April 2, 2014


Tonight the Washington Wizards beat the Boston Celtics at home by 26. With that victory the 2013-2014 Wizards clinched a playoff spot, the franchise's first postseason appearance since 2008. The New York Knicks, the last team that was standing in our way to the postseason, can still catch the Wizards for total victories this season if they win all six of their remaining games and the Wizards lose all seven of their remaining games. But the Wizards hold the season series 2-0 with only one game remaining so the Wizards are in.

It's been a long time coming. When I first bought Wizards season tickets before the 2000-2001 season, I knew I'd have to wait a bit before we made the playoffs. I mean at that time we were searching desperately for an identity, built around three aging-or-past-their-peak-too-young-almost or former stars in Rod Strickland, Mitch Richmond and Juwan Howard. We went through the Michael Jordan put-the-franchise-development-on-hold two years before finally bringing in General Manager Ernie Grunfeld and star in the making Gilbert Arenas and ushering playoff ball back to the District in 2005 behind the team's best record since 1979.

Four seasons holding season tickets without the playoffs before finally making it. Not too bad. I thought I'd been patient and that I probably wouldn't have to wait that long between playoff seasons in the foreseeable future. But I don't have the best luck with my professional sports teams and so in typical fashion (for me), Gilbert Arenas turned out to be a train wreck after a disastrous knee injury and Ernie Grunfeld managed to have one of the worst runs in recent drafting history, selecting Andray Blatche, Oleksiy Pecherov, Nick Young and JaVale McGee with the team's top selections in four consecutive drafts.

And so it's been five full seasons without a playoff appearance for the Wizards and the drought is finally over. It took a complete overhaul of the roster, starting with John Wall and building through the draft and selective trades to get to this point. I've been counting this moment down in my head and on Twitter for the past couple of weeks, tracking the elimination of the Bucks, 76ers, Magic, Celtics, Pistons, Cavaliers and finally the Knicks. Seven teams who can't catch us, meaning we are in.

Now the question, over the last seven games, is "where do we end up?" We can't finish first or second and we likely can't catch Toronto or Chicago for home court advantage, although Chicago is not totally out of reach because we have one more game at home against them on April 5 and would both gain a game and sweep the season series (the first tie-breaker) if we win next Saturday. I also think there's almost no chance of finishing eighth, being 6-1/2 games ahead of New York and Atlanta and having already won the season series against both.

So I guess it's fourth through seventh. How bad do we want it? We'll find out starting Friday against the Knicks on the road. I'll be tuned in for the whole thing. Congratulations, Wizards! Let's finish strong.

My 2005 playoffs shirt. Nine years ago. Time to establish another playoff tradition.

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