Today is another SB Nation theme day. In this edition, we were asked to peer into our crystal balls and imagine what our favorite team will look like 12 months from now. Ryan took the opportunity to play out the entire season. As you can see, he's optimistic. -Mike
I just sat down at my desk after a meeting with my always-angry boss when I put my cell phone away and prepared to get back to work. As I pressed my fingers against the keyboard to begin a new email, I could hear my phone buzzing.
Thank goodness. Something to keep me away from work.
I picked up my phone to check the message. It came from my brother and he was clearly excited.
"The 2015-2016 NBA Christmas Day schedule just came out. DRose vs John Wall!!! Wizards playing the Bulls in D.C.!!!"
Sweet! It was a heck of a season for the Wizards and the Eastern Conference's newest rivalry deserved to have their time in the national spotlight on the biggest day of the regular season.
It had taken a long time to get over the loss in May. The third-seeded Wizards lost in seven games to the second-seeded Bulls in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
John Wall and Derrick Rose put on a show for the ages during that series, but in the end it was the former MVP and his 25 points per game that came out on top. These two teams fought and scrapped, produced some memorable performances as well as some nastiness. It all come together to produce a perfect combination for the creation of this new rivalry that was being built.
The Wizards were so close, but it felt so far.
Yet it also showed that the Wizards had come so far. It took 36 years, one team name change and 25 losing seasons, but the 2014-2015 Wizards finally surpassed 50 wins in a season since the Dick Motta-led Bullets of 1978-1979, who lost in the NBA Finals. They were a little tougher, a little nastier and a lot more confident. It all clicked. Despite a revamped Miami Heat squad and a talented Charlotte Hornets side, the Wizards' 51-31 record was just enough to secure the franchise's first Southeast Division Championship since its formation in 2004.
There were slights. I couldn't believe Wall was snubbed from the All Star team. Despite Wall's upsurge in popularity, LeBron James' return to Cleveland brought even more attention to Kyrie Irving, so he was picked. And with Rose back at 100 percent and Dwyane Wade simply stepping onto a basketball court, well ...
But Wall was at All Star weekend to defend his Slam Dunk Contest title and he did not disappoint. I couldn't believe how he jumped over both Bradley Beal and G-Man with that two-handed windmill! I thought it was all over after the Timberwolves' rookie Zach LaVine seemed to steal the show, but when Beal tossed the ball off the backboard with John sprinting in behind them I didn't think it was going to be enough until ... BOOM!!! No he didn't?!?! Somehow, someway, he topped his championship-winning dunk from last year to become the two-time Slam Dunk Champ.
And speaking of Beal, he made D.C. proud in his first-ever All-Star game selection. Twenty-one points and five three-pointers off the bench to help the East team to victory? Not a bad showing, Big Panda. Looks like you really have learned a few things from The Truth.
In fact, Paul Pierce's arrival has been a real blessing. Beal looked even more confident than the season before, giving teams constant fits deciding how to guard a player who can shoot the lights out and attack the rim hard. Even Otto Porter looked like a brand new player, with high praise for Pierce as a mentor. And 15 points a game from a 37-year old ain't too shabby.
The fan base seemed split on whether the departures of Al Harrington and Trevor Ariza would decrease the veteran leadership, but Pierce, Marcin Gortat, Drew Gooden, and somewhat surprisingly Kris Humphries really set the tone from a leadership standpoint. Not only in the locker room, but on the court as well.
I have always had a soft spot for the bruisers who use their energy to offset any skill deficiencies, but I don't remember ever having a double-headed monster like Humphries and DeJuan Blair coming off the bench like they did this past season.
And after Nene tweaked his hamstring and missed those 25 games, it was really important to hold down the fort in his absence. Humphries and Blair did well while Nene sat in street clothes.
I'm not sure what I'm happier about right now, though: the fact that the Wizards had a great year despite the unfortunate ending or the Oklahoma City Thunder losing in the Western Conference semifinals! That shouting match between Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook after the loss was epic. I still check it out on YouTube even though it's been nearly four months since it happened.
Hearing Durant say how impressed he was with the Wizards when OKC visited this year and that he still loves D.C. was the cherry on the top. The Thunder had another great year, but they fell short in the postseason agian. The thought of Wall, Beal, and Durant together in Wizards jerseys ... now that's a dream come true.
Hey, maybe there is some other great Wizards news because my phone has been buzzing for the last few minutes. I checked it. The screen reads: "August 13, 2014, 9:15 a.m"
Wait...9:15 a.m.?! 2014?! I'm late for work!