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Top Stories of the Week: Mystics make playoff push, Wizards have the “deepest team” in John Wall-Era

Let’s go through what’s been going on with Ted Leonsis’ basketball teams this past week.

NHL: Washington Capitals-Stanley Cup Championship Parade Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s check out the main storylines going on this past week with the Wizards and Mystics.

Mystics start post All-Star Break schedule, in fourth place

The Mystics are currently fourth place in the WNBA standings. They started their post All-Star Break schedule with an 86-71 win on Tuesday over the Dream, who are second place. They were supposed to play the Las Vegas Aces on Friday night, but the game was cancelled after the Aces had a commute from hell where they literally spent over 24 hours in airports, whether in Las Vegas or Dallas en route to D.C.

In a phone interview with Ava Wallace of The Washington Post, Mystics general manager and head coach Mike Thibault felt that the Aces should have played, saying that “Every team I’ve been around in the WNBA or the NBA or the old CBA goes through this. ... If you’re there and in the city and can play, you should show up and play.”

Thibault has a fair point. Fans pay money to watch their teams play. It’s unfortunate that the Aces went through hell to get to Washington, but it’s their job to play games — even if they aren’t “100 percent mentally.”

At the same time, the Aces said in a press release that they chose not to play, citing health concerns. It is also an equally fair point that Aces players would have had little time to warm up before the game, increasing the chance of injury.

Two things are unclear. First, will the game be rescheduled? And second, did the Aces forfeited the game against the Mystics?

In regard to the game cancellation, it’s unlikely that the game will be rescheduled. There just isn’t much time between now and the end of the regular season. It’s a blow to the Mystics and Aces, who are fighting for playoff positioning. They are tied 1-1 head to head and yesterday’s game would have determined who would get the tiebreaker if it came to that.

It’s also a blow for Mystics fans, who are also anxiously wondering how this momentum would carry on into next year when they play at St. Elizabeth’s in Southeast Washington where they will play in a smaller arena and share a practice facility with the Wizards and Go-Go G-League franchise.

The Mystics ownership, front office, and players generally support the move and believe it will have benefits such as a louder crowd. But some fans still believe that the Capital One Arena is a better venue than moving to St. Elizabeth’s. So if you’re a Mystics fan who doesn’t support the move to St. Elizabeth’s, seeing a home game cancellation like this may be like another slight on the Mystics fan experience.

In regard to forfeiting the game, it is unclear. The Aces were in Washington and had enough players and coaches to play yesterday. So from that point of view, the Mystics will win the game while the Aces lose. However, ESPN’s Mechelle Voepel tweeted that no such decision was made just yet:

We’ll see what happens with this soon enough.

Ted Leonsis calls the 2018-19 Wizards the deepest team he’s had

2018 has been a great year for the Mystics and Wizards owner. Since Leonsis also owns the Capitals, he got to hold up the Stanley Cup trophy last June. And last weekend, we also got to hold another championship as the Washington Valor beat the Baltimore Brigade in an All-Monumental Final in the Arena Football League’s Championship Game.

Earlier this week, Monumental Sports & Entertainment announced that MedStar Health will have the naming rights for the St. Elizabeth’s practice facility that the Mystics, Wizards, and the Go-Go will share. MedStar also secured the naming rights to the Capitals’ Iceplex in Arlington, Virginia.

Leonsis was also particularly optimistic about the 2018-19 Wizards. In an interview with Candace Buckner of The Washington Post, he stated that the he would give the Wizards’ offseason moves an “A,” and that he expected them to be the deepest team he had during his tenure as majority owner.

There are fair points to be made. Dwight Howard’s cap hit is just at the taxpayer midlevel exception level. Austin Rivers and Jeff Green are also new additions, presumably to Washington’s bench unit which could certainly use some tweaking.

But if there’s a group of players who Leonsis is loyal to, possibly to a fault, it’s the trio of John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter. Ben Mehic wrote this past week that that loyalty could be what is holding the Wizards back from high risk, high reward moves like acquiring Kawhi Leonard.

Alan Jenkins also wrote where the Wizards stack up with the rest of the East. They SHOULD be a playoff team, but given their past struggles to be consistently good, it’s fair to say that Washington is a team that could make the playoffs with room to spare or not at all. ESPN also predicts that the Wizards will finish seventh next year.

In short, I think the Wizards roster and bench depth has significantly improved on paper. But given how many smoke screens we’ve seen in the past, this team is either going to “overachieve” and be a Top-3 team in the East if not better, or they will be in the Draft Lottery, forcing a rebuild right as John Wall’s supermax contract kicks in after the 2018-19 season. There is little room for an “in-between” scenario, at least right now in my mind.

Those are the main two storylines around the Mystics as they head toward the WNBA Playoffs, and the Wizards who are now entering the “dog days of summer” in August. Enjoy the rest of your weekends everyone!