The Washington Mystics are in the WNBA Finals for the first time in history. They tied a franchise best 22-12 regular season, played without one of their key players in 2017, and managed to make the Finals with an injured Elena Delle Donne.
Even if the Mystics get swept in the first round of the WNBA Finals tonight by the Seattle Storm, Washington will still finish the 2018 WNBA season as their best ever. Washington may still not be a superteam per se, but they have a team with players who work well together as well as anyone would have hoped.
The Wizards, on the other hand are coming off a season of missed expectations. After a Southeast Division championship, a 49-33 regular season and a second round playoff run in the 2016-17 season, the 2017-18 season was a set back.
Last season, the Wizards barely made the playoffs and were eliminated in the first round by the Toronto Raptors in six games. Yes, the Wizards faced adversity when John Wall missed half the season due to a knee injury and did quite well with the Tomas Satoransky-led “Everybody Eats” offense. But Wall managed to get in the spotlight for the wrong reason when he publicly shamed Marcin Gortat on Twitter after a “team” win.
That leads me to a question: How much pressure does the Mystics’ WNBA Finals run put on the Wizards?
From the front office perspective, there is no pressure, so let’s get this out of the way. Ernie Grunfeld has a different job than Mike Thibault does for the Mystics. And Scott Brooks isn’t competing against Thibault for anything either. Unlike the Wizards, the Mystics combine both the General Manager and Head Coach roles into one position, which Thibault holds.
But from D.C. sports fans and especially Wizards diehards, there is going to be more pressure on the Wizards when they take the court this fall at Capital One Arena. Consider the following additional points:
- The Monumental Sports & Entertainment-owned Washington Capitals won the Stanley Cup in the 2017-18 NHL season. After all those years of disappointing playoff runs cut shot in the second round, the Capitals finally broke through. D.C. is not a disappointment after all!
- The Washington Valor, another Monumental-owned team won the 2018 Arena Football League championship, one year after being the worst team in the league. It is true that the Valor were actually the worst team in the regular season with a 2-10 record in a league of four teams. But in America, we place more emphasis — probably too much emphasis — on postseason results. Either way, they won the playoffs despite finishing last!
- The Nationals have become a consistent team over the last several years though they are likely about to start rebuilding sooner rather than later. I get that the Nats have yet to make a World Series, but they still have produced better regular seasons than the Wizards where they have won four National League East Division Titles since 2012.
- The Redskins are well known for being an inconsistent NFL team at best. But even they have won five NFC East titles since the Wizards adopted their current name in 1997.
In short, the Wizards are perennially the worst performing team among the “Big Four” leagues. And other teams in the Monumental Sports & Entertainment family have outperformed them within their leagues.
Some of the fan pressure, if any, is a bit unfair. Different teams in different leagues are in different stages of the rebuilding process. For Monumental, it seems that most of the teams are in a stage of contention as opposed to a state of rebuilding.
If the Wizards were in a true state of rebuilding like they were from 2010-2014, then I wouldn’t have written this to begin with. It’s not fair to compare a contending Mystics team with a rebuilding Wizards team. But the Wizards aren’t rebuilding anymore. Their front office at least would like to claim that if things went right, John Wall and Company will make the NBA Finals this season with the deepest roster ever.
So tell us. How much do you think the Mystics’ WNBA Finals run puts pressure on the Wizards to do the same, at least by the fans? Let us know in the comments below.