I'll admit that once upon a time, I was jealous of the Bucks. They had Scott Skiles heading up a young, cap-healthy, defense-first team built around Andrew Bogut that had just made a very nice showing in the playoffs that seemed a harbinger of things to come. Then of course, their GM went insane and re-upped John Salmons while bringing in Corey Maggette and Drew Gooden for big money and annihilated their identity.
It's nice to know that whoever the coach and GM are next year, some things just won't happen. Some things happened again; Wizards Nation watched closely for signs of developing identity that mostly resulted in the shedding of dead weight while Leonsis-era draft picks showed flashes of growth. Barring Andray Blatche's rebirth as a 4th/5th big man and Rashard Lewis' buyout/trade/what-have-you, the roster is all but turned over in the space of two seasons. Of course, that isn't going to get much love around the NBA...even Tom Ziller quipped, when recently considering the team's future prospects:
This team has one legit piece for the future. One.
So it's odd, that at this moment, in the afterglow of defeating the Derrick Rose-less, Luol Deng-less Bulls on the wings of Maurice Evans and Brian Cook's efforts to get the Wizards back in it, that I'm more optimistic than ever. The big reason? Promising clay.
Looking back, we just don't see rosters torn down to the floorboards often enough to make realistic projections about player and team growth in such a fluid yet stark environment. Concluding year 2 of the rebuild with an essentially new set of players, most of them young and showing signs of responding well to coaching input with a willingness to play physical and hustle on defense is an accomplishment. How much of an accomplishment is largely up to history (read: how well the Wizards do over the next few seasons). But it sets us up very nicely for an essential step in forging a championship contender; securing the coach who will be wielding
the hammer and tongs sitting at the spin wheel.
Whoever it is, they'll be weighing the future prospects of the team and they have to like what they see. No matter what a coaches immediate goals are, they're competitors just like the players they coach, they want to put their stamp on the league while shaping a contender and the Washington Wizards are promising clay.