The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Ted Leonsis wants to see .500 basketball for the rest of this season

The injuries that have repeatedly derailed this Wizards season have also made it tough to know what the goals should be.

Last spring, owner Ted Leonsis said it would be “unacceptable” if his team missed the playoffs this season.

“I won’t be happy with our plan if we’re back in the lottery,” he told Mike Wise in July. “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.”

“We would all find it unacceptable if we finished with the second- or third-worst record in the NBA this year,” Leonsis said in October, after the injuries to John Wall and Nene. “That would be a failure and the failure would start with me.”

Then the Wizards got off to a horrific start. Indeed, as of this writing, they still have the worst record in the NBA. But since Wall returned, giving them a pretty much complete roster, the Wizards have gone 4-3. And in doing so, they’ve looked like an exciting, hard-working, competitive team.

So, what is a realistic goal moving forward, a benchmark for something other than failure? Leonsis recently suggested it was a .500 mark.

“I really want to see what the team can do,” he told WRC’s Dan Hellie last week, on the day of the Caps’ open practice at Verizon Center. “And we obviously have to add to the team, bring more talent in. We can do that through the draft, we can do that through trades and free agency.

“I did think we could compete and be a .500 kind of team, and if we had played .500 we’d be in the playoffs right now, or at least the playoff hunt. So I’d like to see us play .500, playoff-caliber like basketball for the next 45 games, 48 games, whatever’s left this year, and just see what we’ve got.

“Yeah, it’s been disappointing, but now we see John, and we see what he’s capable of. But he can only play 20 minutes. We’ve got to ease him back in. And Nene’s just up to 25 minutes. So we are playing a lot better, but I really want to see what the team’s like when everyone’s healthy, [when] we add another piece here or there. And my bet is that going into the rest of the year, that we’ll be much improved, and we can have a lot of upside for our next season.”

The Wizards have 42 games left. A 21-21 split would give them a final record of 30-52. That would be Washington’s best finish since making the playoffs in the spring of 2008.