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Top Stories of the Week: Recapping our Wizards 2003 week, WNBA Playoffs

Gilbert Arenas drives Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Happy Labor Day weekend! Let’s catch up on the last week of August.

Recapping 2003 Week

This past week, we went over the year 2003 because we had to one up Anne-Marie’s Summer of 2002:

But really, the year 2003 was a turning point for the Wizards. We went over it with the following pieces:

  • Mike Sykes talked about how the Jordan-Era Wizards influenced his love for the team.
  • Alan Jenkins wrote about Ernie Grunfeld, who was hired in 2003 as the Wizards’ President of Basketball Operations, adding that his decisions have stifled the Wizards, especially at moments when the Wizards could have really made the jump from playoff to championship contender.
  • The 2003 NBA Draft will forever be known as the year when LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh became rookies. Kevin Broom wrote about Jarvis Hayes, Washington’s first round pick who left plenty to be desired.
  • Wizards fans often like throwing up the “Woe is me” card. To a good extent, that is #SoWizards. But Marcus Atkinson wrote a more positive take, specifically on how Gilbert Arenas’ free agency signing in 2003 changed things for the better — even to today.
  • Finally, Jake capped off 2003 with the Arenas and Eddie Jordan pairing capitalizing on a trend ahead of its time. #SoWizards, right?

So, how do I view the year 2003?

To me, the year 2003 was significant for the Wizards franchise on many levels. In many ways, I think that’s arguably the time when the team set the foundation for the team through its most successful years over the next 15 years. That was a flashpoint when my perennial expectations for the Wizards went up from “Hey, let’s just not embarrass ourselves” to “Let’s get in the playoffs and get on a run.”

Grunfeld is by no means an elite basketball executive. But he did set the foundation for the Wizards’ most successful era since the 1980’s with the Gilbert Arena-led Wizards. In the following year, Antawn Jamison was acquired by trade in exchange for Devin Harris, Washington’s 2004 first round pick. Then in 2005, the Wizards were able to acquire Caron Butler from the Lakers in a package that included Kwame Brown, the Wizards’ first round pick in 2001.

Washington made the playoffs four straight years from 2005 to 2008. Yes, the Wizards were still poor defensively most years. But for the first time in over a decade, the team had a strong team offensively and were able to win rather consistently over a significant stretch. It’s unfortunate that these Wizards would fizzle out by 2010 due to Arenas’ knee injuries and the infamous gun incident, but they also set the stage for John Wall’s arrival.

The Wizards were certainly quite bad in the first three seasons of Wall’s career. But I’d say that those rebuilding years were to be expected. With Wall, and later Bradley Beal, Marcin Gortat, and Otto Porter, the Wizards were able to win even more consistently than before. Making the second round of the playoffs is a more of a baseline benchmark now as opposed to last decade when fans were just hoping they’d make the second round after 2005.

The Wizards still have work to do to be a championship contender. But even for the shortcomings over the last 30 years, there’s a side of me that doesn’t mind seeing the Wizards be known for being unremarkable — especially after I saw them as an NBA doormat for most of the 1990’s.

Can the Mystics reach the Finals? Please?

The WNBA Semifinals are going on. The Atlanta Dream lead the Mystics 2 games to 1 in their Best of Five Series. Game 4 is on Sunday at 3 p.m. ET at GW’s Charles Smith Center. If Washington loses tomorrow, the season’s over, but it’s also a testament to Mike Thibault’s coaching and adjustments, even in light of being without Emma Meesseman and NOW Elena Delle Donne after she suffered a left knee bone bruise in Game 2 last Tuesday.

I just hope EDD’s able to play Sunday. The Mystics have shed their label as a laughing stock WNBA franchise since Thibault came to town and for sentimental reasons, Thibault deserves to get one title considering the challenges he faced when he first got the job.

And in other Mystics news, Ariel Atkins made the WNBA All-Defensive Second Team. She’s just a rookie and these kinds of honors just don’t come very often for them.

That’s what I have for the week. Enjoy the rest of your long weekends!