It's October, which means it's finally time for some hoops games that mean something. But not quite yet. Training camp ended yesterday, the first preseason game is Tuesday night at Verizon Center and we have six more of those before the season opener on October 27. We'll have to wait until November 2 to see the Wizards play a meaningful game in the District. Get excited, kids!
Four years ago, I wrote a post on this blog lamenting the Washington Wizards' distinct lack of success since I became a season ticket holder in the year 2000. Among the miserable statistics cited in that post were the second lowest average win total in the NBA; being tied for the most number of sub-20 win seasons in the league; the fourth lowest number of playoff appearances; zero titles of any sort (tied with eight other teams); and being one of only two teams (along with the then Charlotte Bobcats) not to win at least 47 games in a single season.
It was this last point that represented my hope at the beginning of each season. Maybe, just maybe, I've thought each October for the past several years, this might be the year the Wizards make it to 47 wins in a single campaign. They came close two years ago, posting a 36 year high win total of 46 but they failed to make it to the promised land. Note I'm not even talking about winning a division title, or an NBA Championship, I'm just hoping for a .573 winning percentage. Almost everyone else had done it in the first 12 years I paid money for a full season of Wizards tickets. Why can't we???
So it's four years later and I thought I'd check to see how my favorite team is doing since I got roped into this season ticket holder gig. Strap in, folks. This one is going to sting (again). I promise. And yes, if you want to infer a pun there, it's intended.
Wins Per Season
Over the past 16 seasons, the Washington Wizards have posted an average wins per season number of 33.6. That's up 2.2 games over the last four seasons and good for third worst in the NBA over that span. Yes, in the last four years, we managed to pass the Minnesota Timberwolves, a team that hasn't made the playoffs in a dozen years. So we now stand ahead of the T-Wolves and the Charlotte Hornets, who five seasons ago set an NBA historical worst mark for winning percentage in a season. Good company, right?
There's some good news over the last four years though: there have been no sub-20 win seasons in that period for Wizards fans, which means the total number of those abominations over my season ticket tenure remains at two. That's still tied with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Charlotte Bobcats/Hornets over that period but it's actually no longer the worst in the NBA. That distinction goes to the Timberwolves (again, Minnesota is saving us) and the Philadelphia 76ers, who have accomplished that dubious feat three times in the last three seasons. Feeling good about that? Don't. Just don't. And not just because the hated Cavs just won it all.
So then there's that 47 wins thing. I have bad news for Wizards fans. We are no longer one of two teams to fail to win 47 games in a single season since I became a season ticket holder because last year the Hornets took themselves out of that club by winning not just 47 but 48 games. So now every team in the NBA has won 48 games in the 21st century except one: my beloved Washington Wizards. Told you this would sting. Let's keep going shall we?
Playoff Wins Per Season
Over the past 16 years, the Washington Wizards have made six playoff appearances. That total is good for sixth worst in the NBA over that span (woo hoo! up two spots), although it might as well be fifth worst because we are actually ahead of the Golden State Warriors who of course won a title two seasons ago (d'oh!). We're tied with the Clippers here and ahead of (in addition to the Dubs) Sacramento, New York, Minnesota and Charlotte. Quick: name a well run franchise among those four. Sadly, I think you might have to say Charlotte. Playoff appearances not good for the Wiz.
However, when we make the playoffs, we have been winning, thanks in part to Randy Wittman's possum tactics relative to the regular season. Yep, in the two appearances the team has made in the last four years, they have won six games in each try and have a winning record in each of those appearances, although both flamed out in the second round. When considering average wins per playoff appearance over the last 16 years, the Wizards are actually tied for ninth worst in the league, which might make you feel good. Isn't it amazing that being tied for 21st place is a source of pride for me? The bar is so low for this team for me.
Division Titles, Conference Titles and NBA Championships
So this is the category where you actually win something. And by that I mean the team doesn't sell shirts if they win 50, 55 or 60 games (although honestly I might custom commission a 47 wins Wizards shirt if we ever get there) but they do sell Division, Conference or League champions merch.
Four years after my initial assessment of the Wizards having won nothing, they have still won nothing. Despite that apparent lack of movement, we have actually moved backwards in this category because some of the other teams that hadn't won anything four years ago actually have now. So the list of teams that has not won anything in the last 16 NBA seasons stands at just three: the Charlotte Hornets, the Memphis Grizzlies and (drumroll please...) the Washington Wizards. In the last four years, the other teams who lacked a division title four years ago, namely the Atlanta Hawks, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, New York Knicks and Portland Trail Blazers, have all won one. I'm officially depressed now.
This was not a fun post to write on a Sunday morning that is supposed to be relaxing. I am now entering my seventeenth year as Wizards season ticket holder. Over that period of time I've been treated to the third worst winning percentage in the league, the sixth fewest playoff appearances in the NBA, zero titles and no 47 win seasons, which is dead last in the NBA over that span. Oh, and some ticket price hikes the last few years, but that's another story.
So what do I hope for this season? Well ever the optimist I continue to hope for those elusive 47 wins (although I should really raise the bar to 48) and I can't believe we don't have a shot at the Southeast Division this year (since the Miami Heat won it last year with 48 Ws). Don't tell me I'm fooling myself; I'll find out soon enough. Let's go Wizards!