The Wizards and Celtics Are the Future of the Eastern Conference
The Washington Wizards and Boston Celtics squared off for the final time this regular season, with the Celtics taking the win at home, 110-102. With the loss, the Wizards’ push for the second seed in the Eastern Conference becomes that much more difficult, as they now trail the Celtics by two and a half games for the second spot. They also have just a one game cushion over the Raptors for the third seed. In addition to postseason seeding implications, the game between Boston and Washington represents a budding rivalry between the two franchises. Together, the two teams represent the future of the Eastern Conference. Budding stars like John Wall, Isaiah Thomas, Bradley Beal, and Marcus Smart take the court for two teams that don’t like each other. While the young guns of the Western Conference boast more star power, the grit of the Eastern Conference is evident in the rosters of Boston and Washington.
Earlier this season, Wizards’ and Celtics’ players had to separate each other as the result of a postgame incident involving John Wall and Jae Crowder. The Celtics won an intense game behind a fourth quarter scoring explosion, led by Isaiah Thomas’s twenty fourth quarter points. On the court after the game, Jae Crowder got up close and personal with John Wall. Crowder then asserted himself, and bopped John Wall on the nose. In a not so shocking turn of events, John Wall (being a grown man) did not appreciate being touched on the nose by another grown man, and attempted to slap Crowder across the face. A scuffle ensued, and the players had to be separated, but the incident was laughable. In any case, the incident shows the animosity and intense competition that has been brewing between the two teams. The rivalry between the Wizards and Celtics has quickly become one of the most intense rivalries in the league.
In their final meeting of the regular season, tensions flared once again. Midway through the second quarter, as the Celtics took the ball down the court, Brandon Jennings stopped in Terry Rozier’s path. Rozier did not appreciate that, and pushed straight through Jennings, sending him tumbling to the hardwood. Both players were assessed technical fouls for their involvement. This kind of incident has become commonplace when the Wizards and Celtics play each other, and it’s a good thing. When two teams dislike each other, there’s a reason for it. It’s rooted in a sense of mutual respect. Rivalries don’t happen when teams are playing poorly. Rivalries are born when two good teams play each other for the same prize. With the Wizards and Celtics both becoming playoff contenders, we are witnessing the birth of a rivalry.
Furthermore, it’s become clear that neither of these teams are going anywhere anytime soon. Both teams are among the youngest in the conference. The players on the Wizards and Celtics have an average age of 25.8 and 25.6 respectively. When compared to other title contenders like the Spurs (29.1), Cavaliers (29.7), and Warriors (28.1), it becomes clear that the two teams are built to contend well into the future.
In addition to the youth in their rosters, the teams are helmed by two head coaches who bring a winning culture into the organization. Brad Stevens, in his first NBA coaching job, has successfully rebuilt a Celtics franchise that is now well ahead of schedule. When the Celtics stole Stevens away from Butler University, there was apprehension regarding his youth and ability to control a locker room. After a rough start to his professional coaching career, Stevens has improved his record every year, and turned the Celtics into a perennial playoff team.
The Celtics have lost in the first round of the playoffs each of the past two years, but this year is different. Led by Isaiah Thomas’s 29 points per game, the Celtics look to be more than a one and done in this year’s playoffs. The Celtics currently occupy the second seed in the Eastern Conference, and are being discussed as a serious threat to the Cavalier’s quest for a repeat championship. If a Finals appearance eludes the Celtics this year, it still seems a serious possibility for them in the near future.
Meanwhile, the Wizards future is just as bright. John Wall and Bradley Beal are 26 and 23, and are already one of the most dynamic backcourts in the league. Furthermore, the two guards are under contract until 2019 and 2021. Wall and Beal both have room to grow, and the sky seems to be the limit for both of them. This season, Wall has put up new career highs in points, assists, steals, and shooting percentage. This is also his third straight season where he’s averaged double digit assists. Additionally, Beal has put up a career high in points and minutes, and a new career high in minutes per game. There’s nowhere to go but up for the two young stars.
The addition of Scott Brooks as head coach has also proven to be an incredible acquisition for the Wizards. After leading the Thunder to six consecutive winning seasons, including a trip to the NBA Finals, Scott Brooks brought his winning ways to Washington D.C. In his first season in charge of the Wizards, the former Coach of the Year winner has led the team to a winning record, and the third seed in the Eastern Conference. After a .500 record last season, Brook’s impact has been felt. The Washington Wizards have been playing like a team, as opposed to a group of individual players. Last season, there was regular discussion of animosity between players, including between John Wall and Bradley Beal. But now, heading into the final stretch of the season, there’s been a welcome lack of drama in the Wizard’s locker room.
Despite all the positives for the team going into the future, even the most optimistic fan’s hopes should be tempered. After all, the Wizards play in D.C. Playoff collapses are the specialty of teams in the District. There hasn’t been an NBA championship brought back to D.C. since the Bullets brought home a championship in 1978. In fact, the team hasn’t been to an Eastern Conference Final, or NBA Final since 1978. The team was still called the Bullets then, and no player on the current roster was alive then.
The Wizards are a young team, with a solid head coach and a bright future. John Wall is an incredible talent who can average 20 points and ten assists for another ten years. Bradley Beal’s has found the ability to become a viable scoring option. Ultimately, the brightest part of the future is the possibilities. Washington can become a free agent destination. According to John Wall, Demarcus Cousins would be open to joining the Wizards in free agency. Behind the leadership of John Wall and Scott Brooks, the future is bright for the Washington Wizards,`