in Washington. Don't get me wrong.
But Howard holding out and missing the first part of the season for more money, signing a life contract (12 years, $37.5 million, which would be $55.6 million dollars today) as a rookie and then being a part of the endless trade rumors that followed got him on the fans' bad side early.
Although he played phenomenal for the early part of his career in Washington, the Wizards would make him the first NBA player to sign a contract for over $100 million dollars (seven years, $105 million) in 1997, and he was never the same player.
He was ultimately booed out of Washington for his declining performance and was known more for his theatrics and off-the-court troubles than for his game. In 2001, it had been five years since Juwan Howard made an All-Star game, and he was still the fourth-highest paid player in the league.
Gilbert Arenas stormed onto the NBA scene as a member of the Washington Wizards, displaying his uncanny strength and athleticism as well as his brilliant playmaking and shooting.
He made three All-Star games, one as a starter, and was on his way to leading the Wizards back to prominence.
Injuries began to take their toll, however—a constant theme with the Wizards. Gilbert missed the 2007 season with a torn MCL in his knee. Arenas would attempt to return next season but perhaps too soon, as he often complained of knee soreness and pain in his surgically-repaired knee after games.
In 2008, Gilbert opted out of the final year of his contract. Two teams offered him $100 million deals (the Golden State Warriors and the Washington Wizards), but Arenas chose to re-sign with Washington rather than rejoin the team that drafted him—due to Antawn Jamison's resigning with the Wizards.
Washington signed Arenas to a six-year, $111 million contract, and, like Juwan Howard, he was never the same player and never played in another All-Star Game.
6. Michael Jordan in the Front Office
I love Michael Jordan.
He is my favorite basketball player of all-time and perhaps the greatest athlete to ever walk the earth. His influence on the game of basketball and role as an ambassador to the game has made basketball one of the most popular and most played sports worldwide.
So why is he on this list?
Because he's terrible in the front office.
Jordan joined the Wizards' front office in 2001 after his second retirement. He would hire Doug Collins as head coach; draft Kwame Brown, Jared Jeffries, Juan Dixon and Jarvis Hayes; trade Richard Hamilton for Jerry Stackhouse; trade Juwan Howard for Christian Laettner and play Tyronn Lue over Larry Hughes.
He would then come out of retirement to take Richard Hamilton and Jerry Stackhouse's playing time, only to realize his body could no longer withstand the rigors of an 82-game season, and alienate nearly all of the players on the team and then ultimately be SHOCKED when Abe Pollin fired him in 2004.
Yeah, I can understand that.
5. The 2012 Washington Wizards
"I call them the Washington Bullets because I want to shoot them." -Charles Barkley
The current Wizards are the most selfish, vain and uncoordinated team I've ever seen play in my entire life of watching NBA basketball.
The 2012 Washington Wizards are about as bad as a team as you will find in the NBA, simply because they are all talent and no brains.
They can't pass. They don't want to pass. They can't shoot. They can't make free throws. They can't play defense. They don't want to play defense. Honestly, I think my old high school team would've won more games than the Wizards right now, especially with the easy schedule that they have played.
Andray Blatche is nonexistent. JaVale McGee cares more about dunks than keeping the opposing center from scoring. Nick Young is just a shooter and nothing more—he can't seem to fill up any part of the stat sheet aside from field goal attempts and turnovers.
Rashard Lewis is like Juwan Howard all over again, and John Wall is regressing due to the fact that his team is regressing.
I hate the fact that people are still acting as if this is a young team. Nick Young is in his fifth year, JaVale McGee is in his fourth and Andray Blatche is in his seventh. There is absolutely no reason these three should be playing this poorly in their fourth year together on the same team.
The Wizards' rankings and statistics speak for themselves.
They have no chemistry, no teamwork, no initiative and they stink. This team needs to be rebuilt as soon as possible because if Nick Young and Andray Blatche are the future, Washington has no future.
This team is a first class screw-up and the No. 4 screw-up is the main reason why.
4. Andray Blatche
Now I know Andray Blatche was a second-round pick in 2005, and not much was expected of him when he joined the Wizards. But due to his physical gifts, he was labeled by experts as "The Next Lamar Odom" and "Baby Garnett."
The main reason why Jamison, Haywood, Butler and Stevenson were traded in 2010 was the fact that the Wizards wanted to build around their new, younger "star" Andray Blatche. Although he was raw and extremely immature (Blatche once refused to re-enter a game due to being disciplined by the coaching staff for not getting back on defense), he played outstanding after the trades saw him receive more playing time, and it was widely believed (even by me) that he would become the face of the franchise.
What was I thinking?
The next year, injuries halted Blatche's availability—though he would play well at the end of the 2011 season leading into next year.
2012 was supposed to be the "Year of the Blatche." By this time, I had gotten off the Blatche bandwagon that seemed to consume many Wizards fans because he showed up to training camp after the NBA lockout overweight and out of shape.
Insert Kwame Brown joke here.
In fact, in the Wizards' home opener, he declared himself the team captain and told fans over the microphone that he would make this a season to remember.
Boy, was he right.
Blatche was thoroughly outplayed in a loss to the Nets by opposing power forward Kris Humphries, who drew boos from the crowd the entire game due to his relationship with the controversial reality TV star, Kim Kardashian. Pretty soon, it was Blatche who was hearing the boos.
Blatche would later call out coach Flip Saunders, demanding the ball in the post, and would take to Twitter to vent his frustration with the fans, telling them to shut up. You know, like any team captain would.
He has been invisible through the first part of the 2012 season due to his poor conditioning and lackluster effort on both ends of the floor. Blatche's utter and complete absence of maturity, motivation, effort, improvement, production and leadership has led to the Wizards being the worst team in the NBA, the loss of his starting spot, a large reduction in playing time, and Flip Saunders' recent firing.
In many ways, Blatche is hindering the team's development in the same fashion that Kwame Brown did years before, and he is probably the worst example of a teammate I've ever seen—completely unprofessional, unaccountable, and uncoachable.
His credibility is shot, the fans have turned on him, and his teammates and coaches don't trust him.
By the way, Ernie Grunfeld signed Andray Blatche for a five-year, $35-million extension last year. Deja vu all over again.
3. Changing the Name from Bullets to Wizards
In 1995, Abe Pollin lost his friend, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin due to an assassination.
The gun violence in the Washington, D.C. area was allegedly too much for Pollin to bear, and he decided that he would change the name of the team, and the fans would vote on which alias the new Washington team would take on.
Among the choices were: Sea Dogs, Dragons, Generals, Express, Stallions and Wizards.
This drew instant laughter and ridicule from sports media outlets across the country, lampooning the fact that a historic NBA franchise could be reduced to a laughing stock with such childish and uncreative names to chose from.
Ultimately, Wizards was reluctantly chosen, and many fans considered the new name racially insensitive, due to the fact that "wizard" is a rank in the Ku Klux Klan. The Wizards became the laughing stock of the NBA due to their ugly color scheme, logo, uniforms and their hilariously bad name, which matched their horrendously bad play.
The Washington metropolitan area has never forgiven the franchise for changing the name. And to this day, fans long for the Washington franchise to return to its championship name and its championship roots.
Hopefully, the Wizards will be the Washington Bullets again. But not likely after screw-up No. 2.
2. Gilbert Arenas vs. Javaris Crittenton
In what world does something like this happen?
In 2009, Flip Saunders was hired as the new head coach of the Washington Wizards just as Gilbert Arenas and Brendan Haywood were returning from injury. The Wizards were ranked in the preseason polls as the fourth-best team in the Eastern Conference behind the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Boston Celtics and the Orlando Magic.
What happened next would forever haunt Saunders' tenure with the franchise, as he would never recover from the drama that would eventually unfold.
Gilbert Arenas and fellow Wizards teammate Javaris Crittenton had a long-running gambling dispute, and it boiled over on a flight back from a game when Crittenton threatened to "shoot" Arenas.
Apparently, on Christmas Eve of all days, Arenas placed a table by Crittenton's locker with four unloaded guns owned by Arenas on it with a sign reading "Pick One." Crittenton, enraged by Arenas' actions, pulled a gun from his locker and threatened to kill Arenas before being restrained by teammates.
Team security eventually intervened and confiscated the firearms. Crittenton and Arenas were charged with breaking D.C. gun laws and were also in violation of the NBA's restriction on firearms in locker rooms.
The only thing worse than the events that unfolded were Arenas' comments and actions after the incident, in which he essentially mocked the situation, making pistols with his fingers and simulating putting guns into holsters. Arenas and Crittenton were later suspended for the rest of the season due to their actions.
Arenas was convicted of carrying an unlicensed firearm outside of a home or business and sentenced to 30 days in a halfway house as well as two years probation.
Arenas' career hasn't recovered from the incident. And Javaris Crittenton has not been in the NBA since. In fact, Crittenton has gotten into even more trouble with the law involving firearms.
On August 29th, he surrendered himself to police and was arrested for his possible involvement in the shooting death of a 22-year-old woman.
1. Kwame Brown
In the long, storied history of the NBA Draft, only three players have been drafted No. 1 overall directly out of high school: Kwame Brown in 2001, LeBron James in 2003 and Dwight Howard in 2004.
Given what the latter two became, Kwame Brown can easily be thought of as one of the worst draft picks in NBA history.
During the 2001 offseason, Kwame Brown was thought of as the best high school player in his class and had originally signed to play for the Florida Gators. He was also pursued by the Wizards President of Basketball Operations, Michael Jordan and, because of that, the hype machine was strongly behind the young kid from Brunswick, Georgia.
Allegedly, after a preseason workout, Kwame Brown told then-Wizards head coach Doug Collins, "if you draft me, you won't regret it."
Those words would ironically become prophetic after Brown was taken with the No. 1 overall pick and was the first of four high school centers drafted within the top ten that year (Tyson Chandler, Eddy Curry, DeSagana Diop).
The Wizards missed out on drafting several big names including: Pau Gasol, Zach Randolph, Richard Jefferson, Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace, Samuel Dalembert, Gilbert Arenas, Tony Parker and Mehmet Okur.
Kwame Brown's rookie year was extremely disappointing as he averaged 4.5 PPG and 3.5 RPG in just over 14 minutes of play. He was criticized for his low basketball IQ, lack of effort and immaturity by the local media, but the Wizards continued to support Brown.
His stats would improve over the next two years with increased playing time, and he played well in some games and showcased his potential.
After his third season, the Wizards offered Kwame a surprising five-year, $30 million contract, but Brown rejected it, feeling he could earn more money elsewhere via free agency. This would be the beginning of the end for Kwame Brown in Washington.
He showed up the next season out of shape, and injuries began to take their toll. His games, numbers and production plummeted. His attitude and immaturity drew rabid criticism as Brown clashed with teammates such as Gilbert Arenas and feuded with his new head coach Eddie Jordan.
There was backlash from fans and the media, as they felt Brown had become a hindrance to the team's development.
Ultimately, Michael Jordan lost his job due to Kwame Brown's self-destruction in Washington, and Brown has not improved or become anything remotely resembling a No. 1 overall draft pick since.
After being traded to Los Angeles and being booed out of the Staples Center, he has become more of a punchline than a player. He has become an NBA journeyman, playing for four teams since 2008, while injuries have kept him sidelined for most of that time.
I have said it a dozen times, and I'll say it again: Kwame Brown is the biggest screw-up in Washington Wizards history.