May 31, 2018

Closed For The Summer

It's May 31 and I'm still throughly fed up with the Washington Wizards 2017-2018 season so as promised, I'm shutting this blog down. For the summer. You will not see any blog posts from me in June or July for sure and likely August as well. Maybe I'll be back in September. Maybe.

Yes, I know there's plenty of Wizards and NBA stuff going on in that span for me to write about. I don't care. This cap-strapped Wizards team loaded with poor contracts that refuses to adapt to the modern NBA has made me stop caring for the summer. I'm taking some time off.

Good luck with the Draft, free agency and Summer League. Please don't sell draft picks for cash this year and then insist that this is the roster that's going to make a run at an Eastern Conference Championship. This team finished eighth this year. EIGHTH!!!

I can already predict that the team is getting ready to fire up a "we are going to stick with the roster we have; the only reason we didn't perform that well last year was John Wall was hurt" message to fans. I'm not buying it. Not this summer. You did this to me, Wizards. From the top of the organziation to the last man on the bench.

Have a nice summer. Please. In the meantime, go Caps! Go Mystics!

May 29, 2018

Season Tickets vs. StubHub? 2018 Report

This is the fourth of four posts I'm writing to wrap up the 2017-2018 NBA season and then I'm putting this thing on hold for the summer, or most of the summer anyway. Yes, I know the NBA season is still going on with the Finals about to start. It's just not going on for me. After a series of heightened expectations for the Wizards this season, the team historically underperformed and in the process revealed itself to be poorly constructed, complacent and with little freedom to improve without some creative moves that actually pay off, something that has been sorely lacking these past ten seasons or so. I'm tired of writing about this mess, so I'm taking some time off to detox.

Every year since 2014, I've written a blog post about the cost of Wizards tickets on the secondary market. This year is no exception. I believe it's important to track and report this data, especially considering the extreme hikes in season ticket prices that some of us have experienced over the past few years, including this one. The important thing for me to understand here is whether Wizards tickets on the open or secondary market can be had for less than what season ticket holders pay, which is supposed to be a discount over the market price, although the Wizards, and every other team out there, will advertise it as a discount over the gate price. The open market is more important.

First, let's re-set the conditions of this data gathering I do every year. I have two sets of season tickets for Wizards home games over at Capital One Arena, one pair in Section 109, Row E and one pair upstairs in Section 415, Row C. Both these seats are in what I call the corner sections, but which over the years the Wizards have gone back and forth on between corner and center. The focus of this exercise is to validate the price of my tickets. I know it's selfish but it's my damn blog, although in the process I assume this reporting is helping Wizards fans in general feel confident or not so confident about the price they pay for their tickets.

It's important to note a few things here. (1) The price of tickets on the secondary market is variable. The price of tickets rise and fall based on how the Wizards are performing, whether stars on the visiting team are injured, the night of the week, whether the Washington NFL franchise is playing and even when you decide to buy. There's a lot of unpredictability about this thing. My data was captured anywhere from a few days to a few weeks ahead of time for each game. I didn't shop for the highest or lowest prices; I just took what I found when I looked. I believe over time and having done this for years that this won't affect the big picture that much.

(2) Listed for sale doesn't mean sold. The fact that folks are pricing tickets at a certain price level doesn't mean they are selling at that price. Overall, I guess you could argue this may yield slightly higher results and thus make it seem that the secondary market appears more robust than it actually is. I don't share that opinion. If you want a ticket to go to a game, you are either going to pay the advertised price or not. In addition to tracking this stuff, I actually sell on the secondary market sometimes. I believe after doing that for several years, I have a fairly good nose for this stuff.

(3) Don't become a ticket reseller based on this post. The prices reported here for ticket sales do not reflect the money delivered to the seller. Remember that StubHub (which is the source of this pricing data) takes a cut as does every other secondary market seller. I don't want anyone out there buying season tickets and then getting annoyed because I said you can sell Wizards tickets at a profit. While the results reported here show that Wizards tickets are slightly more expensive overall on the secondary market, the margin is not enough for you to be profitable as a regular seller. Want to sell your Wizards vs. Warriors tickets? You can probably make some cash, if you believe that you are actually paying the same amount for each Wizards home game (news flash: you are not and some of your tickets are worth about nothing).

Over the prior four years I've done this, the price of season tickets has proven to be cheaper than the secondary market every single year. This year is no different. For trending purposes, I have found season tickets in the lower level to be 30% (2014), 48% (2015), 29% (2016) and 26% (2017) cheaper than those available on the resale market. For the 400 level, the trending has been slightly to significantly lower at 25% (2014), 46% (2015), 17% (2016) and 19% (2017) cheaper than on StubHub.

Here are this year's results:
  • Purchasing Section 109, Row E seats for the entire 2017-2018 season cost me $3,400. Purchasing approximately equivalent seats on StubHub would have cost me $4,681. Season tickets are 38% cheaper. It's worth noting that next year's seats in my location will cost $4,080, which about splits the difference between this year's costs and the resale market.
  • Purchasing Section 415, Row C seats for the entire 2017-2018 season cost me $1,530. Purchasing approximately equivalent seats on StubHub would have cost me $1,737. Season tickets are 14% cheaper. This is an extremely slim margin, lower than I've ever found. Next year, these tickets will go up to $1,700, essentially wiping out any discount over the secondary market. This is a hugely significant point!
As I have done in the past, I have included the cost of preseason tickets in the cost of my season tickets but not in the resale cost. These games are worthless yet the team continues make season ticket holders pay for them at half the cost of a regular game. It's disgraceful and shouldn't continue. There is no Earthly reason why season ticket holders should be made to fork over the cost of an additional 1.5 games (3 preseason games at half price) when they've spent a lot of money of 41 regular season games.

The results above make lower level season tickets seem like a bargain (they do not make upper deck seats seem like a bargain). But are they really? Just like in prior years, the average cost continues to be driven up by some marquee games. Want tickets to see the Wiz play Golden State? By my research you'll pay $345 for a seat similar to mine downstairs. Cleveland? $262 or $293 depending on whether you wanted to attend in November or December. This of course represents a significant dilemma for the season ticket holder who feels he (or she) is paying too much and wants to recoup some cash via resales. Yes, you can get a significant portion of your investment (please don't laugh at that word) by selling off your Warriors or Thunder tickets but then you also don't get to see those games in person.

On the flip side, if you wanted to go see a bunch of games at Capital One Arena below season ticket holder prices, you can. I have 15 games on my spreadsheet with resale prices below the average season ticket holder game cost, including getting in to games against Phoenix and Utah for less than $47. Remember, I'm paying $80 per. You could also quite easily have attended more than half the games this year in seats comparable to mine for less than $1,500 or less than $72 per contest. The story in this paragraph and the one prior are true every year and likely always will be.

Of course one of the biggest benefits of being a season ticket holder is the guarantee of the right to purchase playoff tickets at what (if the team makes it far enough) will eventually be a deep discount. Don't believe me? Check out the graphic at the top of this post for the (at the time I took the screenshot) then unavailable home game one in Houston for the NBA Finals. The pricing is, shall we say, robust. Of course it also won't happen since the Rockets lost Monday night to the Warriors. Still don't believe me? Check out the pic below showing Stanley Cup Finals tickets for a Capitals home game. Yes, I know folks are crazy about the Caps and there's a lot of years of playoff losses inflating those prices but they are still crazy high.

In playoff years, I typically track the secondary market values for postseason games also. This year, I did not because (a) I was pretty much checked out at this point and (b) I figured the Wizards weren't going far and I was right. I will say that if you intend or need to sell your playoff tickets that timing can be everything. People make emotional decisions during the playoffs. Game 6 tickets vs. Toronto might have sold well if they were available right after a game 4 win at home. Just saying...

If the risk / reward of skipping or attending the regular season game vs. the Golden State Warriors is a head scratcher for the average Wizards faithful, the playoffs represent a sort of double jeopardy. These tickets typically will represent a good resale potential (although not as much as marquee games against regular season opponents in some case; nowhere close actually) but these are the games that you want to attend. Going to the playoffs is why you buy in the first place. They are also the most expensive tickets you will ever buy from the team. Sorry for the no results this year on this one.

So that's my report for this season. I'm not the only one who writes about this stuff. You can get a little bit different take on this whole situation by reading WizKid's report on this whole situation. And in case you read that and end up feeling that he and I are in totally different spots, I'm not sure that's true. Ultimately the analysis of whether this purchase is worth it is a personal one. I can easily make the case as WizKid does that my season tickets are not worth it. After all, is beating your heart against a brick wall for 18 years with just one division title to show for it really worth it? We all have to make that decision for ourselves.

I will say in closing, though, that the math behind an upper deck season ticket purchase considering the price hikes next year really is to the point where it no longer works. The team has to stop raising these prices. Other than the playoff incentive (meaning first or second round exit given recent history) and a couple of other season ticket holder perks, the numbers don't really work at all here. I did renew my upper deck tickets next year; I don't think I will if the numbers are similar next season and there's another price hike.

May 23, 2018

10 11 25 41 45

This is blog post number three of four before I officially shut this blog down for the summer on account of the Wizards miserable play this past season. More than a month later and I'm still super bitter. This is going to take a while to wear off.

Among the bad losses, the apathetic on court attitude, the poorly constructed roster (both short term and long term) and the seemingly limited coaching skill to close out games, there were actually some good moments during this year's Wizards season. One of those occurred in late March, when the Wizards elected to retire the number 45, which of course for anyone who knows anything about the history of the Wizards and Bullets was worn mostly almost exclusively by Phil Chenier. DeJuan Blair had it for a season, if you must know.

So let's pretend that you don't know who Phil Chenier is for a minute or two and let me go through his resume just a little. Phil was drafted in the Hardship Draft in 1971 fourth overall by the Baltimore Bullets. The Hardship Draft was a supplemental draft for underclassmen who wished to enter the NBA through some hardship exception. This draft has since been eliminated but at that time,  you were not allowed to enter the draft until after your college class had graduated. Phil was selected after his junior year at the University of California Berkeley.

From there, Phil would go on to be selected to the 1972 NBA All-Rookie First Team before being selected to three NBA All-Star games in 1974, 1975 and 1977. In the 1975 campaign Phil was selected to the All-NBA Second Team making him the only player from the 1971 Supplemental Draft to make an All-Star Game and All-NBA honors. What else? Oh, how about an NBA Championship in 1978 (without playing a single minute that year unfortunately) and still holding the Bullets / Wizards single game regulation scoring record at 53 against Portland in December of 1972 (Earl Monroe and Gilbert Arenas later bested that mark in a single game but they did it in overtime). He still ranks 9th all time in franchise history in games played, 7th in minutes played and point scored and 10th in assists.

To top all of that off, in 1985 he started working the color analyst duties at Bullets games for Home Team Sports on cable television. That gig went full time a couple of years later and he stuck with it all the way until the end of the 2016-2017 NBA season when he (ahem) retired. More on that situation later in this post. 33 years calling Bullets and then Wizards games. Wow that must be have been tough. I think I've got it bad sticking with this team for just 18 years. And relatively speaking, these have been a pretty good 18 years for this franchise.

The ceremony replay in quarter three. Wizards down by 12.
Phil's 45 jersey is the fifth retired by the team, following those of (in numerical order) Earl Monroe, Elvin Hayes, Gus Johnson and Wes Unseld. The last player to have his number retired before Phil was Earl The Pearl back in December of 2007. I gotta believe that of all the retired Bullets and Wizards players out there, this has to be it. I can't beleive there are any other players from the 1978 championship team worthy of jersey retirements and I don't think any member of the mid-aughts "big three" is going to make it.

I never saw Phil Chenier play. In fact, I barely saw the Bullets play (maybe three or four times a year on television while I was a Knicks fan up in New York State). But for 18 of the last 19 seasons, I've been watching Wizards basketball on TV and listening to Phil Chenier provide analysis alongside Steve Buckhantz. Phil's been a regular fixture in my life for almost two decades. I was sad to see that run end. Phil's banner is different than the other four at Capital One Arena; his banner has a microphone with the number 33 on it to signify the number of years he called Bullets and Wizards games as a regular occurrence.

Walt Frazier passing his congrats on to Phil. Wiz within 5.
The official retirement ceremony got squashed into the regular length halftime of the March 23 home game vs. the Denver Nuggets. I guess that's how these things have to go these days. It seemed almost too short but Phil along with team owner Ted Leonsis and Steve Buckhantz made it work. The actual banner didn't get raised during the ceremony; it was already in place before we got to the game so the festivities were limited to a couple of speeches. Cardboard Phil Chenier emoji-on-sticks were placed on each seat prior to the game so fans I guess could have a memento of the occasion. I left mine at the arena. For what it's worth, I still have my Earl Monroe replica banner from December 2007. That giveaway was way better in my eyes.

There's a little irony in the whole ceremony in that Phil didn't choose to do this. He was essentially fired from the position by the network with no certain plan (at least to this fan's mind) to replace him at the end of the 2016-2017 season. Fired might seem like a harsh word since he still works for NBC Sports Washington doing occasional in-studio guest gigs but he was involuntarily removed from his position. Where I come from, that's being fired. At the risk of being like Bob Dylan at Live Aid, I have to say Kara Lawson who replaced Phil is fantastic at her job. Dare I say even better than Phil.

The retirement ceremony was part of the 40th anniversary celebration of the Washington Bullets 1978 championship team, a two game event in one weekend Friday night (the Nuggets game) and Sunday afternoon (against the New York Knicks). In a fashion that seemed appropriate for the chronic underperformance put forth by the team this year, the Wizards lost both games that they had no business losing. It was terrible.
There's no question this event was deserved. Phil is one of the greats in the history of the franchise. There are only two other players (Walt Bellamy and John Wall) with more All-Star selections in franchise history than Phil and then he provided a third of a century's service (!!!!) to the team in the broadcast booth. I had the opportunity to say thanks to Phil after the end of the 2016-2017 season. I told him that I wished he could stay on for some more services. His response was "so do I". Now he gets to stick around in some form for as long as this franchise keeps playing in D.C.

May 20, 2018

Otto Porter Bobblehead No. 2

This is blog post number two of the four I've promised before I shut this thing down for a bit in disgust at the Wizards 2017-2018 performance. Two more to follow this one then I'm off for the summer-ish.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you'll know I've lamented the lack of team-issued bobbleheads available to us hard core fans pretty much every year I've been writing this thing. While the Dallas Mavericks are off handing out double digit quantities of bobbleheads each of the last two years or the Golden State Warriors are offering up a half dozen or so per season, the Wizards are a little stingier. Or maybe a lot stingier.

By Wizards standards, the last few years have been pretty good. The one and only one in season giveaway was supplemented over the last four seasons by a chance to join the G Wiz Kids' Club and pick up a second team issued bobble to double the fun in any one season. Sure the Kids' Club costs $20 but I'd rather pay an extra $20 for a second bobble than go without. This year? No such luck.

The Wizards one and only bobblehead this year (and it was issued in late late March so apologies for not getting this out earlier) was Otto Porter. Why not, right? He's the latest Wizard to receive a max deal. The least the team can do is spend a few more dollars on a miniature likeness of him to mark the occasion. This is not the first Otto bobble issued by the team (and hence the title of this post); Otto made his debut in this department two seasons ago when he became the designated Kids' Club bobblehead. Let's see how we feel about this latest version of Porter, Jr.

First and most obvious, Otto is sporting the Wizards' City Edition kit that Nike rolled out as the fourth uniform for the team. It's the all-white one with "The District of Columbia" and the red piping outlining the shape of the Washington Monument on the shorts and below the armhole on the jersey. That's fitting considering the rest of the unis the Wizards used this year were pretty much duplicates of last year's outfits, although I should note we still don't have a bobblehead wearing the blue jerseys.

The uniform seems pretty well detailed, right down to the faux marble on the sides of the jersey/shorts and the extremely tiny but way excellent District of Columbia flag on the shorts waist. There's also the gold tag on the back of the jersey neck to signify the Wizards / Bullets at some point in their history won a title and in an extremely impressive nod to authenticity, the jersey actually has the seams at the shoulders in Nike's template which messes up the piping around the armholes on every jersey in the NBA.

If there are two items to quibble with here, it's that there is no Nike swoosh on the front of the jersey and the numbers are not quite right. The lack of swoosh is ironic considering the designers of the bobblehead went so far to use the unique seams that Nike uses then they somehow fumbled the swoosh. Maybe it was a licensing thing. As for the numbers, they have a three dimensional look due to the shading on the left side and top of the numbers. The real on court unis do not have this look, although the replica jerseys for sale at Capital One Arena do, oddly enough. Maybe it's an after correction to the real numbers on the real jerseys, which read just fine up close but are completely invisible from the upper deck. Despite these two blips, this bobblehead gets high marks from me in the detail department for the uniform authenticity.

Real numbers with no shading; bobblehead numbers with shading.
As for the rest of the bobblehead (the non-jersey part), I think it's pretty good for a freebie. The Chinese workers who crafted, assembled and painted this thing managed to get it to it looking pretty much like Otto rather than using some generic black man bobblehead. I also like the detail on the laces of the shoes, although after praising the craftsmanship there, I note that the floor paint is somehow creeping up the edges of Otto's sneakers. Oh well. It's free remember.

It is worth noting that this bobblehead makes a significant stylistic departure from the other bobbleheads handed out by the team over the past almost 20 years. They are using stickers for the numbers and jersey logos on Otto's doll. With the exception of the five mini-bobbleheads handed out during the 2005-2006 season, that's the first time the team has done this. All the other bobbleheads I own have numbers which are part of the casting process, meaning the digits are part of the body of the bobblehead. 

Cast painted numbers for Kelly Oubre, Jr.; decal for Otto Porter.

I'm torn on how I feel about this. Stickers or transfers or whatever they are represent a cheaper solution because they require less skill in painting. They can also, I suppose, delaminate from the body or peel away; paint won't do that. On the other hand, they are sort of error proof, providing the decal is affixed skillfully enough. Right now I'm still old school and liking the painted numbers. We'll see what future years bring here.

Finally, I have to comment on the box. Lately the Wizards have been advertising the career accomplishments of the actual player whose bobblehead is stuffed inside the box. Maybe they should have skipped it on this one. The career highlights for Otto? Drafted number 3 overall, All-Summer League First Team, first career double-double in 2015 (DOUBLE-double, not triple-double), career high 34 points in 2016 and signed a max deal in 2017.  I would have gone with something else here but maybe I'm just hating.

Overall, I love this bobblehead. Big picture, it looks like who it's supposed to look like and the craftsmanship is way above average. I can't wait to introduce my second Otto bobblehead to my first and the rest of the team just as soon as I get my life in order after my first house move in 14 years. Memo to the Wizards for next year: I still can't field a team because you keep giving me the same dudes in bobblehead form. I got multiple Otto Porters, Bradley Beals and John Walls along with a Kelly Oubre, Jr. I gotta bring in my Marcin Gortat action figure to get a starting five. Please please please make someone else next year. And consider more than one. Call the Mavs or Warriors for some advice if you need it.

May 12, 2018

What A Mess!

This is a long post. I apologize. Get an extra beer for this one.

It's been a couple of weeks since the Washington Wizards were bounced from the 2018 NBA Playoffs and I'm still furious. For me, the entire 2017-2018 NBA season was a complete waste of time, effort and money for this franchise and as an 18 year season ticket holder, I'm disgusted pretty much with this entire group. And by that I mean from the last guy on the bench all the way to ownership. I think most other fans of this team who are in any way emotionally connected with seeing the Wizards succeed are too. Except maybe the folks who are in charge of the team who purport to be fans too.

I've been writing this blog for about six of my 18 years as a hard core member of the Wizards faithful and I've never been so low. Not even after the two 19-63 seasons I've suffered through. In fact, I'm so annoyed, discouraged and devastated over this season that this summer I'm actually checking out. It's too late for me to get my money back for next season (unless I can leverage what I am sure will be no SummerFest this year - despite the promise on the Wizards website - into a full refund) so there's not much I can do except express my objections to this last season in this blog post and then stop paying attention to this franchise for a while.

So here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to write this post detailing all the ways I think this Wizards franchise is broken, write three more blog posts to wrap up the year and then stop. For a while. I'd like to be done with these four planned posts in May then you won't see anything out of me on this blog for either June or July and maybe not August. No thoughts on the draft, no thoughts on free agency (I know, right? What free agency?), no thoughts on team names or mascots or logos or anything like that. Nothing. I'm that pissed off right now. The Wizards have sucked the enjoyment out of being an NBA fan. I'm so down I can't even watch Clevealnd Cavaliers playoff games just to see them lose.

Here are my top 12 objections to the mess I've stood by, paid for and watched on the court of Capital One Arena from mid-October to the end of last month. Enjoy my rage! Ultimately this post will probably make me angrier because I know nobody at the Wizards cares.

1. Overconfidence
The Wizards started this year claiming they were the best in the Eastern Conference. Based on what, you may ask? Honestly, I have no idea. I guess the fact that they lost in seven games to the Boston Celtics in the second round of the playoffs last year? How bad is it for this franchise and the players on this team that after coming close to getting out of the second round of the playoffs (that means they won just one of the four rounds required to win a title) constitutes success to think you have arrived?

Bradley Beal was the early season advocate of the Wizards being the best team in the East during the first couple of months of the season and in true Beal fashion he based those calm, confident declarations on no results whatsoever. Eventually, even the Wizards on court futility caused Beal to stop saying that the Wizards were the best team in the East. Once he did that I was pretty sure this sort of silliness was going to end. Until...Markieff Morris claimed the Wizards were better than the Toronto Raptors. After the team had lost to the Raptors four games to two in the first round of the playoffs. I guess in this age of Trump as president we can convince ourselves anything is true if we say it confidently enough.

2. Bad Losses
In chronological order: at the Lakers, Phoenix, Miami, at Charlotte, Portland, at Utah (not necessarily to a bad team but 46 points!!), at the Clippers, at Brooklyn, at Brooklyn (not a typo; two different times). at Atlanta, Utah (without Rudy Gobert in a "revenge" game), at Dallas (0-2 vs. the Mavs this year), Minnesota, Denver, New York, at Chicago, Atlanta, at Orlando.

Some of those don't seem so bad right? Miami? Wizards lost by three after scoring 29 in the first half. Portland? Wizards were up 17 in the fourth. At Charlotte? Wizards were up 7 with two and a half minutes to play. At the Clippers? Lost by 1 to a team starting Sindarius Thornwell and Wesley Johnson. Minnesota? Wizards were up 7 in the fourth and let the Timberwolves end the game on a 25-13 run. Now they seem bad, right? Sure, the loss in Utah probably was going to be a loss anyway but the team quit before it even started playing. All told this year, the Wizards lost at least one game to 8 of the 10 worst teams in the NBA.

3. Poorly Constructed Roster
In an age of small ball, multiple shooters to space the floor and athletic wings who can play multiple positions on offense and defense, the Wizards have stayed traditional. It paid off this year in the form of the eight seed in the East. Stretch four? Maybe. Stretch five? The Wizards entered the season with $35 million committed to three mostly traditional non-stretch five centers. The exited it with five point guards and just one shooting guard on the roster. Cool. Who does this?

Other roster blunders? No draft picks the last two years and no undrafted rookies means no cheap labor with huge upside. Jodie Meeks contributed minimally this year but fortunately for him he has a player option next year worth more than $3 million. Guess who's picking up his player option next year? Well, yes, Jason Smith too, who's got one for almost $5.5 million. Jodie Meeks and Jason Smith aren't making almost $9 million combined anywhere on their own. Fortunately for them, they don't have to look for jobs next year. On the flip side, Mike Scott was a great free agent pickup this past offseason. Unfortunately for the Wizards, he has no contract for next year which likely means he's gone. Unfortunately for Wizards fans, the guy who created this whole mess won't.

4. Nobody Cares
Yep, I know I already said this. By nobody here, I mean primarily the players and the owner, although considering the job that's been done this year and in the past couple of years by everyone in between, it's not a huge leap of faith to understand how much those folks care also.

As a player, how much can you care if you lose to the Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks and New York Knicks (minus Kristaps Porzingis) at home? How much can you care if after losing to the first two of those teams you declare that you still feel your team is still the best in the Eastern Conference? How much can you care if you keep making the same mistakes over and over and over again and after each game describe how you have to fix your mistakes? How much can you care if you lose at home to the Atlanta Hawks missing their two best players when you really need a win to save playoff seeding? Or you lose to the Orlando Magic in the last game of the season when they deliberately sit their starters in the fourth quarter? No Wizards player said they don't care this season; they didn't have to.

After a disappointing season, I would expect the captain of the ship, the owner, to offer some words to season ticket holders about how this year's performance was not good enough, that he and the rest of management haven't done enough to put a successful team in place and that changes will be made if required to get this team pointed in the right direction. We didn't get that. Instead we got "our team showed this year we have the pieces to make [a championship] happen" and "we have a lot to be proud of." We do? What's that? An eight seed, one Division Title the previous season and a first round exit?

Leonsis then goes on the crow about how good the TV ratings were, noting game 5 of the Raptors series was the highest rated game in 10 years. I get it now. He cares. Ratings=money. I guess as long as ratings are good, we can declare a success.

But the biggest indicator of how much ownership doesn't care might be the tweet above. I can't believe Ted is telling Wizards fans (because that tweet addresses all Wizards fans whether he likes it or not) that he's not concerned about the team's struggles or future. 

I'm telling you...nobody cares.

5. The Salary Cap Situation
I've been a staunch defender of Ernie Grunfeld as the President of Basketball Operations for the Wizards over the years. But if there's one glaring unforgivable blunder, it's the salary cap situation the Wizards are in right now.

Here's the backstory. In an effort to rebuild the team around John Wall, the Wizards go young and cheap and manage to clear the books of a ton of salary for the 2016 offseason so they can sign a marquee free agent to a maximum deal. It's a plan they have spent years working out and it works out. They actually clear enough salary cap space to make a huge splash in free agency. 

One of the first rules of planning is that if something changes to subvert your plan, change the plan in a forward thinking way. Two things went wrong for the Wizards in 2016. First, there are really no marquee free agents outside of Kevin Durant, who's already said before free agency starts that he's not even going to consider Washington. Second, a new television contract kicks in, the salary cap skyrockets and tons and tons of teams have enough cap room to offer maximum contracts to free agents. How Wizards management didn't find out this was going to happen before it happened is beyond me. Isn't this the sort of stuff yu pay people to know? Whatever.

So what do the Wizards do to change their plan? Nothing. They strike out swinging on the next two free agents after Durant (Al Horford and Nicolas Batum if you must know) and then spend all their money on third tier guys for long term deals. The haul? Zero starters, including one guy (Andrew Nicholson) who's not even in the NBA any more. Know what the Wizards roster is going to look like next season? Pretty much the exact same as the eighth place team in the East this year. Know why? Because they are over the cap and the players they signed in 2016 are still on the team. It's like the Wizards didn't understand anything about the salary cap, which might actually be true.

For his efforts here, Ernie Grunfeld received a two year extension, presumably on the premise that the Wizards at the start of this season were now the best team in the East, which as we well know by now wasn't ever true. The Wizards are pretty much boxed into having to trade someone this summer with some legitimate upside. I hope Ernie realizes this.

6. Scott Brooks
When he was hired as the Wizards head man, most folks saw Scott Brooks as a huge upgrade over his predecessor, Randy Wittman. I mourned in my own way the departure of Randy Wittman. I appreciated Randy's straightforwardness and his ability to get the Wizards to play defense like they hadn't played in years, putting two teams into the top 10 of the NBA in defensive efficiency. While I hated to see the Wizards let the coach with the highest playoff winning percentage in team history leave, I also understood there was only so far Randy was going to get us.

Who thinks Brooks is taking us further? I'm serious. Ignoring the fact that Randy got the Wizards into the second round of the playoffs twice and Scottie's only done it once, what gives us hope that Brooks has this coaching thing solved? The team is still prone to inefficient and ineffective late game offense when Bradley Beal or John Wall dribble the ball for 16 of the 24 seconds on the shot clock. Both Beal and Wall play a ton of minutes. He refuses to make changes to his starting lineup (or any rotations really) when things aren't going well. He's shown a reluctance to play younger players, preferring to get predictable results with little upside rather than taking a chance and finding a gem. And the team is no longer the defensive juggernaut they were under Randy Wittman.

Still think I'm delusional about this subject? Tell me Randy was working with a better lineup than Brooks. You can't. Also Brooks is making about 3-4 times what Randy was making in his last year. You ought to get what you pay for. It's pretty clear in some games, particularly late in games, that Brooks is a step slow. I don't know what he can do to get some help this offseason, but he needs to find a way. I'm not advocating going back to Randy Wittman as coach but look, something  has to change about Brooks' approach to the game. Different assistants maybe?

I stubbornly maintain that Randy Wittman is my favorite Wizards coach of all time. Brooks was on his way to passing Randy until this year. He's now got work to do.

7. Otto Porter
If there are folks out there dying to tell us how great Otto Porter is as a basketball player (and there are), they point to how efficient he is as a player. Efficient game. Efficient defender. Efficient shooter from two (50%), downtown (44%) and the charity stripe (83%). Third on the team in points per game, second on the team in rebounds per game, first on the team in steals per game, second on the team in Player Efficiency Rating (PER). Efficient, efficient, efficient.

Know why Otto's so efficient? Because if there's a shot he doesn't like, he generally doesn't take it. He engages correctly when the time is right which is awesome. I'd love a team full of Otto Porters. The problem? Otto Porter is the highest paid player on the team. He has to take more risks, drop that efficiency and have a greater effect on the game. During the playoffs, he slipped to the fourth leading scorer behind Mike Scott. I get that Wall and Beal are going to get their shots but 8 shots per game during the playoffs for the man making more than anyone else on the team don't cut it.

8. Free Agents
Two years ago, Al Horford chose the Boston Celtics over the Washington Wizards. He blamed it on the fans. Yes, the fans. Like the Wizards fans. Yep, you and me. I think there's something else going on.

Two years ago, the same summer that Al Horford signed a max contract in Boston and the Wizards answered with millions and millions for Ian Mahinmi, Andrew Nicholson and Jason Smith, the Philadelphia 76ers had just finished a season in which they won just 10 games. This year they won 52 games, a mark that the Wizards haven't hit since 1979. 

What does that have to do with free agency? Well, in the scrap pile that is buyout season in the NBA, the Sixers, winners of just 10 games two years ago, picked up Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova, two legitimate rotation players. The Wizards got Ramon Sessions. Now I'm not knocking Sessions. He filled in nicely as Tomas Satoransky's backup. But it's telling that when John Wall came back from injury that Sessions couldn't even get in a game. And after the Wizards signed Ty Lawson before the playoffs, Ramon couldn't even get dressed for some games. Yes, the same Ty Lawson who couldn't get an NBA contract before the season started. Why can Philly sign quality free agents mid-season and the Wizards can't?

I'm thinking Horford choosing Boston had more to do with confidence in this team's direction than the fans. Call me crazy. I'm also thinking the Wizards have zero chance of attracting a ring chasing veteran that's got some life left this offseason. Call me crazy there too if you must.

9. John Wall
I hate to say anything negative about John Wall. He's my favorite Wizards player of all time and the Wizards best player of all time (Wizards, not Bullets, folks). But we can all improve, right? 

If I had two wishes for John Wall this offseason it would be this. First, live up to the challenge Kobe Bryant gave him (and which he accepted) to make NBA All-Defensive First Team. I get that the knee injuries probably held him back this year from being all he could be on the defensive end but we need more. John could be a serious defensive stopper in this league. He's got all the physical tools and is one of the best shot blockers in the league. All it takes from here on out is effort. No more letting guys go by and trying to poke the ball away from behind. When it works, it's great; when it doesn't, you just let your man go right by you forcing someone else to rotate or just allowing an easy bucket.

Second, get some ball skills coaching. I've seen a number of Wizards bloggers imploring John to get together with Drew Hanlen who's worked with both Bradley Beal and Kelly Oubre to improve their skills. Last summer, John embarked on a barnstorming tour of closed gyms visiting and working out with other NBA superstars. John is one of the scariest point guards for opponents to defend. Imagine him with an improved handle. If there's one thing that drives me nuts about John's game (other than the matador defense cited above), it's the bad turnover. Some folks have told me you can't have an aggressive John Wall without them. Why not?

10. Two Way Contracts
This fall, the Wizards will finally field a G League (formerly NBDL or D-League) team. When they do, they will become the 27th franchise to do so. Not the last of adopters, but awfully late, right?

Over the past few years, I've waited for this to happen and watched player after player be shipped off to who knows where to play with other teams' systems and develop not much at all. Or at least not in a way that would benefit the Wizards. Maybe next year will be different.

Of course I thought that about our two way contracts this year. In case you missed it, this was the first year the NBA allowed two way contracts. What does that mean? A player signed under a two way contract spends the majority of his time in the G League but is able to be called up to the NBA level by one team and one team only. It's a way teams can identify developing talent relatively inexpensively which could help them in the future. 

In the past, the Wizards have treated the G League like an obligation and not a benefit. They have engaged in the most minimal ways and predictably, they have reaped pretty much zero benefit. I was shocked when the team was a relatively early adopter of the two way contracts, locking up their maximum two shortly after the draft. But my mid-season Michael Young was gone and it took until game 82 for Devin Robinson to get in a game.

Will it change when the team has a G League team of their own? There are no indicators that it will. But the Wizards have to change here. It seems organizational from top to bottom.

11. Season Ticket Costs
I know I've ranted plenty about this subject in the last few months but I have to bring it up again. Considering everything I've written about in this post so far, do we really think the Wizards deserve to raise ticket prices by up to 20%? What are they selling, exactly? Unless something serious changes this summer, we've gone in one year from a team in the top two or three in the Eastern Conference to a team that has been passed by Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Indiana with younger rosters with more upside and more cap flexibility.

I get that Wizards tickets can sell better now than five years ago. I get that John Wall and Bradley Beal form a backcourt duo that people are willing to pay to see. But if they don't win it won't last long. People will become bored and lose interest in the same old Wizards. The best way to get fans in seats in my opinion is to build loyalty and a can't miss experience for season ticket holders. To me, that means a more competitive team and cheaper tickets that can't be re-sold. I floated this idea before on this blog and I'm still all in on this concept.

Charging me 20% more next year is close to criminal. But as I've already said, nobody cares.

12. Missed Opportunity
This is my last point on this post. If there was a year, however improbable it might seem, that the Wizards might have made a run at the NBA Finals, it was this one. Now, keep in mind, I'm not saying win the NBA Championship. I said NBA Finals and that's probably it. Think about it, at the beginning of the season it seemed like Cleveland this year was not the lock they have been in the past few years to come out of the East; Boston after major trades may have needed a couple of years to gel; and nipping at the heels of the top teams in the East (which presumably at the beginning year included the Wiz) were the maybe-really-good-in-the-future-but-not-ready-this-year Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks. It seemed like the Wizards if they were really serious could have sneaked in there.

Now, I get that with the Eastern Conference Finals about to tip off this weekend and both Cleveland and Boston looking like there's no way the Wizards could beat them that things don't look quite like I described them in the paragraph above. But what if the Wizards had really made a serious run from the beginning. Yes, John Wall's injury derailed some things but the team was losing to Phoenix and Dallas and Brooklyn (twice) before Wall went down. Flip 13 of those 17 bad losses I've listed above and the Wiz are in second place.

Too rosy an evaluation? Maybe. What I've written above still wouldn't have overcome the poorly constructed roster and the fact that free agents don't want to sign in Washington and John Wall's injury. But we'll also never know because of the overconfident, don't care way the team including the coaching staff went about this year. These opportunities don't come along that often. Look at the next two years for the Wizards: they are stuck with the same general manager who got them into this mess with the same coach who has struggled with late game execution with the same lineup that's a year older (which is a bad thing in some spots) and no ability to sign free agents for any kind of salary. How was last year not the golden opportunity? The Wizards are faced with a situation where they are going to have to do something different to fundamentally avoid repeating the same mistakes and they have shown no tendency to do that in the past.

Maybe I'm being too harsh but to me the plan that Ted and Ernie came up with a few years ago has failed. What now? You're putting the hopes of fans in the care of the same people and expecting different results. It's a measure of how despondent I as a fan feel that I could come up with 12 things that I don't like about the current situation. I could have kept going. At one point I had 14 but just felt that would make too long a post. This situation needs some serious help. It's on everyone in the organization. Prove to the fans that you are charging more money next year to watch this mess that you care.

Sam Cassell feeling the mood of Wizards fans. Although the Wiz did win this game.

April 1, 2018

Price Check!

I know what you are thinking. I said just less than three weeks ago that I was done complaining about the cost of Wizards season tickets on this blog. Let's address the issue head on, shall we? 

First, the Wizards lost today to the hapless and nothing-to-play-for Chicago Bulls. Yes, we were on a super-rare afternoon back-to-back but if this team is really supposed to be going places, it needs to beat the Bulls even in Chicago at this point in the season. The Wizards are just one game ahead of the Miami Heat at this point. And the Heat have the tiebreaker for the division title (and higher seed) and they don't have to play the Houston Rockets or the Cleveland Cavaliers on the road.

Second, Twitter happened. I saw a tweet this morning objecting to the price of Wizards upper deck tickets, something I myself have ranted about for the last couple of years. I believe seats in the 400 level are overpriced and I also believe that long-time season ticket holders should get a discount of some sort to allow them to hold on to the tickets they've sat in through multiple, multiple losing seasons. And not just losing. Like horribly losing. That tweet got me wondering, though. Are the Wizards upper deck tickets really overpriced vs. the rest of the NBA? I took a similar look at this issue three years ago. I think it's time for a refresh on this one.

Finally, I'm not complaining. Other than in the previous paragraph.'s the deal with what I've done. I've looked at the price of the front row and the back row seats in most of the arenas around the league and ranked them 1 to whatever (it's not 30, oddly enough). I did my comparison shopping at center court and nowhere else and based on the tweet I saw this morning, I did it only in the upper deck. Just one vertical slice through the building.

Some disclaimers: 

One: This comparison took me less than an hour so it's inherently not researched very thoroughly. I used data from each NBA team's website about the cost of 2018-2019 season tickets, where the information was available. If it wasn't, I moved on. That's why prices aren't ranked 1-30. I just didn't get some.

Two: All arenas are different and I'm not considering that in this quick post. The upper deck in Memphis or Detroit or Portland or wherever else may not be equivalent to the 400 level at Capital One Arena. Some buildings don't even have the same number of levels as the Wizards' home over at 601 F Street NW.

Three: Pricing of NBA tickets is way more nuanced than comparing the price of center court tickets in the uppermost level, even beyond considering the geometry of the different arenas in disclaimer two above. As you move towards the corners of the arenas to the end zones, prices may fluctuate differently in different buildings. The rankings below may be completely different when you look at that data. I didn't. I just skipped it. Ordinarily, I wouldn't do this, since I consider my tickets to be in the corner; the Wizards, however, don't so I'm paying center court prices for corner tickets. Sorry, that was a complaint.

On to the results? Well, not quite yet.

Below is a list of the prices for back row upper deck tickets for 20 of the 30 NBA teams. Why only 20? Because I couldn't find pricing easily for 10 of the teams. Following that, there is a list of the prices for front row upper deck tickets for 18 of the 30 NBA teams. What happened to the two other teams from one list to the other, you may ask? Well, Houston prices their tickets "starting at" but doesn't give a upper range and Phoenix only shows prices for available seats, and there are no seats available at the front of center court in their arena. The Suns sold all those out.

And what about the other 10 teams? Well, four teams (Boston, Golden State, the Lakers and Toronto) have wait lists and just haven't published their prices. Chicago also has a wait list but they published their prices. Of the other six, two (Cleveland and Indiana) want you to make an inquiry (I didn't, or more accurately chose not to, have time to wait for that) and one (Oklahoma City) just doesn't give any information at all (I'm kind of assuming there's a wait list here too).

The other three are the Atlanta Hawks, the New York Knicks and the Philadelphia 76ers. Philly, like Phoenix, only shows pricing for seats that are available and it appears the entire upper deck where season tickets are available are sold out. If you want Knicks tickets, it appears there may be some but the team wants a $250 per seat nonrefundable deposit. If they have seats, they'll let you decide if you want to buy them when they tell you where they are. Don't like the location? The team keeps your $250. Finally, I just got a black screen when I clicked on the Hawks' link for season tickets, which somehow seems perfect for that franchise.

I'm taking this page to mean that the Sixers' upper deck tickets are all gone.
So, with all that said, here are the prices for the last row in the upper deck of 20 of the 30 NBA franchises, with most expensive listed first.
  1. Chicago Bulls: $70 per game.
  2. Sacramento Kings: $1,806 per season.
  3. Miami Heat: $40 per game.
  4. Brooklyn Nets: $35 per game.
  5. Portland Trail Blazers: $33.60 per game.
  6. Houston Rockets: $1,364 per season.
  7. Detroit Pistons: $1,320 per season.
  8. Milwaukee Bucks: $29 per game.
  9. San Antonio Spurs: $28 per game.
  10. Washington Wizards: $28 per game / $1,190 per season.
  11. Phoenix Suns: $1,177 per game.
  12. Orlando Magic: $1,099 per season.
  13. Minnesota Timberwolves: $1,008 per season.
  14. Los Angeles Clippers: $968 per season.
  15. Denver Nuggets: $22 per game.
  16. Dallas Mavericks: $766 per season.
  17. Utah Jazz: $18 per game.
  18. New Orleans Pelicans: $750 per season.
  19. Charlotte Hornets: $14 per game.
  20. Memphis Grizzlies: $11 per game.
The Wizards are listed 10th on the list above. They are actually tied for 9th with the San Antonio Spurs, which is amazing to me that possibly equivalent seats between the most consistently successful franchise in the NBA over the past two decades can cost the same as they do for a Wizards season ticket holder. Three years ago, I put the Wizards 24th out of 25 teams in a similar study of season tickets with decidedly different parameters. While it's clear the cost of Wizards tickets have risen relative to the rest of the NBA, I'm not sure they are that out of line with other cities.

Some other things that stick out here. The cost of tickets in Chicago are insane; I can't imagine paying $70 a game for upper deck last row tickets. And they are all sold. Sacramento's tickets are equally surprising, although almost $30 per game less than in Chicago. I actually went back to Sacto's website to check my numbers were correct and they are. The only thing I can think here is only game in town and new building. Finally, if I'm in Memphis, how do I not have season tickets. $11 a game? Seriously? Charlotte too at $14, particularly if it gets me any shot at the All-Star Weekend activities next year. I'm not sure it does by the way.

As far as the Wizards place goes vs. the rest of the league, they are right in the middle of things. There's little variation in price between 14 (the Clippers) and 6 (the Rockets). Some teams list price per seat; others list price per season. Depending on the number of preseason and overseas neutral site games (read: Mexico City and London), positions may switch just a bit. But overall, this list shows Wizards tickets in the last row of the upper deck center court are not overpriced, especially considering Washington has to be in the upper half of cost of living and what I'm assuming are some of the most expensive tickets (Boston, Golden State, New York and Toronto) are not even on the list.

Had to double check but indeed, Sacramento Kings tickets are really expensive.
So what about the front row in those same sections? Well, here's that list. Remember I dropped two from the list.
  1. Chicago Bulls: $80 per game.
  2. Sacramento Kings: $3,096 per season.
  3. Brooklyn Nets: $72 per game.
  4. Portland Trail Blazers: $68.40 per game.
  5. San Antonio Spurs: $68 per game.
  6. Miami Heat: $55 per game.
  7. Milwaukee Bucks: $53 per game.
  8. Los Angeles Clippers: $2,275 per season.
  9. New Orleans Pelicans: $2,100 per season.
  10. Minnesota Timberwolves: 1,932 per season.
  11. Denver Nuggets: $43 per game.
  12. Charlotte Hornets: $42 per game.
  13. Dallas Mavericks: $1,770 per season.
  14. Detroit Pistons: $1,760 per season.
  15. Washington Wizards: $40 per game / $1,700 per season.
  16. Orlando Magic: $1,699 per season.
  17. Utah Jazz: $34 per game.
  18. Memphis Grizzlies: $31.50 per game.
Some notes here. First, San Antonio tickets are way more valuable in the front of the upper deck than they are at the back. Justifiably so, I think. Four titles in the last 20 years and the only major sports team in town I think let's you do whatever you want. Second, I'm still buying tickets if I'm in Memphis and also Utah on the basis of this list. Probably more so in Utah considering the team's play this year but on a city basis, I'm picking Memphis. Finally, I still can't believe the price of tickets in Sacramento. Who buys these things? Although, let's be honest, I likely would if I lived there.

Now, it seems like the Wizards tickets in the front row of the upper deck are priced near the bottom of the league. That's not really true. I'd consider the price of tickets from spot number 9 (the Pelicans) to spot number 16 (the Magic) to be pretty much the same. Heck, if Orlando charged $100 more for an entire season, they'd jump up four spots. The Pelicans tickets are going to go up on April 12 by the way; early bird pricing ends on 4/11. My conclusion about these tickets for the Wizards are the same as the back row: these tickets are not overpriced relative to the rest of the NBA.

All that's not to say that Wizards tickets aren't too expensive. I still think they are. All this is also not to pick on the tweet I saw this morning. I think in spirit, I am right in line with the thinking that I saw on Twitter. The one thing that I'll say about all this though is that more price hikes by the Wizards in coming seasons the likes of what we've seen over the past couple will put the cost for season ticket holders higher than other arenas in a hurry. They'll be priced like tickets for teams in New York or teams that sell out at least half their games in every season or teams that have won championships recently. The Wizards for sure aren't any of those.