Columnist's note: I'm snowboarding in Flagstaff this week and won't be back until mid-Friday. I'll respond to comments then, and as always, thanks for reading!
Why's that, you ask? The season has yet to reach the halfway point, but there have been enough sparks, increasingly more here than there, that recall the team's late season form of the past few years. More concisely, the Wizards look like they're starting to put things together awful early this go-round.
There are a lot of reasons one could point to. Let's start with the obvious; playing with the foundation. The Wizards are building for the future. Obliquely, you don't go team building with contract employees; they're just passing through. The Ten Point Plan calls for low profile veterans on short term deals, acquiring them for the assets the weight of their contracts will bring.
Trying to learn from someone who has their eyes fixed on the clock waiting for quitting time is tough. With the higher profile veterans traded away or nursing injury, the players on the court are the guys the team is supposed to be built on. And they seem to be learning how to fit with each other and feeding off each other's success...funny how that works.
Exodus of the remaining old guard. The quiet revelation of Trevor Booker and Andray Blatche's injury looks to be quietly easing a possibly painful transition period. Dray's a nice guy but his desire to face-up from 18 feet, among other things, just doesn't gel with what this team needs to do. And his general tone of frustrated bewilderment doesn't help the team any more than Flip's did. And Chris Singleton come back! Less Shard is definitely more and we want to keep it that way. He does his best not to hurt the team, and seems to do better at playing within himself in limited minutes. But speaking of Flip...
Randy Wittman plays this team right. The way Flip Saunders tried to run this team is akin to taking a rear wheel drive at speed down a mountain pass with grip driving techniques. Attacking a mountain pass that way with that tool requires drift technique and the higher quality of play since the firing is little surprise to any fan of the team.
All of this is culminating in a higher level of play with better than half the season remaining. Sure, this is normally about the time we see a few encouraging signs, but that's within the span (and pace) of a normal season. Maybe they forgot there was a lockout...but whatever the reason, January and February (and usually most of March) has represented the basketball version of staring into the abyss the last few seasons and, I don't know, things feel like they might be looking up. The players seem to be coming together as a team and the addition by subtraction phase is nearly over. There's nowhere to go but up.