Ending up sixth in the draft lottery was not the way to start vacation. For the several hours before our flight, I kept turning morosely to my father and moaning, "Sixth," before turning back to study the floor between my shoes. As disgrunted said and Prada concluded, it's not that bad. But I really wasn't able to come to terms with that sentiment until a few days later. Not that their arguments didn't make complete sense, but I was missing that sense of emotional validation that really lets you move on from disappointment. Oddly enough, it came from an idle chat poolside with one of the other dads at the resort.
At no point did we talk about the Wizards, basketball, or professional sports in general. I was drinking my sixteen dollar Seven and Seven and he casually mentions he had recently shattered his ankle snowboarding. Having snowboarded myself, this seemed mildly impossible, so I inquired further into it. In short, he hadn't replaced his bindings one season (the thing that holds your boots on the board) to save money. One snapped completely and the board twisted around underneath him during a wipeout. That still seemed unlikely, because the board immobilizes your ankle to prevent exactly that kind of injury. I said so, he shrugged and said, "That's what I thought."
It was what he said next that struck home...
"But that wasn't the worst." I raised an eyebrow. "Yup," he nodded, "once I tore my meniscus, MCL, and ACL." The torn meniscus holds a special place in all our hearts (yeah, the injury that derailed Gilbert Arenas' career), and in conjunction with the other two...it's a menage trois of pain! Dumbstruck, I struggled to comprehend the magnitude of the injury, but it's kind of like hearing a statistic, you can hear it, but you can't really feel it. I didn't even have the presence of mind to ask how it happened.
Lapsing into silence, I started thinking about what disgrunted said about finishing 3rd and 3rd, and what might have been had Arenas' injury been even more catastrophic. I started wondering what if Ernie Grunfeld hadn't been able to trade his contract away. We still haven't finished reaping the benefits of that move. It was a count your blessings kind of moment. We spend a lot of time talking about the luck and intricate planning needed to craft a contender, and in truth we've had our share. Not everything can go right, this is really the first real disappointment I've had since Ted Leonsis took over, and it had nothing to do with anyone in the organization. We're still on the way up, and while we're all watching with a hawk's eye, it hit me. Sitting there, drinking on an empty stomach, I realized that there's no reason not be confident in the front office's ability to come out on top under Ted's plan. It's got us this far, and as with the best young talent, our front office has shown the ability, the drive, and the practices needed to take this team to the next level. Just a matter of whether or not we can take the next step.