|November 28, 2012: First win of the season! The season started October 30.|
Before Wednesday night's Wizards home game vs. the Portland Trail Blazers, my friend Mike and I were sitting at the bar at a season ticket holder happy hour at the Verizon Center's Dewar's Club when we overheard a fellow fan say that the Wizards (the only winless team in a league where all other teams have at least three wins) probably had a good chance to win that night's game because Portland did not play well on the road. I responded to that comment by noting that we don't play well at home and Mike piled on noting we don't play well anywhere, which is absolutely true.
A couple of hours later, it seemed like the Wizards were well on their way to the first victory of the year with a 79-64 lead with 8:53 to play in the fourth quarter, having expanded the lead by six in the first 3:07 of the final period. Then the offensive struggles that have plagued our team all season emerged and Portland caught up and then took the lead 80-79 with 2:05 remaining. That's right, we managed to score zero points in a six minute, 48 second span of game time. Zero! It looked like another collapse was imminent, albeit a larger one than we had demonstrated the ability to pull off so far this season. But then Jordan Crawford hit an ill-advised three and that seemed to get us back on track and when Portland missed a shot in the last ten seconds and we secured the rebound and got fouled with a mere 0.5 seconds on the game clock, it seemed like we'd emerge with victory number one of the 2012-2013 season.
But then our inbound attempt failed and Portland caught the ball as time expired. At least it was a win, even if it didn't come very spectacularly! The referees didn't agree. They huddled and it appeared that they were either going to grant a time out or call a foul; from our seats at the other end of the court, we couldn't tell. The decision was made to put 0.2 seconds on the clock and award Portland the ball (but no foul, which would have been two free throws). For a moment, this played out eerily similar to a game we played against the Indiana Pacers on December 12, 2009, when time expired, but the referees huddled and put 0.5 seconds on the clock, only to have us foul on the inbound pass and have Mike Dunleavy hit two free throws and send us home with a 114-113 loss. But this time, Portland's inbound pass clanked off the rim and time expired with no foul, allowing the Wizards to become the first team in NBA history to win their first game in their 13th try and more importantly gain their first victory of the season. Now we are only at least two games behind everyone else. Wow we are bad.
Two years ago, our team's new owner, Ted Leonsis, offered season ticket holders a deal: renew your season tickets for 2011-2012 and prices would be frozen for three seasons. That promise, coupled with a slashing of lower level season prices which allowed us to buy a full season downstairs for the same price we had been paying for a 21 game package, seemed like a bargain and we gladly took it. We had just come off John Wall's rookie year and we were in a rebuild mode around him. The price freeze was clearly an indication that ownership intended for the team to perform poorly over the next three years but in my mind, we couldn't get much worse than we had been over the last 11 years, with two 19 win seasons and seven playoff-less seasons.
As it turned out, I was wrong (again) about our team's ability to perform. Last year, we set a franchise record for worst start by losing our first eight games. This year, we set another franchise record for worst start by losing our first 12 games. Through the first 13 games of the season, we are dead last in points per game and field goal percentage and 28th (out of 30) in 3 point percentage. Our point differential is worst in the league by almost a full two points, which is huge in the NBA. Pretty much anyway you look at it, we are last in the league and it's pretty obvious that our offense is the reason. I realize that we built this entire team around John Wall and that he's been out all year but surely we can't be this bad offensively without our third year point guard; Wall's just not good at this point in his career. The Timberwolves are still winning without Ricky Rubio. Why can't we win without Wall?
|From the Wizards iPad app. Clearly this is part of the problem.|
While losing is frustrating, I've had enough practice that I am sort of used to it by now but I was hoping for some sort of turn around this year. This year on the heels of the last few is wearing on me. I just honestly never thought it would get this bad. Two years ago, we finished with a better record than three teams: the Toronto Raptors, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Minnesota Timberwolves. This year, Minnesota almost has a .500 record with their two best players sidelined and made a push for the playoffs last year. Cleveland and Toronto have both won three games, which is not great but it's three times more than we have won. Last year, we finished ahead of only one team, the Charlotte Bobcats, who have already won the same number of games they won all last year in the first month, which is six more than we have won. It seems like lately, all we do is stay near the bottom while other teams leapfrog us. Our first draft pick last year, Jan Vesely has more fouls than points this year and played only 0.2 seconds in our victory over Portland. I've always been a big supporter of Ernie Grunfeld and I hope it's too early in the season for a full evaluation but after this 1-12 start, maybe it's time for new leadership soon. I guess I'm still hoping for a reversal of fortunes but the playoffs seem out of reach in the first month of play. Discouraging.