During the 2008-2009 NBA season, the Washington Wizards managed a mere 19 wins against 63 losses. It was the second such season turned in by the Wizards since I became a season ticket holder in the fall of 2000. That 2008-2009 season was one of failed expectations after four straight playoff appearances and the misery was capped off by a somewhat famous locker room gun incident resulting in the suspension of Gilbert Arenas. Despite all the dysfunction that season, I managed to show up for every home game that year.
My goal at the beginning of each new Wizards season is to be in my seat for all 41 regular season home contests. I am not a fair weather fan who shows up when the team is performing well and bails or sells his tickets during tough times. My obligation as a fan is to be there to show support every game and I take that obligation seriously.
Despite my best intentions, I have never had a perfect attendance record any season other than 2008-2009. Something always seems to get in the way, whether it's being away for the Christmas holidays, or a work trip or just being sick. Sick meaning in poor health by the way, not sick of the Wizards' poor play. This year, I'm failing again, having missed a game just before Christmas and I'm going to miss the last home game of the year against Atlanta because I'm taking some time off.
Taking time off during the season is extremely unusual for me. I can't remember intentionally traveling when there was a Wizards home game since maybe 2001. And that's a big maybe. I've traveled frequently during the season in the last five years but I always time my vacation with a Wizards road trip, typically a west coast, week long road trip. But this year, I'm skipping the last home game and I won't be back doing my job at Verizon Center until the playoffs. I think some of the Wizards should do the same thing I'm doing. Maybe not travel, but just skip work for a few days.
With the end of the season just six games away, the Wizards are sitting firmly in fifth place. The only team behind us who can catch up is Milwaukee and they would have to win every game and we would need to lose every game for that to happen. The Bucks have improved a lot this year, but I don't see a team that has won three of their last ten winning out.
Looking up in the standings, realistically the team can only really finish as high as fourth. The Cleveland Cavaliers (currently second) can be caught if we win every game and they lose every game and that's just not happening. There's a slim chance of catching the Toronto Raptors but we'd have to best them in win totals, since they hold the first tiebreaker as a division winner. The Chicago Bulls are sitting in third right now if they falter and the Wizards play really well, there's a slim chance we could tie them and win the tiebreaker by virtue of better conference record. But realistically, we are stuck in fifth. If nothing else, the game tonight in Memphis is almost surely a loss.
In my mind, the Wizards can do one of two things the rest of the way: (1) push hard to catch Chicago and hope things go the right way and get home court advantage for round one or (2) get ready for the playoffs by resting some folks. I'm not talking a total shutdown but maybe playing John Wall, Paul Pierce and Nenê every other game or so and giving Bradley Beal maybe two of the last six off. At this point it seems like we should be focused on trying to duplicate last year's playoff success rather than worrying about the regular season. Plus maybe it gives a guy like Otto Porter a chance to get some playing time, something our coach seems a little reluctant to do consistently.
Don't get me wrong, I'd love to have the team get to a 47 win mark, something I lamented a couple of years ago in this blog but if this team doesn't make the second round of the playoffs and win a couple of games, this season will be labeled a failure. Sounds strange to Wizards fans, doesn't it? In a couple of weeks, there are going to be 14 NBA teams with nothing to do; the Wizards won't be one of them. Let's do the right thing and make sure we maximize our chances the rest of the way this year. Please.