The Washington Wizards are depressingly bad

Mike Wise
Columnist November 27, 2012

This is depressing. No, this is beyond depressing.

On Craigslist, a Wizards season-ticket holder is essentially giving away his tickets for free. “I am selling my two Wizards tickets tonight at $20 each,” the ad read. “If the Wizards do not beat the Spurs, I will refund your money.”

Mike Wise is a sports columnist for The Washington Post. View Archive

A 26-point shellacking by San Antonio Monday night cost him $40. Provided the Wizards lose to Miami on Tuesday, when his two seats are on sale for $300 apiece, he will be another cool $600 out of pocket.

But, hey, at least he does not have to go watch in person.

My friend Charles Barkley, with “Sweet Georgia Brown” whistling in the background, again resorted to calling the District’s quasi-NBA team “The Washington Generals” Monday night on TNT, referring to the Globetrotters’ foil.

“You want to call them, Bullets, Wizards. I call ’em the Washington Generals,” Barkley said. “Hey, that’s my man Meadowlark Lemon out there!”

Cold but true. When Andray Blatche, Nick Young and JaVale McGee were here to kick around, at least the Wizards were comically bad, worth a Not Top 10 highlight of Nick’s over-the-backboard layup or JaVale not realizing his team was still on offense as he ran back on defense.

Now, at 0-12 and counting, they’re just bad — really bad.

Phil Chenier, a member of the only NBA championship team in Washington, recently did a commercial for a Wizards lottery scratcher. Does anyone really think the Wizards’ scratch-off will lead to economic prosperity? What’s next, the Mortgage Crisis scratch-off? Fiscal Cliff Power Ball?

The Wizards actually won the lottery in 2010, drafting Kentucky freshman John Wall No. 1 and thrusting the Ted Leonsis Era forward on a supposed course of promise and a return to the playoffs.

But now it’s almost 2013. Wall is hurt, his return scheduled sometime for December. Nene has plantar fasciitis and had to be sat down after playing just two games. What remains is A.J. Price, Martell Webster, Jordan Crawford, Cartier Martin, Chris Singleton, two high-priced, underachieving veterans in Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza and Jan Vesely, the sixth overall pick in the 2011 draft whose stat line after 12 games included a 34-foul-to-29-point ratio.

This was Leonsis the day the Wizards were told they had the third draft pick last spring: “Unacceptable,” he said, referring to the Wizards not making the playoffs again. Leonsis seemed to indicate heads like Ernie Grunfeld’s would roll if the team president did not assemble at least an 8th-seeded roster in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

But Leonsis backed off slightly in an interview I did with him a couple months later. “I won’t be happy with our plan if we’re back in the lottery,” he said. “If we just miss making a playoff spot, no, the world is not going to end. If we’re picking third because we have the second-worst record, no, I will not be happy.”

This was Ted at training camp this year: “We would all find it unacceptable if we finished with the second- or third-worst record in the NBA this year. That would be a failure and the failure would start with me.”

Ted is not talking right now. If he did, he would tell you to be patient.

If Verizon Center was set ablaze and smoke was billowing through the arena, Ted would tell you to be patient, that hockey is just around the corner.

Okay. In the organization’s defense, neither Wall nor Nene has taken the floor yet together this season.

Given that all those players were acquired for the purpose of surrounding the team’s point guard and center, the healthy Wizards are doing jobs they weren’t brought here to do.

Most of the starters at the moment are bit-part players on any playoff team. Some would be cut.

It’s why I won’t truly judge Grunfeld or Coach Randy Wittman until Wall and Nene return completely healthy together. If in the 20 games after that the Wizards are 3-17, then there are no alibis left. Everyone needs to go. The truck must be backed up.

And yet, I didn’t think it would be this bad.

Most mock draft Web sites have the Wizards taking Cody Zeller, the Indiana sophomore center, at No. 1 next spring. Some like Shabazz Muhammad at UCLA. But how sobering, no, that it’s only December and Washington has been pegged as the team most likely to have enough ping-pong balls in the draft lottery to secure the first pick again?

Some fans are hoping for 0-19 so the Wizards can set the record for worst start to an NBA season, the logic being that it’s one thing to be bad but it’s another to be considered historically bad. Besides, the thinking goes, that’s when real change will come about.

But 0-19 would mean more depression for me and most hoopheads from the District. It would mean three years after John Wall was drafted, nothing has changed.

I’m tired of seeing the Wizards lose. There is less outrage now in the arena than a general sense of apathy, a sense that things aren’t getting better anytime soon.

And when people stop caring, when season-ticket holders will pay other people to watch the team lose instead of seeing the carnage for themselves, well, that’s when you have real problems as an owner.

For Mike Wise’s previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/wise.

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