It feels odd to suggest expectations are high going into the 2012/13 season. Looking back over the past few years, it feels like the bar has been set at the playoffs so long it should be gathering dust. What makes this season different from the Andray Blatche years?
Obvious out of the way first; the roster overhaul is complete. The starting lineup consists of playoff-tested veterans and high lottery picks. Recent first-rounders galore come off the bench. That's not to say the company rolls are in their final iteration. Every player who wore the uniform before John Wall was drafted has been shipped out, kicked out or somewhere in between. It is a brand new day at the Verizon Center, and for an NBA franchise, it happened fast.
It's more than just a new coat of paint or change of uniform. This team was constructed around the perceived strengths of a franchise player. (Well, except the need for shooters...who needs those?) Any excuse is out the door for this generation of rookies. The future of the team is on their shoulders, just the way the Ten Point Plan demands.
Randy Wittman is the coach players asked for, and got. Fans probably don't have to be reminded...but that isn't especially common. A monster factor in getting any personnel-driven result is achieving buy-in, and letting the employees choose their taskmaster after a relatively successful audition is right in line with getting player focus where it needs to be, on the floor. It's unlikely the 'disciplinarian schtick will wear thin' when the players are demanding as much of themselves as the coach is.
And shooting? The team has not brought any designated shooters onto the roster this year (unless you count BB3), and it seems clear that the front-office expects someone to step up. Is there reason to believe that will happen? Mebbe. Trevor Booker and Jan Vesely could show a reliable mid-range jumpshot. Chris Singleton could finally start to hit those fast-break dunks. Jordan Crawford could pick his spots beyond the arc with a little more selectivity. And if John could reliably strike from the elbow (Dave Hopla, y'all), we won't have to watch the paint packed tighter than a bowl of Mongolian barbecue. There are enough positive indicators that it's not so much a question of if someone will step up, rather who will it be?
Which brings me to my final point. Those of you who enjoyed the rapid-fire 7-6 slaughter of the Buffalo Bills at the hands of the Washington Redskins in game one of the 2012 NFL preseason will remember this:
Like Ted said, the world won't end if the team doesn't make the playoffs, but it's clear both he and the front-office expect serious growth on the roster. In that sense, to me at least, it suggests Ted is keeping a championship focus. The playoffs are a yardstick, preseason for the contender he expects the Wizards to become, not an endgame. That necessitates the aforementioned growth, serious growth. Remember:
5. Be patient with young players-- throw them in the pool to see if they can swim. Believe in them. Show them loyalty. Re-sign the best young players to long term high priced deals.
Talking about high expectations this season doesn't seem quite so crazy any more. It's the deep end of the pool this season for Washington's youth. Time to sink or swim.