The Washington Wizards are currently sitting in the fifth spot of the Eastern Conference with a 21-19 record. Despite having one of the best backcourts in the league in John Wall and Bradley Beal, the Wizards always remain stuck in the abyss of the Eastern Conference.
Things have certainly looked up for the organization known as the Chicago Packers, when founded in 1961. After moving from Chicago to Baltimore the team found a home in Washington. From 1974 through 97 the team was named the Washington Bullets and even won an NBA Championship in 1978.
The name became too violent for owner Abe Pollin, thus he announced the team would change their name. After hosting a contest, the team became known as the Washington Wizards on May 15, 1997. As the team changed their name, the product on the court became pretty awful. The team would begin a postseason drought.
A positive for the Wizards was Michael Jordan decided to play for them, which created a buzz; however, during his three seasons, the team won no more than 37 games. Things changed when the organization signed former Golden State Warrior point guard, Gilbert Arenas. The three-time NBA All-Star, nicknamed “Agent Zero”, played for the organization from 2003-2010.
In 2005, Arenas led the team to their first playoff berth since 1997. He averaged 25.5 points and 2.24 steals per game. The Wizards made the playoffs for four consecutive seasons; however, never made it past the first round in three of the four appearances. Because of his success with the team, Arenas signed a six year, 111 million deal with the Wizards on July 13, 2008.
Then the Agent Zero era took an ugly turn both on and off the court. From 2008-10 the team posted a combined 45-119 record. On Jan. 1, the New York Post reported Arenas and teammate, Javaris Crittenton, drew guns on each other during a dispute over a gambling debt. Arenas proceeded to make light of the situation five days later by pretending to point two guns in a team huddle before a game against the Philadelphia 76ers.
NBA commissioner David Stern wasn’t amused and suspended both players indefinitely without pay, which would, become the entire season. Arenas’ career never recovered and he was traded to the Orlando Magic midseason in 2010-11. Many have considered Arenas’ deal one of the worst in NBA history.
The team lost their star point guard and struggled to win games. Not all was lost in 2010, as the future began to look brighter for the organization. They selected Kentucky Guard John Wall with the first overall pick. Things didn’t immediately click for the young guard as during his first three seasons, the team combined for a 72-158 record. Following this, the Wizards made two consecutive Eastern Conference Semifinals appearances.
The organization has come a long way from being one of the NBA’s bottom dwellers. They even changed their logo and color scheme in 2015.
This season, Wall, a three time All-Star, is averaging a career high in points, 22.9 and steals with 2.2 per game. His running mate, Beal is also having a career year averaging 22.5 points and 3.5 assist per game. Washington has added key players through the draft. They selected Otto Porter, 23, third overall in the 2013 NBA Draft and Kelly Oubre Jr, 21, in 2015. During the 2016 season, the Wizards acquired Markieff Morris, 27, from the Phoenix Suns.
With youth spread throughout the roster the young Wizards should be molding into contenders for a top spot in the Conference. Yet, Wizard fans are left scratching their heads. As the team continues to struggle getting over the hump.
The Wizards are still young and have plenty of time to develop into a championship contender. They should however evolve quickly because one day it could all instantly disappear like magic.
Sources: Fox Sports, Basketball-Reference, ESPN, New York Post, Washington Post