Having endured a two-year stretch of playoff-less basketball, the Wizards front office went The Extra Mile to change the situation. They drafted Deni Avdija, a point forward from Israel, to pair with Rui Hachimura, the Wizards’ Kawhi Leonard-archetype from Japan. And these We Are the World draft picks were well received. Solid wings, the winning recipe goes, are a required ingredient when cooking up a competitive roster. And now we had a precocious pair. “Imagine their prime,” we said.
Next move? Trading Places. Sending John Wall to Houston for Russell Westbrook, the front office added an All-NBA point guard to the de facto all-NBA talent already at home in DC! Mixing like a well-done tonic Beal’s fluid offensive game with Russ’s fiery nature enticed excitement. On paper, these moves project brighter, playoff-filled days! “Here Comes the Sun!” Or so we thought…
The clouds of excitement that covered the team quickly turned gloomy. Blowing a double-digit fourth-quarter lead against the squad up I-95 in Philly, the Wizards lost the season opener and the subsequent four games. At 0-5, the Wizards couldn’t defend a turnstile, couldn’t help Beal, couldn’t win games. The result? Down Bad at the bottom of the Southeastern division. What’s Going On?
At least we weren’t winless; we just seemed to win when Russ sat out. In the meantime, down in Texas, John Wall started the season playing better than Brodie. The gritty triple-doubles having lost favor, an exercise of compare-and-contrast convinced us that Russ was done. Were the Wizards “Better Now” with Russ than Wall? Many thought no. Had the Rockets fleeced us? Many thought so.
Adding to the frustration, the Wizards bout with Covid knocked out nine of our players, causing the NBA to postpone six of our games. Why were the basketball gods putting us Through the Fire? We don’t know. And even though the team used this Sicko Mode as a respite to get healthy, the suffering continued.
As the team returned to action, the buzz of ‘this year is different’ talk faded away. The Wizards still didn’t play defense, Brad still was shouldering an impossible load, and we were still losing. The Thrill [was] Gone. Lively writing, podcasts, game coverage, and trash talk soon turned lifeless, as if Dementors from Azkaban were storming the nation’s Capital. And although warranted, the fire-Scott-Brooks articles became repetitive, the Brad Beal trade chatter became relentless. We were at Tha Crossroads between tanking/trading Brad or letting it play out.
The only bright spot on the horizon was Brad’s All-Star nod. Having been snubbed by their respective coaches, Brad laid waste to every Eastern Conference squad the Wizards faced. Marveling over Brad’s Timeless performances, the national media started giving him just due. And, for the first time in his career, he was a leading voter for the all-star game. “What a good feeling, when they know you’re one in a million!” But the Wizards were losing. Until they weren’t.
Having never stopped believin,’ Scott Brooks told us the team would go on a hot streak. And so it was. For five straight, all we did was Win. Brad, of course, put in Work; Raul Neto played inspirationally; Moe Wagner brought the funk; Bertans transfigured from the Latvian Laser to the Latvian Leaper! Maybe Brad can suggest to his folks at Jordan Brand that Bertans be made the Latvian Jumpman. Ok, that’s a stretch. But he deserves credit for his play during the winning stretch.
More importantly: Guess Who’s Back? Brodie! Willing the Wizards to wins, tweets were flying that if Russ made his free throws then he’d repeat as an All-NBA player. The vibes were better, the team was winning, and the fanbase was in common consent that Aint no Stoppin’ Us Now.
Still… were our eyes deceiving us? Winning? Us? With the NBA’s leading scorer not receiving superstar calls? With a former 80% free throw shooter bricking 50% from the line? The team playing defense? The team playing defense! Is this real? It’s Tricky. Because a handful of the recent wins did come against decimated teams.
Walking in Memphis with revenge in mind, we begin the second half of the season against the upstart Grizzlies. And there’s one song, courtesy of NBC Sports Washington’s Chris Miller, that we need to add to the playlist queue:
“Eye of the tiger” By Survivor— Chris Miller (@cmillsnbcs) March 5, 2021
Here’s our stab at it. Let us know what tracks we can add to describe the mood of the first half. If you cannot see the embed below, click here to access the entire playlist.