Eleven months ago I wrote about the difficulty of being a fan of a rebuilding team:
In the Arctic, a polar night can last months. While the last few months bear witness to some of the worst basketball we have ever seen on a professional level, there's hope it's about to end. We have our first winning streak of the season, and today we'll see if we can run it to three games. It may have just been a flash in the pan, or a meteor lighting things up, if you will. We're all coming to accept that this is the reality of a being a fan of a rebuilding team, like waiting for dawn in the land of the midnight sun.
There is unrest in the house that Abe built. I see three levels of understanding when undertaking a trial. The first is intellectual; the breadth of the challenge is perceived, distances measured. You might call it analytics, and it is a fairly sterile understanding. This understanding exists in a vacuum, has logical consistency, but as Dr. Manhattan would say, "is as nourishing to the intellect as photograph of oxygen to a drowning man." We still know nothing of the emotional reality of our chosen path.
The advent of the blogosphere has been a blessing for diehard sports fans. Rather than the stories of one or two stars, we become privy to the unique narratives of every player of our chosen team. We are able to engage in meaningful debate and come to fairly objective conclusions on the other side. This dynamic helps us to achieve that level one understanding.
The era of the informed fan allows teams to "get away" with the scorched Earth rebuild without any backlash; hell, these days it is often the case the fans are calling for a scorched Earth rebuild before teams are ready to make the dive.
At the second stage, we experience the emotional reality I mentioned earlier. Watching painfully bad basketball (we are paradoxically more invested, by following the narratives of each player, though fully aware of the team's strategic objectives) becomes painful. We want to see our team succeed, but are able to check that want by checking back to that first level of understanding, rebuilding via 'scorched Earth', 'waiting for dawn' or whatever you like. Over time, we adjust to the necessities of the situation, but always looking for the last corner the team has turn.
That's what makes the Chris Paul deal the Clippers pulled off so hard to swallow, in principle. In principle, of course because the Wizards are just cherry at PG. We see a similarly rebuilding team net a superstar utilizing their youth and assets, dramatically improving their status to that of contender (debatable), and think, 'why can't we do that?' Dwight Howard ever the unspoken subtext.
We've talked about the necessity of luck in building any contender. Well, as luck would have it, we are not so far along in our rebuild as the Clippers were. None of our assets are developed to the point of Eric Gordon, a saleable borderline All-Star of commensurate size. While we could certainly offer an unprotected first, it wouldn't be Minnesota's, the gold standard of draft picks. An uncertain prospect like Aminu and and an expiring deal we could certainly do.
Something to think about: Andrew Bynum > Deandre Jordan > Javale McGee is a trade value simplification I don't think anyone would argue with. The Magic signed Jason Richardson to a 4 year deal. That's not a sign of a team preparing for a youth movement. Otis Smith didn't make the Nuggets' mistake in offering an Al Harrington-sized deal, so in theory Richardson would be moveable. But Richardson fits well enough with Jameer Nelson, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol to make a playoff push. And even if Javale McGee and Andray Blatche were to make a quantum leap, they're unseasoned and Orlando doesn't have a back court that could compensate in the postseason. All of these pure observables mean there is no compelling reason for the Magic themselves to approach us, which means we would have to offer such an overwhelming package the team would be gutted with little likelihood Dwight would consider re-signing.
The third level of understanding is acting at the proper moment. The emotional understanding motivates, the logic provides the how, and the level of understanding I can only describe as patience supplies the when. Our youth needs a stable environment to grow in. Throwing the Wizards name into the hat will probably be used only for leveraging a better offer from a likelier trade partner. And in the wake of the Chris Paul saga, it may even become a distraction as our youth starts wondering who is going to get cherry picked outside the guy bringing the ball up the floor.
And who knows, maybe no trade is necessary and we're looking at the superteam-era iteration of the 2004 Detroit Pistons. While that may sound like a backhanded endorsement considering the history of our coach, I like to think that would be a nice theme of redemption as well. We might have a knucklehead or two, but there's no Rasheed Wallace salting the earth. There's no reason we can't ask about Dwight Howard as the All-Star break approaches the same way we asked about Carmelo Anthony. Inquiring when Dwight is interested in only a few specific teams turns us into beggars. Going about this in the wrong fashion, the wrong time...asking can hurt.