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The Washington Wizards left no avenue unexplored in their quest to put together a competitive group centered around John Wall. The easy meat has gone and none too soon because the Wizards suddenly have to figure their identity out without him.
There was a recent SB Nation NBA series asking other bloggers for one word that described the Washington Wizards. Given two words, I don't think most of the fanbase could or would argue too much with 'injured' and 'dysfunctional'. It's somewhat fitting that the injury bug is back to bite the Wizards in the franchise cornerstone as the team seeks to move on from the seemingly institutionalized dysfunction that has made the team a blogger's paradise. The character of the players brought in to redefine the franchise should respond well to this kind of challenge, but those players haven't had a chance to become a team.
Part of that is by design. The front-office opted for a volume over precision approach when it came to acquiring the youth to surround John Wall. That's how the Wizards ended up with six first-round draft picks in two years. It's how Yi Jianlian had his tires kicked. It's why there was a moment it seemed like Hilton Armstrong could carve out a spot in the center rotation. No more. The 'Bombs Away!' personnel approach is over in DC.
Stability now! It's been too many turbulent turns o' the clock since Wizards fans had enough roster spots pegged to hang more than a hat on. John Wall, Trevor Booker and Kevin Seraphin are the only holdovers who've been to a Wizards training camp and that camp's major bullet points were getting a John Wall and Gilbert Arenas backcourt to work while maximizing the development of Nick Young, JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche. There's been a parade of mad scientist, low percentage personnel plays, many if not most born of necessity and that ends with this training camp. So of course the 22 year-old great hope is already missing time with a stress injury.
Still, this early adversity must become the major opportunity to define a new idenity. It's time for both coaches and players to come together as the basketball team this city deserves, even if it's not the one they need right now. [Note: I have no shame.] When the Chicago Bulls lost Derrick Rose last season, they lost their shot at the NBA finals but they didn't stop being the Bulls. Even when Tom Thibodeau had no choice but to play the 'John Lucas III ftw!' card night after night.
The Bulls kept it together with Rose on the sideline, the Wizards are going to have to put it together with Wall on theirs. Look at the roster and it's not hard to see what it's designed to do. The Wiz are going to be a good-to-great defensive squad now built to be a lightning fast, explosive, good-to-great defensive squad later. The more they look like what they're built to be, the easier it will make Wall's transition back to the floor. And wouldn't it be nice if he didn't feel like he had to make everything happen by himself?