Take a stroll along 7th and F streets and it’s impossible to miss the huge sign along the side of Verizon Center that reads, “The Wall Is Returning.” But NBA fans would surely be disappointed as they move closer because “The Wall” has nothing to do with the Wizards electrifying but locked-out point guard John Wall.
And for now, no member of the Wizards’ roster will get any sort of recognition inside or outside the Phone Booth. Since July 1, the images and names of Wizards players have been blacked out and redacted until further notice. They’ve been stripped from the side of the building, taken down from the walls near the locker room. Their presence is felt, minimally, only in the merchandise section of the team’s Web site.
The concourse inside the arena is filled with pictures of Capitals, Mystics and Bullets. Yes, Bullets. Not Wizards. Mixed in with posters of Alex Ovechkin, Mike Green and Alana Beard, you can find Wes Unseld, Elvin Hayes, Phil Chenier, Rick Mahorn and Jeff Ruland. Part of the arena is in 2011, the other in 1981.
Signs and posters along the walls are covered in red, white and blue, so there aren’t even any pictures of retired Wizards in those bronze and blue uniforms anywhere.
Images of all of the Wizards’ logos – the new red, white and blue sorcerer; the Washington Monument on the basketball; and the dc – now occupy the spots near the locker room where oversized pictures of Wall, Andray Blatche, JaVale McGee, Nick Young and Trevor Booker once hung.
The lockout is 125 days and running, with no stop in sight. Center stage has been taken by multiple reports of friction and in-fighting within the players’ union, resulting in a flurry of leaked letters to players from executive director Billy Hunter and president Derek Fisher reassuring players that they are committed to them while urging players to stay strong. Fisher is also seeking a retraction on the FoxSports.com report that he has negotiated a side deal with NBA Commissioner David Stern for a 50-50 split. Stern has denied those claims.
There has also been the first sign of dissension amongst the 29 owners with Miami Heat owner Mickey Arison receiving a reported $500,000 fine for at least creating the perception that some owners are more committed to getting a great deal than getting back on the court. An angry fan called owners “greedy pigs” and Arison responded, “You’re barking at the wrong owner.”
No meetings have been scheduled, and instead of players being on the court, USA Today is reporting the NBA and National Basketball Players Association will be in a New York district court room on Wednesday. The two sides will argue the league’s complaint filed in August that the union wasn’t negotiating in good faith. The union is attempting to have the complaint dismissed.
On the night before the Wizards’ supposed home debut, the Capitals were pulling out a dramatic, comeback, 5-4 overtime win over the Anaheim Ducks. Fans inside were too giddy, and some perhaps intoxicated, to care that there wouldn’t be basketball played any day this month at Verizon Center.
Although games against the Nets and Orlando Magic have been canceled this week, there’s a good chance that a few Wizards will make their way to the arena this week – on Thursday, as paying customers for the Kanye West and Jay-Z “Watch the Throne” concert.