Washington celebrates past, looks to future
by Kevin Spain, USA TODAY Sports
On Saturday, the Washington professional basketball franchise will celebrate the 35th anniversary of the 1978 Bullets’ NBA championship.
They’ll honor the greats from that team like Wes Unseld and Elvin Hayes. They’ll hand out replicas of the championship rings and unveil a new championship banner.
But another reason for Wizards fans to leave with a good feeling is that this team, which has fallen on hard times for the most part since that championship, has reason for optimism starting next season.
Yeah, Washington has just 28 wins and will be in the draft lottery. But a look at those wins show the Wizards have been nothing if not giant killers.
They have beaten the Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder, New York Knicks, Denver Nuggets (twice), Memphis Grizzlies, Chicago Bulls (twice), Brooklyn Nets, Atlanta Hawks, Los Angeles Clippers, Atlanta Hawks, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks. If you notice anything about that list, those are teams headed to the playoffs (the Lakers are the one team on that list not guaranteed to make it, and if not, they can look back to that loss to the Wizards as a key reason why).
John Wall has turned into the player they wanted him to be. In his third season, he is averaging 17.6 points and 7.6 assists and the team has responded to his presence in the lineup. Since his return from a stress injury to his left patella on Jan. 12, the Wizards are 23-19, the fifth best record in the East during that time.
Rookie Bradley Beal, who will miss the rest of the season with a fibula stress injury in his lower right leg, averaged 13.9 points, and if he and Wall come back healthy to start next season, they form a backcourt that will give the Wizards more than enough to compete for years to come.… [For more on Washington celebrates the past, but can look to future, click here.]