September 26, 2017

All-Time Franchise Leader Check

Last September I wrote a post on this blog detailing where John Wall stood on the all-time franchise leaders list and making the case that by mid-season last year, John would be number one on the franchise leader board in assists and steals. He got that easily and now stands atop those two categories where he'll stay for I assume a long long time.

I thought this year I'd do an update to where John stood after last year in the same seven categories I looked at last year (games played, minutes played, points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals).But after looking at our franchise leaderboards, I've decided to not do that. Instead, I've taken a look at where our current roster stands in each of these seven categories and where our current team is likely to be at the end of this season as they continue to make their mark on the team's history.

Games Played
Franchise Leader: Wes Unseld (984)
Current Wizards in Top 10: None
Of all the Wizards on the current roster, John Wall is the only one who will crack the top 10 in terms of games played this year and he should make a serious move on this all time list. Right now Kevin Grevey sits in the 10 spot at 530 games. John has 500 under his belt and played in 78 last year. If he plays the same number of games again this year, he'll sit in 7th place, one game behind Brendan Haywood and 18 games ahead of Gus Johnson (who's number is retired; just saying). If he somehow plays 80 or more, he'll be in 6th place with Kevin Loughery up next at 591. From there he's probably one more season away from third place behind just Elvin Hayes and Wes Unseld.

Minutes Played
Franchise Leader: Wes Unseld (35,832)
Current Wizards in Top 10: John Wall (7th; 18,031)
At the beginning of the 2016-2017 NBA season, John Wall placed 10th on the minutes played list. After last season, he's at 7th and poised to make a big jump after logging 2,836 minutes last year. If he does the same thing this season, he'll pass Gus Johnson (who's number is retired; just saying) and move into the number three position. After that, he's got several more seasons to catch Elvin Hayes at 29,318 minutes.

No other Wizard is going to crack the top 10 list in this category this year.

Franchise Leader: Elvin Hayes (15,551)
Current Wizards in Top 10: John Wall (7th; 9,419)
In addition to hitting the seven spot on the top 10 minutes played list after last season, John Wall also hit number seven on the points scored list, after scoring 1,805 of them in 2016-2017. If he does that again, he'll find himself tied exactly with Wes Unseld for third place with 10,624 points. That will be almost 800 points clear of Kevin Loughery who currently sits right behind Wes. So given a reasonable push this year, John could find himself at number one in two categories on this list and third in two more. Not bad for a guy who's under contract through 2023 who wants to see his jersey in the rafters one day.

For those of you wondering about Bradley Beal on this list, remember he's two full seasons behind Wall. Unless he averages more than 36 per game this year and plays in all 82, Brad's not hitting this list this year.

Franchise Leader: Wes Unseld (13,769)
Current Wizards in Top 10: Marcin Gortat (10th; 3,074)
Last year I offered the opinion that it would take John Wall three more seasons to have a shot at the top 10 list in rebounding. I'm backing up my statement this year. However, Marcin Gortat's managed to sneak into the number 10 spot after last year's performance. Whether we like to acknowledge it or not, Gortat's an awfully consistent rebounder. Last season he finished 11th in the NBA at greater than 10 rebounds per game while also playing a full 82 game schedule. Karl-Anthony Towns was the only other player to do that (although admittedly there were several more who played 81 games).

So how does Marcin project this year? Well, if he puts up a similar number to last year's 849, he'll likely pass Antawn Jamison and move into sixth. Even if he logs more than 100 fewer, he'll still be in sixth by season's end. Seems like Marcin just got to D.C. even though that's not true. Don't sleep on Gortat, folks.

Franchise Leader: John Wall (4,610)
Current Wizards in Top 10: Just John Wall
What's to say here? John Wall is clear of number two by about 800 assists. This gap is only going to get bigger. No other Wizard is cracking the top 10 this year.

For Beal fans: unless he has an exceptional couple of years, he's three years away from cracking the top 10. Not saying it won't happen next season (meaning 2018-2019) but it's a real long shot.

Franchise Leader: Elvin Hayes (1,558)
Current Wizards in Top 10: Marcin Gortat (10th; 388)
It's been a good few years for Marcin Gortat as a Wizard. Not only did he make it into tenth place on the all-time rebounds list, he managed to land in the same spot on the blocks list. That after recording just 61 last year. If he does the same thing this season, he'll be in eighth ahead of Gheorghe Muresan and about 20 behind JaVale McGee (ugh!). Go get 'em Marcin.

If Gortat was no longer a Wizard, John Wall would have a shot at the top 10 list after this season. He's at 322 for his career right now and in his best year he blocked 59 shots. That would approach Marcin's 388 but that number's going to go up also. He'd need 85 to catch Etan Thomas who will slide to 10th once Marcin picks up 20 more swats. Maybe 2018-2019.

Franchise Leader: John Wall (870)
Current Wizards in Top 10: Just John Wall
John is the franchise leader over Greg Ballard by over 100. He'll be the franchise leader for years and years to come for sure. No other Wizard is cracking the top 10 this year.

For Beal fans: he'll be close to the top 10 after this season assuming similar numbers to last year but not close enough. Give it this season and next, please.

That's the rundown this year. This current group of Wizards players has the opportunity to make a real dent in the franchise record books but after this year, don't expect to see anyone but Wall and Gortat in the top 10 of these categories. The two years after that will get really interesting if this bunch manages to succeed enough for the front office to keep them together.

September 21, 2017

Custom Jerseys

This month, I've written about the new Nike jerseys that are about to hit stores any day now. I've also written about how the basketball jerseys I have hanging in my closet tell the story of my Wizards fandom. For my third and final jersey-related post this month, it's time for a bit of a rant. And it may offend some people who have actually gone out and done this. That's not my intent. I'm just genuinely confused by this stuff. And hey, look, I almost did it too.
When I graduated from college (and by that I mean like when I graduated for good at the age of 25 after seven and a half years of higher education), I treated myself to something I'd wanted for a while: an authentic New York Jets jersey. Go ahead and mock. I'll pause while you do...
Done? Good. This was 1994, before you could go onto the NFL store website and just order one and have it show up a couple of weeks later. This was a big deal and it wasn't necessarily easy to do.
There was a store at the Landmark Mall in Syracuse that I knew could order any jersey you wanted, so when I finally got one of my first paychecks after securing my first real job, I headed there and ordered my own custom Jets jersey. I got it in green and of course I got my favorite player: Number 57, Mo Lewis. After the guy taking my order told me he had no idea who Mo Lewis was, he asked me what name I wanted on the back. And here's where I faltered and made a mistake. I got it without a name.
Know why? Quite simply this thing was expensive (over $100 at that time) and what would I do with it if Lewis was traded or got hurt or just decided to hang it up? I decided it would be more fiscally responsible if I got it nameless, then I could just wear it for years and it would still be authentic and I wouldn't be wearing some has-been's jersey. The problem of course is that without an actual player's name on the back it isn't authentic at all. 
The irony here is Mo Lewis, of course, played another 10 seasons for the Jets and made two All-Pro teams. He ended up being one of the greatest linebackers in Jets history. And the Jets completely rebranded before the 1998 season so my jersey was obsolete long before Mo was.
The one saving grace the day I made that decision? I didn't put Hopwood on the back of the jersey. Know why I didn't do that? Because there has never been a Hopwood that's played for the New York Jets, let alone worn number 57. In fact, there's never been a Hopwood that's played in the NFL at all before. Why get a jersey that's clearly a fake? 
I can't imagine these guys intended to spell Anthony Davis. I'm guessing dude in blue is Davis.
So now that I'm an obsessed Wizards fan, I've obviously changed my jersey philosophy. I own jerseys with Haywood (it's close, right?), Arenas, Blatche, Butler, Singleton, Webster and Wall on the back. Each jersey speaks to a specific timeframe of a few years. Yes, all but one of them are obsolete. And my choice of players and sizes (my Arenas jersey is a size 50; no clue why I bought it that big) makes it impossible to wear any one of them as a meaningful throwback. However, none are blank and none have Hopwood on the back.
So here's my question: why do people buy basketball jerseys with their name on the back when there is clearly no player with that name that has ever donned that particular jersey? It honestly just makes you look like you have this fantasy that you are a pro ball player but the fact that you clearly aren't and never will be is a little sad. Am I wrong? Am I just being mean? I can be mean at times without knowing it. I'm just really confused. I know I already said that.

I can understand it on kids and the last thing I want is to be called a bully for picking on some kid in a Wizards jersey with the name of someone (meaning him, his immediate family and everyone ever named the same last name as him) who's never played in the NBA. They get a pass. They really do. But why do adults do this? 
I can understand people deliberately buying a jersey of a player who's not very good just because they happen to have the same name as you and play on your favorite team. You better believe if the Wizards signed some dude named Hopwood and kept him on the roster for like one game, I'm having one of those jerseys made for me. And I'm wearing it. A lot. I mocked some dude at on Twitter last year for wearing a Nick Young jersey when the Lakers were in town only to find out his last name was Young when I talked with him after the game. I'm totally cool with him doing that.
Non-custom jersey that actually IS a custom jersey. I retracted my mocking on Twitter after talking to him.
But a number 7 Knicks jersey with Davis on the back? Or a 12 Elghonami Knicks jersey (not sure if there's something about Knicks fans here...)? I just don't get it. Can someone please explain it to me? If you are going to drop some cash on a custom jersey, find a player whose game you admire and spend your money on that one. Take a chance that he may not be there forever but show up and support that player (and the team) and show that you really mean it. It's not about you. It's about supporting the team. That's all I have to say and that's the end of the mean-ness on this post I promise.

Having said all that, I did see some guy in Japan this past summer with the ultimate custom jersey. After wolfing down some street food in a place nicknamed Piss Alley (we didn't know that at the time), I saw a guy in a custom number 12 soccer jersey (there are 11 men per side in that sport in case you didn't know that) with the name "Supporter" on the back. Awesome. Simply brilliant. I can get behind that kind of a custom jersey. The rest? I don't know.

Best custom jersey ever.

September 18, 2017

New Threads (Sort Of)

If you visited the NBA Store's website any time in the last couple of months, you might have been greeted with flashy graphics advertising low low prices on jerseys with messages urging you to "Hurry! Get them while they last." Those sales included official Adidas player replica and swingman jerseys with discounts up to 30% off.

30% off NBA jerseys?!?!? Are you kidding me??? What a bargain, right?

Well...sort of.

True, you could have snagged yourself a brand new jersey at 30% off, as long as the player and team you wanted were available. But next month they won't be the current version. That's because next month Adidas is out as the NBA's jersey provider of choice and Nike is in. That might mean jerseys look a lot different or it might not. Depends on which team you are rooting for. And yes, what's happening at the NBA online store is a fire sale. There's going to be nothing the NBA can do with the old Adidas jerseys next month except to give them away.

Whether it's the league's doing or Nike's doing or a combination of both, the folks up at Nike are taking a little bit of a different approach to jerseys than did their predecessors at Adidas. Instead of a home (typically white) and away (typically a color) with one or more alternates, maybe a throwback and a sleeved jersey, Nike's going with what looks like four or five non-sleeved jerseys (thank GOD!) per team.

In August, Nike released the initial round of unis for each team, what they are referring to as the Association and Icon editions. According to both the league and Nike, the home team will no longer be required to wear the white uniforms at home but can instead select which uniform they prefer on any given night with the visiting team just required to wear a uniform of sufficiently contrasting color. I'll get back to this subject later but I thought it was already this way. The Wizards had plenty of blue nights at Verizon Center last year and even at least one red night, didn't they?

Beyond the Association and Icon jerseys, Nike will release some throwbacks for some franchises (the Wizards are apparently NOT one of the teams receiving a throwback) and then a couple of alternates, most likely without sleeves as things should be. Last Friday, Nike released each team's Statement jerseys, which for the Wizards are blue alternates they've sported the last couple of years (and STILL missing the red stripe that I want to make these things way better). And there is already some buzz about the as yet unveiled Wizards fourth kit: apparently the stars and stripes unis that most people loved last year are not in the cards this year.

For now, let's focus on the August release of the Association and Icon jerseys. I think the universal reaction from fans on Twitter to the Wizards Nike first release was something to the effect of "there's no difference from the Adidas jerseys from last year!" My response to that is yeah, what were you expecting?

I mean, sure, maybe this was a chance for a complete re-brand (and the Minnesota Timberwolves did just that - even though they probably shouldn't have) but Nike taking over the jersey contract for the NBA didn't mean they were going to redesign all the uniforms league-wide. In the case of the Wizards, the team just invested what I assume is a good chunk of change for a new look just six years ago. And they look gorgeous; I still believe the home whites are the best unis in the league. Why on Earth would we change? I'm thrilled with the status quo.

Having said all that, there are a couple of Nike implemented tweaks that bug me.

The first of these is the stripe down the side of the uniform. It stops at the waistband on the Nike version whereas it didn't in the Adidas kit. Sure, I know, it's such a minor detail that it probably doesn't matter (and let's face it, discussions about stripes on waistbands on NBA uniforms really DON'T matter in the grand scheme of things) but that continuity was important to me to maintain the vertical flow of the uniform. The waistband stops that motion and divides the uniform quite clearly into a jersey and a pair of shorts.

The other one, though, really does matter (not really; but it matters to me). One of the most clever details of the Adidas Wizards uniforms was the way the vee cut in the shorts worked with the star and the block of color (white on the red shorts; blue on the white) in that location to form a W in the negative space at the bottom of the shorts leg. It was such a clever detail in an overall well designed uniform. It's the easter egg in the uniform. The Washington Post even gave it a little praise in their initial review of the unis, although they also implied that neither John Wall or Jordan Crawford could find it (the Washington Times reported something similar). You can see the Adidas shorts in the photograph above on the left.

What Nike has done is make the Wizards uniform fit their template and that template has the vee cut in the shorts offset, which slides that feature out of the space below the star removing the cut in the underside of the W. You can see a portion of the new Nike shorts in the photograph above on the right. In the new shorts, the hidden surprise in the uniform is destroyed. And honestly, that sucks in my opinion.

So yes, the Nike uniforms are pretty much the same as their predecessors. But they are not exactly the same. They are, in my opinion, slightly worse than the Adidas version.

The Statement jerseys I think are fine, because they don't have the same hidden W on the shorts. The only complaint fans could have levied about these kits is just like the Association and Icon editions, they are pretty much exactly the same as last year's jerseys. See my rant about "what were you expecting?" above if you want to know how I feel about this. True, some teams like Golden State and Oklahoma City got something a bit new and different. Again, there was no reason for the Wizards to change. Besides, there's still one more jersey release to come. And we know it's not a stars and stripes or a throwback.

Now...about that whole Association and Icon thing and teams being able to pick which color they wear at home. There are traditions about uniforms. I'm not one of those stuck in the mud guys who can't keep up with the times and adapt to change. But I will say there's value in traditions. One tradition about uniforms in the NBA is that the home team wears white. I love our white uniforms. I think they are the best in basketball (and yes, I do mean even better than the stars and stripes unis). Honestly, I don't care if the Wizards wear red or white or blue at home or on the road. I think we should wear the whites as much as possible because they are works of art; that's just me. But I do care about another uniform tradition and wearing red or blue at home will mess that one up.

In American sports, there is a custom where the home team wears uniforms with their nicknames at home and the name of the city on the road. I guess the logic here is fans in their home arenas can identify where the visitor is from by the name of the city on their chest but can't necessarily do that if the nickname in on there. At home, it doesn't matter because everyone in the arena presumably knows what city they are in at the time.

Now, not every NBA team follows this custom. The New York Knicks wear uniforms with "New York" on them whether they are at home or on the road. The Los Angeles Lakers do the exact opposite, preferring to not identify that they are from L.A. but instead just use their nickname. I guess you can pull that sort of thing off when you have won 16 titles. Even teams like the Wizards have bucked the tradition: the team didn't wear Washington on their jerseys when they first changed their name from the Bullets. It took the 2011 rebrand to get us some road unis with Washington on them.
Which is sort of precisely my point. Now that you have fixed that issue, let's keep it fixed. So, criticsms of the shorts on the Nike uniforms aside, I'm imploring the Wizards to continue to wear white at home (the jerseys with Wizards on them) and a color, whether it be red or blue, on the road.
That's all I got to say about this re-issue or lack thereof for now. When the fourth jerseys are released, I expect I'll have some comments on those. Until then, I'll wallow in the lost W on the Association/Icons and the missing stripe on the Statements for a while. Wallow. Wallow. Wallow.

September 17, 2017

For Sale At The NBA Store

Have you ever taken a good look at everything that's available at the NBA online store? Probably not, huh? I mean a really good comprehensive deep dive look at anything and everything you can get branded with your favorite team's logo or just the NBA logo in general? I didn't think so. Me either. Like me, you probably think you need a new t-shirt or hat or jersey and go buy that and get out right? Yep, that's what I thought.

Well, in a moment of wonder this weekend I took a more in depth look at some of the merch available on the site and I have to tell you there are some crazy things on there. What do I mean? Washington Wizards nail file? Yes they have that but it's not that crazy. Washington Wizards cheese board with serving stage AND tools? Of course they have that. They actually have three different Wizards branded cheese board and tool sets in the store. But compared to some of the other things they are trying to sell these actually seem like reasonable purchases to make. How about some Washington Wizards toddler girls fake Ugg boots in pink? For sure they have that too but that's not even what I'm talking about. I mean stuff that makes you wonder who would ever buy the item and why they would even make it in the first place.

So from a Saturday morning browse of the NBA Store website, here are ten of my favorites. And yes, I think I looked at every Wizards item for sale on the store.

1. Kevin Seraphin Game-Used Jersey
Among hard-core jersey and memorabilia collectors out there, picking up a game-used jersey, ball, pair of shorts or whatever is clearly a big deal. The actual object used in the game is a hugely important collectible especially if it's an important game that the object was used in. The NBA uses different balls in each quarter of some events during All-Star Weekend so they can auction more stuff off to collectors. And if you want more proof that this stuff is valuable to collectors, just ask Eli Manning, who was accused of passing off non-game-used items to a company selling them as authentic game-used.

This particular item on the NBA Store's website is Kevin Seraphin's jersey from the game three victory over the Toronto Raptors in the 2015 playoffs. It's selling for a whopping $450 (although all the pics on this post are from a 20% storewide sale so there's an opportunity to pick this item up cheaper if you act fast). So let's even say there's a hard-core Seraphin fan out there who wants to be a completist and get the entire available Keveeeeen collectible collection in the world. Is it worth $450? or even the sale price of $360? Before you answer this, keep one thing in mind: Kevin didn't even play in that game. Randy Wittman gave him a DNP - Coach's Decision. This item ain't worth anything close to $360 in my opinion.

2. Washington Wizards Basketball to Duffle Bag
I kind of feel bad putting this item on this list because I know whoever invented this product must think this thing is the nuts, like the best idea that's ever been thought of and it's going to sweep the nation. My question to the folks who green-lighted this product is: what were you thinking and do you understand your market here?

So the basic premise here is that it's a bag but it's also a basketball. Now you can't actually play basketball with it. The bag just folds up into a cloth or vinyl or whatever material the ends of the bag are (see below). I don't quite see the advantage. I mean sure it's smaller so I guess it's easier to store somewhere in the home but if it's just smaller why does it need to look like a basketball. If it's intended that you actually carry it around while smaller, why would you want to carry a faux basketball around with you? Isn't that inherently more unwieldy than carrying a bag that has handles? I'm not sure I understand.

I hope the person who invented this product got paid and I hope whoever approved it got talked to about future approvals. I mean it's not a bad concept I guess. I just see the reality of the application a little lacking in thought. Not spending $40 (or $32 on sale) on this one. I'll stick with my...well, I don't actually own a duffle bag really so there's that.

3. Women's Washington Wizards Red Knit Thong
I'm glad they clarified the women's part of this for us.

I'm all for Wizards branded shirts and shorts and bags and hats and glasses and coolers and pretty much whatever else you can brand. But do we really need Wizards thongs? I thought the point of wearing Wizards branded gear is that you are showing your support for your team and that it gives you an identity that you can maybe share with strangers. Maybe I'm off with that concept and if I am that's fine. It wouldn't be the first thing that I've been wrong about in life. 

But what's the application here? Finding out your girl is secretly a Wizards fan and that she's showing you in a sexy way? I don't understand. Oddly enough, the name Andray Blatche comes to mind when I see this product. Not as a wearer mind you but a purchaser. Like in bulk to hand out or something like that. Let's move on.

4. Washington Wizards Craft Beer Flight
I know I just got done saying I'm all for Wizards branded whatever, but tell me how you actually use this product.

I'm still waiting. And if you are explaining how it's for sampling glasses of craft beers I already know that.

Think about when the last time you ever poured yourself a few glasses of craft beers in small glasses for sampling at home. Have you ever done that? I haven't. So let's say you do anyway and you insist on having a wooden rack of glasses to do so. Do you do this alone or with friends? I'm hoping with friends. If you are alone why not just drink the whole bottle and why put everything in a presentation rack.

As an aside isn't the rack just so you can move the glasses easily from the spot you pour to the sampling table? If it's at home, can't you just have the bottles on the table? I mean it's not like you have four kegs at home is it?

If you decide you really need one of these, don't you really need more than one of these? Assuming my friends theory is correct. And if you do are you really shelling out $70 per set? How often are you doing this to justify that price, even if it is 100% acacia wood? The only application I can see for this product is a Wizards themed bar. And let's face it, there aren't any of those right now. Are there?

5. Washington Wizards 15" x 18" Modern Team Print
I'm trying to think about where to start writing about this one. Let's start with the established date. I'll skip the whole lack of Bullets thing and just the overall appearance of this product and the price and the fact it come in black and white also.

I've written before about the conflict that exists out there when it comes to what year the Wizards franchise was established. If you believe that the franchise was still the franchise back as far as you can trace it, then you'll go with 1961 for the founding year. That's the year that the future Wizards started play in Chicago under the Packers nickname. If you are a member of Abe Pollin's family or believe in the same logic as that guy, you'll go with 1963, which is the year Pollin moved the franchise to Baltimore. Pick one and go with it. If we want to re-write history and say the team started in 1963, that's not a hill I'm going to die on.

However, when it comes to this sign, it clearly was not made or approved or checked by anybody who is remotely familiar with the street naming convention of Washington D.C. Capital One Arena (formerly Verizon Center) does not sit at 601 F Street North. It sits at 601 F Street NorthWEST. The address of the building is wrong in a way you can only get it wrong if you know nothing about D.C. which where the team plays.

Just real quick for the designers of this sign: the city is divided up into quadrants, with the United States Capitol as the center both north-south and east-west. The four quadrants are predictably northeast, southeast, southwest and northwest. While I guess you can argue there technically I guess may be an F Street North, when you stick a number on it, it doesn't work. The NBA Store should contact everyone who bought this sign and refund their money in my opinion.

6. DeJuan Blair Framed 15" x 17" Collage with Team-Used Ball
Let's say for the sake of argument that you hate what I wrote about item 1 on this list. Let's say for a moment that you don't care that Kevin Seraphin didn't actually wear the jersey IN a game (rather than TO a game) and that you'd buy the thing to go in your Seraphin shrine if only you had the spare few hundred dollars laying around. Fine. I could see that this person I've just described might be out there somewhere in this world.

Now, a framed DeJuan Blair Wizards collage for $70 ($56 on sale)??? No way. No way in hell. Blair played in 29 games for the Wizards and totaled far less than 300 minutes of game action. Even if you are obsessed with DeJuan Blair I'm not even sure you can justify paying for this product. And they sort of have to have these things made and in a warehouse, right? I mean if they were custom made to order, wouldn't they just not have a DeJuan Blair version on the website at all? If anyone actually ordered one of these, the NBA should just send it for free along with a credit for the entire purchase price. 

Close second on this one by the way is the Trey Burke autographed basketball for $130.

7. Washington Wizards Green St. Patrick's Day Paddy's Pride T-Shirt
Ever since I moved to this country I haven't quite been able to understand America's fascination with St. Patrick's Day. I don't understand people feeling connected to Irish heritage that nobody can really explain to them and I don't understand people lining up outside bars at like 6 a.m. on March 17. You want to get drunk then fine. I got no issue with that. But wearing green and insisting you feel connected to your Irish roots over pints of Guinness (or more likely Miller Lite) one day per year, I don't buy it.

Having said that, I understand it's a thing. And I can understand why the NBA (and Fanatics, who runs the NBA Store) would want to profit from it. But isn't this shirt really just a Boston Celtics shirt in disguise? I know the word Wizards is on there (established 1963 by the way) and the Monument Ball logo in green is with it, but they are contained inside a shamrock which is one of the Celtics' team logos. If you insist of resurrecting this March 17 foolishness every year and insist on having a green Wizards shirt to wear that day, I'd say get a different version than this one. Yes, there are far more to choose from on the site.

8. Washington Wizards Historic Blast iPhone 3G/GS Skin
I can see there being Kevin Seraphin and DeJuan Blair fans out there. I can see there being folks who want a duffle bag that folds into a basketball out there. I can see there being people out there who want a throwback Wizards iPhone cover (established 1963 again notice). But for this old an iPhone? I don't see it.

I have to tell you this product is only on there for one reason and that's if someone mistakenly buys it, then Fanatics makes a couple of bucks. There can't be anyone who's bought one of these in the last year, can there? There's absolutely no way. Tell you what, if Fanatics shows me proof that someone has bought one of these since last September 17, I'll go ahead and get one too. This is just occupying space on a website. It should be deleted and all stock should just be destroyed. 

9. John Wall 60" x 80" Reversible Plush Blanket
Can I say something about this product before anything else? I LOVE it. I think it's awesome. It's the one product on this list I'm not criticizing overall (I will nitpick). How cool would it be to go to bed every night with this thing. You can wear a virtual Wizards jersey every night. And on the other side is a court so you can spread it on your bedroom floor, set up a hoop and play ball. It's fantastic. If I were 10, I'd have this on my Christmas list.

I just don't get the backpack. Why is John wall standing next to a red Wizards backpack? Doesn't make sense to me. I also don't get the liquid-repellant fabric. Is that comfortable to sleep under? Doesn't matter I guess. If I were a kid, I'd still want one.

10. Washington Wizards 10.5" x 13" Sublimated Team Logo Plaque
I'm furious about this product. I can excuse someone for getting the address of our arena wrong I guess, although honestly I cannot see how that could really happen. Don't you just look up the address in Google? There's no way it comes up as 601 F Street North. But I'm distracted.

I have never ever ever ever ever seen any piece of Wizards merchandise with "Since 1962" on it. And by that I don't mean that I HAVE seen "Established 1962" or "Founded 1962" or something like that. There is no way anyone (and I mean anyone) is maintaining the Wizards franchise started play in 1962. There's NO WAY! This product is just wrong. Plan and simple, it's wrong. And I don't care if there person who designed this sign was a Chicago Zephyrs season ticket holder (that's the incarnation of the Wizards that started play in 1962) it's plain and simple wrong. Fanatics should be embarrassed at this. If anyone ordered this thing, they should drive to that person's house, insist on having it back and destroying it and offer the buyer any single item on their website for free. Including the never worn in a game Game-Used Seraphin jersey if that's what they wanted. This is bad. I'm upset.

So that's all I have to say on this matter. I'm sure I've missed things. I'm sure you can visit the site yourself and find some things that are more outlandish. Especially if you search in some other teams' catalogs because I'm positive the Wizards have one of the smaller product selections. Tip-off in 31 days. Can't wait!!

September 7, 2017

Show Up

I spent last weekend in New York City. I love New York (as a non-resident) and love to spend a long weekend up there about once a year or so (this year it's been twice; last year I skipped entirely) to enjoy what The City has to offer before getting back to my more comfortable surroundings down here around the nation's capital.

As I was walking towards Madison Square Garden and Penn Station to take the train home, I noticed a banner above the entrance to the Garden advertising the upcoming WNBA's New York Liberty playoffs with the bold words "No Excuses" and "Show Up for the Playoffs". I'm assuming the banner was talking to the fans, not the players, imploring the Liberty faithful and others to get their butts to MSG to cheer on the hometown team in their second round best of one series. Is that right? Fans need to be cajoled to get themselves to a home playoff basketball game?

I then spent part of last night at Capital One Arena watching the Washington Mystics beat the Dallas Wings in the first round of the WNBA playoffs (also a best of one) and I have to say the place was pretty much empty. This after the Mystics posted the below tweet on Tuesday afternoon encouraging people in D.C. to do just what the Liberty were doing in New York: "We need you there!" So the questions here are: is there an attendance issue with the Mystics and are we doing everything we can to support this team that occupies an important part of the sports landscape in Washington? I'm going to argue that there is and we are not. I'll also argue I'm almost as much to blame as anyone else out there.

Maybe we should start with some numbers. Last year the WNBA reported that they averaged their highest average attendance since 2011. That sounds really positive for the league. And digging into the numbers, their claim appears to be true, that attendance WAS in fact higher last season than the previous four. But it also didn't really dip much in those four down years nor did it climb much last season. In fact, average attendance per game over the prior 12 seasons before 2017 has never been below 7,300 per game nor above 8,200 per game. That's a remarkably steady record and it almost sounds pretty good. But I have to tell you, there is no way there were more than 3,000 people at last night's game. And it was a playoff game. So maybe the Mystics just draw fewer fans than the rest of the league?

Turns out that's not necessarily true either. Yes, the Mystics were in the bottom half of the league in attendance last year and yes, their average attendance was reported at slightly less than 7,000 but those numbers are not that far off the league averages to yield that few people in seats last night. Yes, it was a Wednesday and it was raining (which has had a tendency to postpone or delay Mystics games this summer due to a leaky arena roof) and it was an 8 p.m. start. If the average attendance last year in a non-playoff year was almost 7,000 there should have been more people in the building. And I have to say based on attending three other games this year (well...two because one was postponed due to the roof leak) the attendance last night wasn't out of the norm. In fact, I'd say it was probably higher than the other games I've been to. So what gives?

Well part of the problem may be the Capital One Arena (formerly Verizon Center) itself. The place is huge for this kind of event. When set up for a Wizards game, the capacity is 20,308. During a Mystics game, they don't even open anything above the lower level bowl except the suites so even with a "full" arena, everything above the lower level is going to be completely vacant. You can overcome some of that issue by lighting the arena strategically; if the 100 level is full of fans, you won't even notice the place is more than half empty.

The Mystics appear to be proactive about solving this issue in a way other teams have already figured out: play the games in a smaller arena. 7,000 people in a 7,500 seat arena makes it look way more full than the same number in a 20,000 seat building do. The Dallas Wings (the Mystics' opponent last night) do not play in the same arena as the NBA's Mavericks in downtown Dallas. Instead they call the smaller 7,215 capacity College Park Arena on the campus of the University of Texas at Arlington home.
The view from Section 118 last night. Not too full.
I expect that by the time the 2019 season rolls around, the Mystics will have resolved the empty building feeling and moved over to the new Wizards practice facility (the building is scheduled to open in summer or fall of 2018). That building will hold far fewer fans than Capital One Arena and that's likely a good thing for the atmosphere of the games. However, it appears there may not be enough space in that building. Depending on the source and the timing of the reporting, the capacity of that building has been reported as 5,000 seats by the Washington Post in September 2015; a little over a year later, the Washington Business Journal had the figure down to 4,200.

So why would the team do that? If the Mystics draw a bit less than 7,000 in a non-playoff year (last year) why are they building an arena that is going to top out at 4,200 fans? Won't that leave some fans on the outside looking in?

So let's get back to the numbers again. I've already stated that my unscientific fan count last night yielded fewer than 3,000 fans. That exercise can be incredibly difficult to undertake: it's impossible to count all the people individually and a lot of empty space in a building tends to give the impression that there's nobody there so if you guess at the numbers, the natural tendency is to guess low.

So let's look at things another way. If the article I used to get last season's attendance numbers is to be believed, then the lower level of Capital One Arena holds about 7,400 people. Last night's reported attendance was 6,483, meaning the lower level was 88% full. There is no way that is true. Look at the pictures of the crowd in this post. I can draw no other conclusion than the attendance figures are inflated. I no longer believe the published attendance figures from the league. They just are not credible.
Crowd picture #2 after we got upgraded, presumably to show more fans in the picture on ESPN2.
So what? Where does that leave us? Well, I have to say unfortunately it leaves us with a professional team in Washington that's making the playoffs and is not being supported. This makes little sense to me. I get that the game is different from the NBA but it's the only major women's league in town and this team is good this year. Folks should be heading downtown just even once or twice a year to see this team in action. It's also incredibly affordable and, depending on the situation, even free sometimes. We should be going to these games. I say there's an attendance issue with this team and we are not doing all we can to solve it.

So what's the problem? Well, I admit I'm part of it. Each team in the WNBA played 17 regular season home games this year. I attended two (three if you count the postponed roof leak game). That after attending just two in 2016 and zero in all the years before that. I'm committed from this point forward to support this team more than I have in the past. I believe all Wizards fans should do the same thing.

In the five (or six depending on your point of view) games I've actually attended in the last two years, I paid for just one of them. The other four/five I was either provided tickets for free for being a Monumental Network subscriber ("free" with the purchase of Wizards season tickets) or have used Monumental Rewards points accumulated by spending money on the Wizards. I've turned down at least two or three other free sets of tickets this year because of schedule conflicts. These free tickets by the way may be contributing to what I see as inflated attendance figures and if you are a conspiracy theorist, the team building an arena that holds fewer people than their reported attendance may prove that the team is inflating attendance figures.

Last night's game was exciting. Some cold shooting early on in the game hampered the flow a little but by the middle of the second quarter, the Mystics had built a pretty good double digit lead. Which they then proceeded to squander by halftime. In the second half the team was solid and they built an early lead which they never relinquished behind some timely shooting from Elena Delle Donne, Kristi Tolliver and Tianna Hawkins with some solid overall play from Emma Meessemen. It also had some typical playoff elimination game hallmarks: some scuffles, lots of free throws at the end of the game in a desperate comeback attempt and an ejection.
Unfortunately, that maybe all we see this year at home unless the Mystics can go up to New York and defeat the team that is begging their fans to show up on the banner outside their arena. If they do, they will be in the WNBA semi-finals with a game three (and possibly game 4) on the home wood at Capital One. And if they do that, we all ought to show up.
Mystics win!!! On to New York.

September 5, 2017

Jerseys In My Closet

I'm turning September into jersey month here at My Swag Was Phenomenal. Here's the first of three posts on that subject.

After Martell Webster decided to early retire in 2015, I had a conversation with my friend Mike about what jersey I was going to buy now that Martell was gone from the game. Yes, I bought a Martell Webster jersey. And wore it to games. Mike's response was classic, something to the effect of "Why don't you buy a jersey of someone who's good?"

Sound advice, no doubt. I've always had an admiration for the contributing role player on the Wizards and so time after time, it seemed (with the exception of my Arenas gold jersey), I had to that point in my Wizards fandom been clad in a no-way-is-this-guy-ever-making-an-All-Star-game player's jersey every so often at Verizon Center. A couple of months later I took Mike's advice and bought my first John Wall Wizards jersey.

Over my 17 year tenure as a Wizards fan, I've owned (and still own, for that matter) nine Wizards jerseys. Their story is a story of my decade and a half plus journey of me being a member of the Wizards faithful. Here's what I've worn over the years. Try to be gentle with your criticism, especially about halfway through this post. I was misguided. Nothing more.

Brendan Haywood
My first favorite Wizards player ever was Brendan Haywood. The year was 2001 and it was my second year as a Wizards season ticket holder. I'd just sat through parts of an awful inaugural (for me) Wizards season that saw my new favorite team go 19-63 and end up in last place of the Atlantic Division (this was back when there were just four divisions in the league).

Through the first 12 games of the 2001-2002 season, the Wizards didn't look a whole lot better than they did the prior year, winning just three times in 12 tries. Brendan Haywood was a rookie that year and didn't play in the first dozen games due to a hand injury. But when he did play starting in late November he just looked like he was trying way harder than anyone else on our team. And he seemed to be blocking a ton of shots, including seven against Atlanta on December 19 of that year.

Here was a guy I could get behind and follow: a role player who played hard, played D and did things like block shots. Instantly he fit neatly into the category of players I loved in this league. In the first 20 games Brendan played in a Wizards uniform, the team went 15-5. I'm not saying it was all due to B-Wood but there may be a cause and effect.

Over the years, Brendan had some high spots and low spots with the Wizards: fighting with teammate Etan Thomas (yes, literally fighting), some pouting due to loss of playing time, statements about not wanting to teach JaVale McGee how to be a professional (although he may have been really smart here) but also being the defensive anchor and a model of consistency on the court for years for a team that in its prime was really pretty good.

I didn't buy a Brendan Haywood jersey that first season when he wore 3 nor the second season when he wore 00. I finally broke down sometime after that and sprung for an authentic jersey which cost about $160 or something like that back then. I remember getting yelled at by some fan ("Hey Haywood, make your free throws!") after a game in which B-Wood missed some free throws towards the end of the game. I assume the dude could tell the difference between a 5'-11" (basketball height; not actual height) 30 some year old white dude and a 7'-0" black professional athlete but didn't care anyway. Brendan signed both 3s on the back of his jersey at some Washington Auto Show in the mid-aughts which I appreciate.

Gilbert Arenas
I remember being at my parents place watching television when the announcement that the winner of the NBA's 2003 Most Improved Player was Golden State's Gilbert Arenas scrolled across the bottom of the screen. My first reaction was to tell my dad "the Wizards should sign THAT guy." And they did. Gave him everything we had in cap space to sign him. Gilbert pretty much tied B-Wood for my favorite Wizards player that day without ever having played a second in a Wizards jersey.

When he got to D.C., I started hearing more and more stories about Gilbert that proved to me that this guy was not just an ordinary basketball player: the locker room hijinks as a rookie refusing to be hazed, the reason he wore zero as a chip on his shoulder, the gym rat mentality, the hyperbaric chamber, the playoff guarantee from his first press conference, his single parent upbringing. What was not to like about Gilbert?

Then he started playing. The first year in D.C. Gil was good. The next few, he was awesome. We had a guy who could go off for 50 points seemingly when he wanted. And of course there came with it all sorts of nicknames and crazy behaviors: hibachi, Agent Zero, the turning around on buzzer beaters before they hit the bottom of the net to kill the other team, throwing his jersey into the crowd at the end of each game, guaranteeing financial support to a local boy who'd lost his family in a fire, staying and signing autographs at fan events when all his teammates had split when the allocated time was up. Everything about Gilbert Arenas, I loved.

I bought the gold alternate jersey because that was Gil's jersey more than anyone else's. Gilbert made that jersey special. He set the all-time franchise single game scoring mark (60) in that jersey. He was Agent Zero in that thing. And of course I had to get the authentic jersey again which set me back again north of $150.

Gilbert's ending in Washington wasn't special. It was marred by a devastating injury to the best player I'd seen in a Wizards jersey to that point by far and then by a locker room gun showdown that I won't recount here because I just don't want to. Before he got traded to the Orlando Magic and started his farewell tour of other NBA franchises, Gil signed my jersey in the best way possible, with an "Agent 0" signature. I love Gil for that and for his time in D.C.

Caron Butler
OK, so my Caron Butler 2008 NBA All-Star Game jersey is a bit of an oddball in my collection because it was gifted, not bought. The Wizards gave one to each season ticket holder who renewed their full season plan in 2008. That's not to say that I wouldn't buy a Caron Butler jersey (because I totally would; I love Tough Juice), just that I already had my perfectly good Arenas jersey at that time and I didn't need to drop any more money on a new kit.

Of the big three of Butler, Arenas and Antawn Jamison, I appreciate that Caron has been the most vocal about what a missed opportunity his time in D.C. was and how much he genuinely thought that team would achieve greatness before (through no fault of Caron's) the team imploded and collapsed in on itself. The result of all that was Jamison playing with LeBron James and the hated Cleveland Cavaliers (and winning nothing) while Caron, B-Wood and DeShawn Stevenson ended up getting a ring each with the Dallas Mavericks. The Wizards meanwhile rebuilt around rookie John Wall which right now looks like a smart choice.

Of course, just like the other two earlier jerseys in my collection, my CB jersey is autographed. It came that way. Otherwise the Wizards would just be handing out old stock that they couldn't sell to their season ticket holders.

Andray Blatche
I'm a smart guy but sometimes I make silly decisions. Actually sometimes I make really dumb, naïve and ignorant decisions.

At the beginning of the 2009-2010 season, Andray Blatche made a decision. He decided to change his number from 32 to 7 as a signal to the world that he would now be dedicated to becoming a professional basketball player and the best he could be in a Wizards uniform all seven days of every week. This was a guy who was a second round pick of the Wizards right out of high school and had just completed the best season of his four year career, starting more games (32) than any other year, finally averaging double digits in scoring and having increased his scoring and rebounding number each year since his NBA debut. I bought it because I wanted to believe in Andray Blatche and the power of Ernie Grunfeld to pick a unknown gem out of the second round of the draft. I bought it so much that I dropped $170 on an authentic jersey, the last one (to this point) I have bought because the cost is just so freaking out of control now.

So there are some logical questions behind this move, right? The first is why would a professional athlete NOT be dedicated to being a professional seven days a week? What did Dray's number mean before he donned a number 7 jersey? 32 days a year? That answer is not out of the realm of possibility by the way. There were certainly flags about Andray's past that would raise some doubts. Before he even played a minute in the NBA he was shot in some kind of incident with a prior Wizards questionable second round draft pick Peter John Ramos and he'd been famously casual about his diet and work ethic, relying on his natural talents to keep him going despite being questioned seemingly daily on this issue by team captain Antawn Jamsion. As a fan, you could see Dray lacked any sort of real chiseling in his physique.

Of course, all this nonsense didn't work. Andray had his moments in a Wizards jersey after he started working full-time, twice scoring 36 points in a game and combining those two scoring efforts with 19 and 15 rebounds in those two games. But one of those games per year just ain't enough and before the 2012-2013 season the Wizards used the amnesty provision in the Collective Bargaining Agreement to part ways with Andray, still having to pay him but not having his salary count against the cap.

After being released by the Wizards, Dray spent two years with the Brooklyn Nets and became one of Wizards' fans favorite targets for booing. He didn't look like he was in any better shape as a Net than he did as a Wizard. I remember one game at Verizon Center when he looked especially winded and was grabbing his shorts while standing on the edge of the lane during a Wizards free throw attempt. Because the arena was especially quiet at that time, I yelled "Hey, Dray! What are you, tired?" from my fifth row seat and I swear he looked right at me and smiled like a kid who didn't know what he'd gotten himself into. I felt bad about yelling that.

To his credit, I guess, Andray signed my jersey gorgeously before a road game in Indiana. I think it's one of the best and clearest signatures I have. Too bad the jersey and the signature are not only worthless but also really pretty embarrassing that I actually have this jersey in my collection. Like I said, sometimes I make silly decisions.

Chris Singleton
At the end of the 2010-2011 season (John Wall's rookie year), the Wizards decided it was time for a re-brand. They rolled out a couple of new logos (while also inexplicably refusing to kill off the Wizard logo for a year or so) and some gorgeous new threads. I still think the home whites are the best unis in the league. I had to get a new jersey. I mean after all, even if I could be seen in public in a signed Andray Blatche jersey, there's really no way I wanted to wear those hideous old blue, black and gold things any more.

Almost inexplicably (although I can and will actually explain), I picked rookie Chris Singleton's 31 as my new jersey. Singleton was the 18th overall pick in the 2011 draft and the Wizards second of three, selected between number six overall pick Jan Vesely and number 34 overall Shelvin Mack. It was a disaster of a draft for the Wizards. Vesely made it through all four years of his rookie deal but only just. Singleton made it just three years. The only one of the trio still playing in the NBA is Mack and the Wizards cut him not once but twice. To make matters worse, the Wizards selected opted for Ves ahead of Klay Thompson and Kawhi Leonard.

When the Wizards drafted Chris Singleton, I saw that as a commitment by the front office to put someone on the team who might be a defense first guy and I loved that. Chris had alleged he could cover the 1 through 4 positions in college and I supposed he would being some heart and toughness to a team that finished solidly in the bottom ten of the league in defensive rating. It didn't work. Chris proved too slow to cover the 1 through 3 spots at the NBA level and wasn't big enough to cover the power forwards in the league. 

I'm not sorry I bought a Chris Singleton jersey despite the questions I got on it (usually "did I attend Florida State?"). I talked with Chris a couple of times during his tenure with the Wiz and found him relatable and open to talking with a fan of the team and I appreciated that. 

And yes...I do have two Singleton jerseys (I downgraded to the cheaper Swingman version starting with this purchase) as shown in the picture above. I ordered the home white before the season started from the NBA store online. After a couple of weeks of it not showing up, they sent me an email saying the product I had ordered was not available so I ordered a road red one instead. About a day later the original white jersey I ordered showed up. I called the NBA store and ended up with a 2-for-1 deal. So I didn't really buy two Chris Singleton jerseys. I just own two now.

When I handed Chris the white jersey to sign (which you can just make out in silver on the "3", his comment was "Now that's what I'm talking about." I have a feeling the NBA didn't sell too many Wizards 31 jerseys from 2011 to 2014.

Martell Webster
After a couple of misses in the jersey department I was determined to right the ship with the next one I bought. I picked Martell Webster, a guy who was a lottery pick in the draft but had a history of back issues and had struggled to score the ball in his prior contracts with both the Portland Trail Blazers and the Minnesota Timberwolves. Surprisingly, Martell fit into the Wizards' offense perfectly and would become the first of a string of guys who put up gaudy numbers from beyond the three point line by playing on the same team as John Wall.

What I liked most about Martell was his team first attitude and his appreciation for playing in Washington and playing for Randy Wittman (who remains, barely, my favorite Wizards coach of all time). Martell didn't care how many points he scored or how much playing time he received. He (correctly) was concerned with the team winning. If that meant he played zero minutes some days or played 30 minutes and scored nothing, so be it. He was absolutely correct: individual accomplishments are secondary to the team's performance.

I also appreciated Martell's life story. Not that it's unusual for an NBA player to have a difficult upbringing, but his reaction to what he experienced through how he deals with his own family is what impresses me. He was raised by his grandmother after his mom disappeared when he was four years old. And when I say disappeared, that's true. Nobody knows what happened to her, although there are theories that she was a victim of a serial killer. His dad left before he was born but lived nearby in silence until after Martell was drafted and was then predictably and appropriately rejected by his son. Martell's response to his personal history is to put his own family first above all else, determined to not repeat anything like his father's mistakes.

I bought my Webster jersey right after the team eliminated the center horizontal stripe from the back of their uniform (see the jersey below) that made some of the numbers (particularly 2s, 3s and 5s) too difficult to read so when it showed up in my mailbox it was already a throwback. Of course, I got the jersey signed and wore it to games with Martell's ink on the back.

John Wall
Ultimately, I took my friend Mike's advice and made my next jersey someone good by picking up a John Wall jersey. It's been the only jersey I've worn to games for the last two years at Verizon Center and I anticipate it will be the only one I'll wear (although I may need a new one at some point) for the foreseeable future.

John Wall is without question in my mind the best player who has ever pulled on a Wizards jersey. By the time he's done in D.C. he seems pretty determined to be one of the best, if not THE best, who has ever worn a Wizards or Bullets or Zephyrs or Packers jersey. And he may get there, either with or without a championship.

I love that John works constantly to improve his game. I love that he takes every slight anyone in or out of the league throws his way (and there have been a lot) and uses those to push himself to get better. I love that he wants to be in Washington in an era when loyalty doesn't matter much to teams or players or even fans sometimes (the author of this post is definitely excluded). I love that he's deservedly a four time All-Star and has been named to an All-NBA team and an All-NBA Defense team. I love that he's getting better every year. I love his commitment to the community and those less fortunate than himself. And I love watching him throw passes from my seat in Section 105 of Verizon Center and now Capital One Arena. I am proud to wear this jersey each time I slip it over my head. I can't see myself wearing another jersey until John no longer plays for the Wizards.

So I sort of lied. By the time I asked Mike for some advice about my next jersey purchase, I already owned a John Wall jersey (below). I had the extreme good fortune to attend the 2015 NBA All-Star Game in New York a couple of years ago and sprang for a John Wall All-Star jersey as a souvenir of that experience, which coincidentally is the only All-Star Game start of John's career. I have worn this jersey exactly once and that was at the game itself. After that, I had John sign it, which looks great in silver against the blue number, and retired it. I have no idea what I'm going to do with this and my other signed jerseys. For now I'm just holding on to them.

17 years and counting. Nine jerseys and counting. They are some of the most expensive and useless (it's not like I can wear them at time or anywhere other than to games) Wizards souvenirs I own. But collectively they tell a story of my love for the Wizards, as passionate and frustrating and glorious and misguided as it has been since I first ponied up some dough for a full season back in the year 2000. I don't think I need to get my 10th jersey anytime soon but you just never know in this business.