How Much Worse Could the Wizards Get? Finding Hope in the District

Yesterday, I started an e-mail chain with my man AO, the greatest (and only) Washington Wizards fan I know. At the time, the Wiz were mired in a 0-12 start, by far the worst in franchise history. Without young point guard John Wall and mostly without productive center Nene, the former Bullets stood amongst the league’s most disappointing teams with even the most modest of expectations. 

In a seemingly everlasting attempt to make a die-hard hoop head feel better about his seemingly perpetually terrible team, I e-mail AO with vibes of positivity. What I got was clairvoyance from a NBA sage. Check out our first exchange:

KOBEsh: The Washington Wizards are 0-12, and looking like far and away the worst team in the NBA. Without former number 1 overall pick John Wall and new center Nene for most of the season, the Zardos have struggled in nearly every conceivable way. They’re not atrocious defensively, thanks to the efforts of offseason imports Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor, but offensively, this team looks absolutely lost. They’re last in total points, points per game, points per 100 possessions, field goal percentage and those are just the categories they’re dead last in
 
Though Wall is scheduled to come back any time within the next month or so, but at this point, there’s really no rush to get him on the floor. Thus…there are so many negative things to say about the Wizards–you don’t have to google far to find them–but we’re going to do something a bit differently on MAMBINO. Let’s keep up the positive vibes the District has been nuturing lately, from the loins of RGIII to the bat of 12 year-old superstar Bryce Harper.

AO–looking ahead towards the end of the year, which of these are you thinking is the next (and first) Wizards win? And why?
 
AO: I think we win tonight, at home versus Portland.  The main reason being the guys in the locker room are absolutely fed up, enough to even call one of the vaunted “players only meetings”.  I guess 0-10 wasn’t enough for that meeting, but 0-12that calls for emergency measures.  

We’ve been right in all but 2 games, with most of them coming down to the final few minutes with the score near equal.  We’ve even had multiple shots to win games at the buzzer (Bradley Beal, Jordan Crawford, AJ Price). I think tonight, we look across the court and see a Portland team limping into DC with a 2-5 away record. We see a rookie poing guard, albeit a good one, who has been prone to inconsistency early in his career. Aldridge is knicked up. Most importantly, they are a pretty benign offensive team. That means we can keep the game ugly and close. And this time I think we finally make a couple of timely shots down the stretch, grab a W, and get the 500 lb. gorilla off our backs.  

Mere hours later, AO the Great Sage was correct, and the Wizards came out as a pathetic 1-12 team, rather than an outright disgrace at 1-12 after a victory at home against the Blazers. Not bad. Still, the following questions pertain. 

KOBEsh: You might have just answered the question, but do you feel like this team is actually “0-12” bad? (Editor’s note: “1-12” bad). What do you feel should be their actual record?  

AO: I don’t think they’re 0-12 bad, but they’re pretty damn close. Something like 2-10 makes a little more sense. They easily could have won one of the two Boston games or the road games at Atlanta or Indiana. Whatever though: coulda, shoulda, woulda. They’re 0-12. There’s still no timetable for their engine in John Wall to come back. And without your engine, the car doesn’t turn on in the morning. Until he’s back, I don’t expect more than 1 or 2 wins (there goes the positivity, doh! that didn’t take long).

KOBEsh: In the meantime, let’s talk about the players you do have. Obviously one of the most integral guys here is 2012 third overall pick Bradley Beal. Though he’s obviously got a lot of promise, he didn’t show up to the NBA a more polished product in the vein of Portland‘s Damian Lillard or NO’s Anthony Davis. So far, we’re looking at 11/3/2 from Beal, with a shooting slash line of .326/.333/.895 in an average of 27.5 minutes a night. Egads.

But we’re staying positive here, remember? What do you like most of what you’ve seen out of Bradley Beal?

AO: Despite his horrid shooting, you can see the mechanics are there. He’s just got to get in the gym and get his reps in. I like his scorer’s mentality. You can tell the team is beating into his head “Dude, you have to score the ball, otherwise Trevor ariza is going to shoot it 20 times. He gets in the paint and isn’t afraid of contact. Also, he rebounds decently well for a guard. 
Obviously, nothing good can be garnered from his poor numbers at this point (see above!), but from watching the games, I still have high-ish hopes for him. I think he’s got a good chance of developing into a starting two-guard in this league, scoring around 20 ppg with solid defense and rebounding. 
KOBEsh: But as much as Beal has that type of ceiling, obviously the starting and ending points here regards the Wiz revolves all around the Pope John Wall. Before training camp, Wall was diagnosed with the beginning stages of  “stress injury” in his left knee. Rather than risk it, the team decided that their young, potential star should sit out. It’s obviously been a good decision; it doesn’t look like this team would be that much better with the former Wildcat in there. 
However, seeing as he should return in the next month or so, how much better will this team be with John Wall?

AO: This team will be a mile better with Wall running the show. I thought he was poised for a big year this year because most peoplejumped from the bandwagon after they predicted a breakout year last season. With Wall, everything comes easier on offense; we get out in transition, and he infuses some much needed swag. Offense is the real stinker right now and I see him really helping us on that end. I don’t think we’re a playoff team or anything with him, but I believe slightly below .500 ball is in order when…or if he gets healthy. 

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