Dear D.C. area sports fans,
As you are aware, the D.C. sports landscape has been filled with disappointment. We haven't seen a championship by a Big Four league team (NBA/NFL/MLB/NHL) since 1992 when the Redskins won the Super Bowl against the Buffalo Bills. No team has played for a championship since 1998 when the Capitals made the Stanley Cup Finals, but lost in four games to the Detroit Red Wings.
Besides those moments, there hasn't been much to root for. The Redskins have only made four NFL Playoff appearances since Joe Gibbs retired the first time in 1993. The Capitals had a recent run of six consecutive playoff appearances from 2008-2013, but could never make it past the second round. The Nationals are the newest Big Four team in town, built from scratch. They made two playoff appearances in the last three seasons, but haven't been able to get past the National League Division Series despite being favored by many to win them.
All of these teams also seem to have more sustained avid support than the 18-6 Washington Wizards, who are leading the NBA's Southeast Division and are second in the Eastern Conference.
I know, I know. There are a lot of you out there who may be skeptical about this team and where they could go, even considering their record.
First, there is a sentiment that the Wizards don't have a franchise player and are just hoping for Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant in 2016. While Durant's always welcomed in D.C. if he wants to play here, we already have a young superstar in John Wall, who is
arguably the best point guard in the league, leading the Wiz in scoring, assists and steals. Wall once openly said that he wanted to be the savior. Thanks to his strong performance last season, he is receiving more national attention via commercials like this one, which is a masterpiece:
But really, the man lets his play do the talking, instead of just talking the talk. Wall has also stayed drama-free since the day he was drafted. You can't say that about some other past Wizards stars, like Gilbert Arenas, or current stars on other area teams like Robert Griffin III.
Second, we all know the saying "defense wins championships." Though past Wizards teams have perennially been weak on this end of the floor, the Wizards are now one of the best defensive teams in the league. They have been Top-10 in defensive efficiency for the last three seasons, all under the leadership of head coach Randy Wittman. While some skeptics will be quick to point out that Wittman has a losing record as a head coach (209-335), it was while coaching some very talent-depleted Cleveland Cavaliers and Minnesota Timberwolves teams. Now, we're getting to see him coach a team that is loaded with a core of young talent, surrounded by a group of respected veterans.
That gets to my third point: supporting casts. The Wizards have a great supporting cast around Wall, which amplifies his strengths as an elite passer. Bradley Beal is an emerging star in his own right as the team's starting shooting guard, and he clearly has a lot of great chemistry with Wall. In addition, Wall has a knack for getting other wing players to make three point shots at a high clip like Rasual Butler and Martell Webster (who thankfully will return from injury very soon). The post players around Wall also work well with him, like Nene and Marcin Gortat, helping improve his pick and roll game since they arrived over the last couple seasons. Most of the teams in this city don't have the same amount of depth and chemistry as the Wizards do.
Finally, the Wizards are a good bang for your buck. Their tickets are generally not as expensive as the Capitals and Redskins (at least for now) and fans can watch a really good product on the floor. Though the Verizon Center crowds appear to be more spirited, all too often, there still aren't regular sellouts during weekday games. Many seats in the upper deck are still empty unless LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers are in town. What this indicates to me is that people are still watching Wizards games because of the other teams moreso than because they want to see the Wizards. That is disappointing.
I get that there's still skepticism on how good the Wizards can be given their checkered past. Or you may be quick to point out that we're not even one third of the way through the NBA season. Perhaps some of you may be just waiting for a moment when they face adversity to say, "See? They're the same old Wizards." Those of you who are NFL fans may just be waiting for the season to end -- meaning the Super Bowl -- before focusing on basketball. And as for the media around D.C., perhaps there's just not enough Wizards coverage for the team to get noticed.
Even though you may be more of a football, baseball, or hockey fan, it's not a crime to support the Washington Wizards, even when they overlap with other teams in town. Most Wizards fans openly support other teams in town, too. We want to see the other Big Four teams win big. We want to see the non Big Four teams win big too -- shoutout to the Washington Kastles who have won five World Team Tennis titles in the last six years.
Back to the point at hand, the Wizards are really starting to show that they can be a very special team, not only this season, but for years to come. Wall and Beal are on their way to becoming the league's best backcourt and the veterans are all here because they believe this team can do more than just make a playoff appearance. Just ask former Celtics superstar and 2008 NBA Finals MVP, Paul Pierce.
I hope you all come out to Verizon Center and catch a few games. You won't be disappointed to see Wizards head toward what should be their first 50-win season since 1979 and become a real perennial contender in the NBA while doing so.