Another Wizards season comes to an end tonight in Chicago. On the surface, it doesn’t look much different than any of the desultory season finales that have taken place over the past four years, with Washington playing out the string of a sub-30-win campaign while jockeying for lottery position.
A closer look, however, reveals that the 2012-13 season is ending with something long-suffering Wizards fans have been clamoring for — hope.
Yes, Washington is staggering to the finish, having lost five straight games, but over the second half of the season the Wizards showed the kind of promise and potential that may finally signal the rebirth of the franchise.
“We’ve seen what we can do with a full complement of players,” coach Randy Wittman said. “For us, that’s important. We’ve seen a lot of positive things with a healthy group, and that’s encouraging.”
Injuries plagued the Wizards this year, whether it was big man Nene, rookie guard Bradley Beal or former No. 1 pick John Wall. But when they all — or at least two of the three — played together, the results showed a team capable of playing with the NBA’s best.
Without Wall, who is only 22 years old, the Wizards were 5-28, including the 0-12 start that essentially doomed the season. With the point guard, Washington is 24-24, and playing .500 ball in the Eastern Conference is usually good enough to make the playoffs.
The Wizards also showed an impressive ability to play well against the league’s best, posting victories against Miami, Oklahoma City, New York and Denver while finishing with 22 home wins.
“We want to make home a very special place and make it very hard to come in here and win,” forward Martell Webster said. “Sometimes it’s difficult when you look into the stands against some of the top teams and see a lot more of the opponent’s jerseys than our own, but we love that. We fuel off of that.”
Webster was another bright spot for the Wizards this season. The eight-year vet is averaging a career-high in points (11.4 per game) while giving Washington a serious outside threat to go along with Beal.
As for the 19-year-old rookie from Florida, his year was filled with the typical ups and downs of a young player. Before being shelved by a stress injury to his right fibula, Beal averaged 13.9 points a game and won Eastern Conference rookie of the month honors in December and January.
“I’m very proud of what I was able to accomplish, the strides I’ve made,” Beal said. “I’m definitely satisfied with where I am now, but there’s a lot more work to do.”
The same can be said for the Wizards, who will add another young piece into the mix in the draft but will have to make tough offseason calls, particularly with Webster, who will be a free agent.
They’ll also have to get better at beating bad teams (the Wizards were 3-12 against the dregs of the East) and not blowing second-half leads. But the core appears to be there for next season, although right now, there’s one final pressing matter at hand.
“I want to win,” Wall said of tonight’s finale. “I want to get to 30 [wins].”
With or Without Wall
The Wizards have been a completely different team since point guard John Wall returned from a knee injury on Jan. 12.
Points per game: 89.24
Points allowed per game: 97.24
Longest winning streak: 1 game
Longest losing streak: 12 games
Points per game: 95.98
Points allowed per game: 94.75
Longest winning streak: 4 games
Longest losing streak: 5 games
The good, the bad and the ugly from the Washington Wizards’ 2012-13 season:
3: Teams that beat the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center this season. Since the Wizards won 112-108 in Denver on Jan. 18, the Nuggets haven’t lost at home — winning 22 straight.
0: Road victories for the Wizards against the three worst teams in the Eastern Conference — the Magic, Bobcats and Cavaliers. Washington was 0-6 on the road against the only three teams below them in the standings.
7: Wizards road wins all season. Only the Bobcats’ 6-35 record away from home is worse than Washington’s 7-33 mark. It’s the third-straight year the Wizards failed to reach double-digit wins on the road.