John Wall made the improbable possible in the Wizards’ 96-93 victory on Friday night with an incredible, over-the-shoulder, circus flip shot that’s difficult to describe and will be even harder to duplicate. But after leading the Wizards to their third consecutive victory to push their record to 19-19, Wall now puts himself in a position to accomplish another feat that has evaded him ever since he was drafted first overall in 2010.
Wall has played 222 career games and has never had a winning record, the third-longest streak for a No. 1 overall pick behind former Maryland star Joe Smith (241) and Michael Olowakandi (227). That certainly isn’t the most distinguished trio to be a part of, but the former top choice in fourth place on the list is currently in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and has a name that continues to resonate in Washington.
Former Georgetown star Patrick Ewing didn’t have a winning record attached to his name until after he had played 199 career games for the New York Knicks. So there is still some hope for Wall’s career going forward after being stuck in a pit of putridity for so long.
Wall certainly couldn’t be blamed for last season, with the Wizards spotting him a 5-28 record before he made his season debut from a stress injury in his left fibula, but the woeful record of the franchise has been hard to shake.
The Wizards haven’t had a non-losing record this late in the season since 2008, when the team was 21-17 after 38 games. They’ve won three in a row for the third time this season. Now comes the difficult part. With the Detroit Pistons in town on Saturday, the Wizards will have yet another chance to get above .500 this season and Wall, like many of his teammates, is trying to think about it.
The past three times they were in this position, it didn’t end very well for the Wizards.
They lost the season opener to Detroit by 11 points on Oct. 30, Nene strained his right calf and then missed the next two games as Washington started the campaign 0-3.
After rallying to win seven of nine to get to 9-9, the Wizards had a prime opportunity to get over the hump on Dec. 6 with the Milwaukee Bucks, owners of the league’s worst record, at home. Instead, they blew a five-point lead with 54 seconds remaining in regulation and lost, 109-105, in overtime. Nene also aggravated an injury with his right Achilles’ tendon and Martell Webster sprained his ankle as the Wizards lost four in a row.
Washington again got back up to 14-14 and opened the new year at home against the Dallas Mavericks. The Wizards played one of the sloppiest games of the season and succumbed to a 17-5 run to end the game, losing 87-79. They lost the next two games.
“I think we get too anxious about it and too nervous and hyped and trying to finally get over it then we don’t come out and play the right way,” Wall said. “So the main thing for us is to try to stay focused. We’ll get some rest and come play a tough Detroit team that we know is coming to try to get another road win.”
When asked about how the Wizards will handle being back at .500 this time, Trevor Ariza decided that the best way is simply to just ignore it. “Got to keep the mentality that we’re not at .500, because every time we get here, we go down,” he said. “I didn’t hear your question. So we just forget about it.”
Trevor Booker, one of three Wizards who have been with the team since the start of the 2010-11 season, said the record is in the back of their minds and is anxious to finally take the franchise back above .500 for the first time since October 2009 — when Washington started the season, 2-1. That would require a third straight win over the Pistons, or at least winning the next two home games against Philadelphia and Boston if they falter on Saturday.
“We’re up for the challenge. Guys who have been here for the last three or four years, it would mean a lot for us to be over .500,” Booker said. “I want to be over .500. I haven’t been over .500 since I’ve been here.”