A Year in NBA Purgatory
Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images
Halloween ads are back, reminding us that summer’s over and it’s time to stock up on coats & candy. NFL storylines are cemented, playoff baseball has us actually watching baseball and mid-Atlantic weather is back to embracing its confusing indecisiveness. As exhausted oak leaves carpet the streets & sidewalks, NBA teams embark on their nine-month journey. The Washington Wizards will begin training camp today after a loud—or quiet — media day, depending on your perspective.
When the Wizards selected Rui Hachimura with the ninth pick of the 2019 NBA Draft, D.C. die-hards threw tantrums while a seahorse-shaped country cheered. The talented Japanese product has shown the Eastern world a boundless game in international play, while simultaneously underachieving in his role for his three years at Gonzaga. Only time will persuade the jury, and his performance in the FIBA World Cup last month definitely spiced the deliberations. The 6’7” forward showed his malleability and poise to a fan base with much to learn about their prized rookie.
Rui-mania, as the hype has been coined, wasn’t the only storyline to follow during the Wizards’ media day. There’s a new exciting general manager and he’s restructured a tired roster (and those tired balance sheets). The all-star duo of John Wall and Bradley Beal are at turning points in their careers; Wall is on his road to recovery and Beal is realizing his great potential in this league.
With the momentum from a historic 25-5-5 season, Bradley Beal will look to lead his team in the absence of John Wall. His mindset is comfortable, focused and ready. Exuding the same confidence we saw last year, Beal embraces the situation.
“It’ll be a challenge but it won’t be something I’m not used to dealing with.”
John Wall is out for the foreseeable future, but the confidence he has in himself and his team is well-communicated. He’s in no rush to return, but newly-minted GM Tommy Sheppard’s first priority was to secure a formidable backup to compliment Beal.
Tomas Satoransky, a fan-favorite, signed with Chicago, so Sheppard would find his answers in the committee of Ish Smith and Isaiah Thomas. Yes, the same IT that spearheaded Washington’s last known rivals, the Boston Celtics. So how has he been received so far?
“Other than the humidity, everything’s been great,” he said, sporting his Iverson-inspired cornrows. “It’s been genuine love and I appreciate that.”
After those classic battles, Thomas has endured two years of DNPs and rehab, sitting out back-to-backs and barely competing on an NBA-level court. He is currently nursing a ligament he tore in his thumb during a pick-up game with his new teammates. He will be out 6-8 weeks, but this even more so cements a hunger for a big year.
Coach Scott Brooks, entering his fourth year in the nation’s capital, said that outside from Beal and the young center Thomas Bryant, the Wizards’ starting lineup is open. With a heavy dose of talent and personalities drafted and signed in Sheppard first summer, this team will be looking to establish a new culture – something that’s been the franchise’s Achilles’ heel for ages. There will be around ten new players on the Wiz bench this year. These include former all-stars and career rotation guys, but there’s one thing that C.J. Miles, Moritz Wagner, Davis Bertans and co. have in common: they play smart basketball.
“We have a bunch of high-character, high-IQ guys,” said Brooks, praising the new on-and-off-court changes. In his time coaching Washington, the Wizards have gone from a team poised to run the Eastern Conference to an expected lottery team. With a fresh perspective on basketball operations and the marriage of Monumental Sports’ teams (Mystics, Go-Go, etc.), we are witnessing that culture shift that precedes a winning franchise.
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