Oh the humanity!
The Washington Wizards (19-63) finished their dismal 2008-2009 season on a sour note last night at TD Banknorth Garden in Boston. They tied a franchise record with the fewest wins ever in a season, and have little hope for making serious strides to improve in the coming months.
Without the services of vocal leader, and crowd pleaser Gilbert Arenas for most of the season, the "Wiz" were left a broken organization. Familiar faces like Antawn Jamison, Brendan Haywood and Arenas were in street clothes, and watched the finale from the Wizards’ bench.
Boston (62-20) rested their all-stars, as their only goal for this game was to stay healthy. Minus Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, the Wizards still could not overcome their youthful inexperience.
Caron Butler led all scorers with a game-high 39 points, but his performance was not enough to earn his team their 20th win. Injuries hampered the Wizards’ ability to be competitive in the increasingly tough Eastern Conference.
Second-year man Nick Young was the only player to play in all 82 games. Jamison was forced to sit out his first game, due to bone spurs in his right ankle. He initially got hurt during the Wizards’ most significant win versus the Cleveland Cavaliers on April 2.
This game was the only time that he, Haywood and Arenas were all on the court together. Jamison has played all 82 games five times in his career. According to Jamison, this latest setback could require surgery. “I feel fortunate enough to make it except for one game,” Jamison said. “Hopefully I can rest it and take it from there. If it does [require surgery], it’s just another bump in the road.”
This final loss also marked the end of Ed Tapscott’s tenure as head coach. He was placed in a difficult position the moment he replaced former coach Eddie Jordan on Nov. 24. Last night’s lineup of Javaris Crittenton, Dominic McGuire, Darius Songaila, rookie JaVale McGee and Butler was the 21st starting rotation utilized by the team.
Eight bodies dressed for the game, but were down to seven, when Crittendon was forced to leave with a sprained right ankle, with the Wizards leading 71-70 at the 3:45 mark of the third quarter.
“What’s done is done,” said Tapscott, in his final postgame interview as coach of the Wizards. “You live with the verdict of history. When you have a record like that, you have it for a reason and we are all of that reason. We have to face that. Now it will be someone else’s task to put those pieces up and reassemble them so we’re better than that.”
Saunders has an impressive coaching history. He has been to the conference finals four times, and has the seven highest winning percentage amongst coaches with at least 900 games coached. He inherits a team that is struggling to find cohesion amid the revolving door of players that come through DC each year.
The Wizards lack consistency at the four and five position. Brendan Haywood is a streaky performer. One night he will give you 20 points and 10 rebounds. And the next night, he’ll score six points and foul out.
Fellow center Etan Thomas had a near-death heart ailment that could have ended his career, and was never a consistent threat inside the paint either. It will be interesting to see what Saunders does with JaVale McGee.
The rookie finished his season averaging 6.2 PPG, 1 block in 15.2 MPG. He appeared in 75 games total. He is raw, but I see potential if he hits the weight room, and works on his foot work.
He earned the respect of his teammates by never quitting. The word from the locker room is that he is highly coachable. Give him another year under a reputable coach, and McGee might become a solid enforcer down on the block.
So rejoice Wizards’ fans! Rejoice! For this season is mercifully over. Let it be said I wish them better luck in 2010.