Editor's Note: Bumped now that the Wizards are again over .500.
October 31st, 2009 was a good day. It was unseasonably mild (about 70 degrees during the day) and there was never anything more than a light drizzle that disappeared in the evening. It was a Saturday and it was Halloween which was a recipe for the best kind of disaster. The NBA season had just started and the Wizards were playing their home opener that night. The Wizards entered the game at 1-1 and left the arena with a winning record. Life was good. Unfortunately, that’s the last time the Wizards finished a game with a winning record. Since then, 222 consecutive weeks of basketball that’s been average at best.
(video via the NBA)
On that same day in 2009, the Portland Trailblazers played the Houston Rockets. Brandon Roy scored 42 points for the Blazers and Greg Oden pulled down nine rebounds for Portland, but Houston got the 111-107 win thanks to 33 points from Trevor Ariza. The 76ers went into Madison Square Garden and beat the Knicks 141-127, though Al Harrington scored a career-high 42 points for New York. Yes, it has been a long, long time.
You may remember these Nets. Losing to Washington left New Jersey with an 0-3 record, which isn’t the best start by any stretch of the imagination, but it is far from a season-ending streak. Their season was over only after this three-game blemish turned into an 18-game mushroom cloud of defeat. New Jersey lost those first eighteen games by an average of 11.3 points. That’s not good, but it is understandable if you take one look at their roster. Washington’s roster didn’t look much better (Oberto!), but you can tell why the Wizards dropped 123 on the Nets in regulation and won by 19 points. The team was built to fail, and it failed historically. The Nets were able to get it together in the later stages of the season, if you can call 12-70 "getting it together". Two coaches and five months later, the Nets had avoided setting the record for fewest wins in a season.
(By the way - pour one out for Lawrence Frank, who was fired by these New Jersey Nets after going 0-16, then hired by the Pistons, then fired by the Pistons after going 0-8, then hired by the Brooklyn Nets, then
demoted reassigned by Jason Kidd while Brooklyn was laying a giant egg. Actually, don’t pour one out – save it for Lawrence, he might need it later tonight.)
The Wizards were far from a championship contender that year - that was clear. After an absolutely pitiful 19-win season, the team was ready to take a giant step forward, if only because it doesn’t get much worse than the 2008-09 season. Or so we thought. Two wins and one loss was about as good as it was going to get.
After the white-hot Wizards got off to a 2-1 start, Washington experienced: six straight losses, the death of Abe Pollin, "Pick 1", finger guns in the huddle, national attention (for all the wrong reasons), indefinite suspensions that turned into season-long suspensions, the heartwarming story about Gilbert Arenas and the gift he left in Andray Blatche’s shoe, a 16-game losing streak, and an exciting come-from-behind win in the season finale against the Indiana Pacers to bring the record all the way up to…26-56. The best moment of that season was the moment when it was over. Never did I think I would be so happy to see :00.0 on the clock after the Wizards finished the season 30 games below .500.
(video via the NBA)
How long ago was October 31st, 2009?
The Washington Nationals were home watching the playoffs, a month removed from the end of their second straight 100-loss season. It was pretty clear that the Nats were going to be terrible forever.
The Caps beat the Atlanta Thrashers (who don't exist anymore) and went on to win the President's Trophy. They promptly lost in the playoffs in 7 games...in the first round...as the overall #1 seed...after taking a 3-1 series lead.
Sunday, November 1st came during a bye week for the Redskins. That team would end the season 4-12. Jim Zorn got fired and Mike Shanahan was hired to lead our football team to the promise land.
Some topical Halloween costumes you may have seen at a party after you left that game in 2009: Kate from "Jon and Kate Plus 8", Octomom, Balloon Boy, Kanye West and/or Taylor Swift fighting over a microphone (that video is priceless).
Other stuff that has happened since the Wizards’ last day with a winning record: The "Double Rainbow" video, which you probably saw 15 more times than you wanted to, "Pants on the Ground", KFC's Double Down, that Cee Lo Green "F&@$ You" song which redefined the term "overplayed", swine flu, "The Decision" (which was worse than swine flu).
Back to the Present
A lot of change has taken place during these last 222 weeks. Not a single person from that Wizards team is still on the roster. There’s a new coach. The Wizards have an All-Star. The jerseys aren’t vomit-inducing anymore. Those terrible Nets now play in Brooklyn and are a playoff team. Those Pacers, who were just as bad as the Wizards that year, drafted Paul George and are now a championship contender. Cleveland led the league with 61 wins in 2009-10. They’ve won 80 games total since then (yikes). It looks like the Wizards are headed in the right direction. The streak might not end today or tomorrow, but we won’t have to wait another 222 weeks to see the Washington Wizards above .500.