With last night’s win over the Nets, the Wizards survived to live one more day in relevance; they survived to have at least one more fighting chance of miraculously crawling into that final playoff spot; they survived to further extend false hope that they still matter.
John Wall sat out the latest ‘must-win’ contest of the season with what was basically described as random swelling in his knee. This was either a scheme by the Wizards to subtly throw in the towel on a wasted season by risking Wall’s absence (which is acceptable), or a ploy to rest Wall while assuming the Nets are shitty enough for them to overcome with Ramon Sessions running the floor (also acceptable). The latter ended up being the case, as the Nets were indeed shitty enough to get blasted by the Wizards by 18 points despite Wall’s absence, spurred by Sessions’ Wall-esque stat line of 18 points and 13 assists.
Heading into the final four games of the season, two elements control the Wizards’ playoff destiny: they need to win out and the Pistons need to lose out. After Detroit’s win in Orlando last night, both of these controlling elements conjoin tomorrow at The Palace when the Wizards visit the Pistons. Yup, we are 79 games into the season and after repeat failures to close the gap in the standings or to reach over .500, the Wizards have still managed to put themselves in super-must-win position, perhaps a position they’ll be in for the last time this season. For one night, the Wizards will truly control their destiny. One win over Detroit kills two birds, or at least it’ll clip their wings.
So how will the Wizards approach this uber-important game with its dramatically high stakes and super-strong playoff implications? Will they opt to keep Wall out again and continue living on a “whatever happens happens” basis? Will Wall fight any suggestions of sitting out and try to soldier his way to fight for his city? You know, he is going up against that one ‘overpaid’ point guard who plays for the Pistons. Folding in the face of that sort of competition could create a sense of acrimony for Wall, especially if Jackson gloats about it like he’s gloated about other things.
As for some of the other Wizards players, they’re not ready to fold, no way, no how. Otto Porter and Ramon Sessions are looking to “put pressure” on Detroit. Bradley Beal expressed a clear #SadPandaFace last night when a reporter brought up the Pistons win during his post-game interview. He also expressed hope that a win over the Pistons tomorrow night would ‘buzz’ them enough to drop their final two games:
— Hoop District (@HoopDistrictDC) April 7, 2016
The hope instilled in the players may certainly be real, and you certainly can’t knock on them for having some. But reality trumps hope, and the reality in DC is that the Wizards must literally defy every Vegas odd and have every star in the galaxy align accordingly for them to achieve a playoff berth. They would also need to accomplish this with John Wall ailing. And they would be accomplishing this for what? Regardless of how the final days of the regular season pan out, the immediate future of the franchise remains inevitable. By July, we will be seeing merely a shell of this team exist. We will be seeing Ernie Grunfeld continue to manage basketball operations in an offseason full of critical tasks, which will hopefully include filling a head coaching vacancy. We will not be seeing any draft picks doe! The last thing we need to see is for this offseason to be prefaced by our broken leader trying to spearhead a meaningless pursuit of playoff success, only to be battered by LeBron James and the Cavs en route to a first round exit. No thanks.
There is really nothing left of this season. Let’s stop acting there is.