Fans wondered at the impact even John Wall could make as they pondered what to take away from a wretched beginning to the 2012/13 campaign. In the end, there was only one logical conclusion to come to about the body of work thus far:
Wizards fans got their first taste of 2012/13's second season in a victory over the weary Atlanta Hawks on Saturday night. As John Wall, Bradley Beal and Nene go, so goes the rebuild and perhaps the fate of Ernie Grunfeld. For now, the only metric fans have available is Ted Leonsis' "not-bottom-three finish."
"We would all find it unacceptable if we finished with the second- or third-worst record in the NBA this year," Leonsis said. "That would be a failure, and the failure would start with me."
So what do the Wizards have to do to get there? The Wizards currently hold pole position for worst record in the NBA with a .200 winning percentage and everyone is expecting an uptick as Wall's return, Beal's emergence and Nene's improving health dovetail. There are 47 games left to play and not-bottom-three is easily within reach. A few pixels to consider:
- Anderson Varejao needs surgery, which probably rules out a trade. (Eric Bledsoe and DeAndre Jordan, really?). The Cavaliers stand at a .231 winning percentage with 43 games to go. The Wizards are a good bet to pass them up, but that's why they play the games.
- If you only remember headlines, you might be inclined to think the Bobcats are doing much better this year and they have already improved on last season's 'results'. Yet they've won only two of their last 24 games. Life is hard for Wizards fans, but we'll take the Pepsi Challenge with a choice of John Wall or Kemba Walker at the helm.
- The Hornets are another young team that got bit by the injury bug and recently rattled off a four-game winning streak of their own. This will be a tougher team to catch as they start to find their identity, but it's hardly out of the question.
- Taking a step further is only a matter of stepping over the comprehensive turmoil of the Kings, the future-less Suns or the Magic team the Wizards just annihilated. Much farther than that and you're nearing the playoff conversation.
That's all that needs to happen to avoid a bottom-three finish. If the Wizards are able to sustain even a modicum of their success and the Leonsis line stands as stated, Ernie Grunfeld's job is safe. Should they go 20-27 the rest of the year (a seemingly unattainable feat as early as last week, but now one that might be viewed as modest), the Wizards will be sitting on a .329 winning percentage that might even pull them out of bottom-three in the Eastern Conference.
Will all be forgiven should the team not cross the Leonsis line? Did organizational accountability truly begin against the Hawks? We'll have to wait and see, but at the very least watching should be a lot more enjoyable from here on out.