Is it me, or does it really feel like stakes are abnormally high for the Wizards this early in the season? Maybe that’s how the mind sways when your starting point guard is an aspiring MVP candidate, or when your top scorer, a 22 year old who’s gradually sculpting himself into a superstar, is suddenly playing in a ‘contract season’. I’ll tell you what it is that’s really got me buzzed, though: it’s the spill of serious early season matchups against serious contending teams. You know, the ones that require satisfactory results in order to start turning heads and garnering real respect from fans and media that don’t normally care for the Wizards. After a nice jog in Orlando and Milwaukee, the Wizards tripped on a stump against the Knicks, and now find themselves facing a series of Saw traps, starting with the Spurs in town tonight. On tap for the rest of the week? Another back-to-back on the road with stops in Boston and Atlanta, followed by the KD Bowl on Tuesday of next week – perhaps the last one its kind. So yeah, the magnitude of feelings is already real just three games into an 82-game joyride. Let’s embrace it.
Of course, unlike real Saw traps, this isn’t a total make-or-break stretch for the Wizards in terms of the season’s long haul. If they struggle and lose, they’ll have a chance to soul-search, maybe seek a palm reader or find some solace at a liberal massage parlor. And we will weep until we have forgotten. Winning, however, over teams that are comprised of cool players like Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant; Kawhi Leonard or anyone else wearing a Spurs jersey would set a whole new tone for the season. Avenging a playoff loss in Atlanta? Bet the players wouldn’t mind having that on their conscience going forward (I’m still trying to think of why beating the Celtics would feel good but I really can’t).
The Wizards offense, though showing it can work, is still keeping us on a need-to-know basis.
*Channels in inner Hubie Brown*
You love the pace of the game and you love the number of high percentage shots that it creates. Still, there are far too many turnovers and that’s something that needs to be corrected.
I know, I sound just like him.
Okay, here’s another impression. The Jigsaw doll:
*Let’s play a game.”
(or a few)
The Wizards were brutally handled by Carmelo on Saturday night, who was then brutally handled by Kawhi Leonard on Monday night, who now faces Otto Porter and Bradley Beal and basically any Wizard he’s sharing the floor with tonight. That’s right. The San Antonio freakin’ Spurs are already in town. Can Beal’s surge overcome Kawhi? Do the Wizards understand that an overabundance of turnovers against the Spurs means they might as well offer their spouses to them as well if they care to be so giving? The Spurs will surgically fragment the Wizards with every opportunity they’re given. The Wizards average just around 18 turnovers per game. That’s an extra quarter’s worth of points the Wizards could possibly spot the Spurs, when they actually need to allow a quarter’s less. Beating the Spurs will be the first step for the Wizards to generate at least more than 45-second SportsCenter highlight segment not about the opposing team. Difficulty of Saw Trap: diving into a large pit of needles.
On Saturday night, the Wiz face the Atlanta Hawks. The last time they played in that stadium would be their last road season of their season. This creates serious implications. It is very likely that the Atlanta Hawks will be very good again this season. Though not always touted as an ultimate Eastern Conference threat, they’re 4-1 despite Kyle Korver sucking. John Wall beat this Atlanta team on the road with five broken bones in his hand in May and on Saturday, he’ll be a more healthy and a lot different John Wall. Making some early noise by toppling the Hawks at home will have the Wizards namedropped in most basketball conversations, but trending on a largely tough basketball Twitter is still uncertain. We’ll try to help that. Difficulty of Saw Trap: the razor box trap.
Then there’s the OKC game at Verizon on November 10, another fairly surprising early season matchup. This will be a nationally televised game and, per usual, it will spotlight the now-very annoying #KD2DC campaign. This will be the last time Durant plays an organized professional basketball game in his home city before he makes the decision on where he’ll play next in his NBA career. But let’s look past the inevitable side show. Anxiety created from this game is how in the name of any deity you worship will the Wizards overcome a brutal double-headed colossus in Westbrook and Durant? We’re talking about a duo that has the propensity to score close to 100 points in a game ALONE. The answer to this equation does not require long division but does require revisiting the concept and art of defending. A win over the OKC Thunder will create arguments against those that argue against the Wizards. Difficulty of Saw Trap: reverse bear trap.
In the past, wins like these were considered flukes and were uncommon to be replicated. Wins like these today, in this era of Wizards basketball, would be measures of proven growth and legitimacy. Moreover, it will catapult this team into a new stratosphere of confidence. Luckily Bradley Beal knows this: