As everyone knows, Wizards majority owner Ted Leonsis asked Pollin, widow of late owner Abe Pollin, to represent the team in last year’s lottery, and she ended a long line of ping-pong ball hell for the Wizards by coming home with the No. 1 pick. The franchise used it in the June draft to select Wall as the cornerstone of their rebuilding project.
Wall, who with teammate Jordan Crawford was selected to model the Wizards’ new uniforms Tuesday at the Verizon Center practice court, said he knew exactly what Mrs. Pollin had accomplished, and he’s already feeling the heat.
“Oh yeah, there’s a lot of pressure,” Wall said. “She took that yellow jacket and the ring, so I’m probably going to ask, can I borrow the yellow jacket, then I’m going to ask to find something from my mom, some pearls or something, something unique, so I can try to get a win like she did.”
To be clear, John Wall: You’re going to dress like Mrs. Pollin for the NBA draft lottery?
“Yeah, I gotta try something close to it,” he said.
Well, John Wall is in luck. Mrs. Pollin is on board with the whole idea. “I’d loan him the yellow jacket,” she said Tuesday night, and after thinking a moment, added, “I would lend the ring, too.”
Because it was her husband’s 1978 championship ring, there is one stipulation, however: “I’d staple it to his body,” Mrs. Pollin said.
So the ball is in Wall’s court now. He doesn’t even need the pearls. Boy, it’s hard not to like that kid.
It’s hard not to like the Wizards’ new uniforms, either. The red, white and blue color scheme was a foregone conclusion, even before guests at Tuesday’s festivities were greeted by a sea of red, white and blue balloons in the hallway. This team has gone through more color schemes than Lady Gaga over the years, and with about the same success: navy and orange; red, white and blue; blue, black, white and bronze; gold and black; black and bronze. But the Wizards’ one NBA title came in red, white and blue (albeit 33 years ago).
“I’m very, very comfortable that Washington, D.C., should have a motif that’s red, white and blue and should pay appropriate homage and respect to the past, to the tradition, to what the Pollin family built but also have that modern twist of what we want to accomplish as a group together,” Leonsis said.
One modern twist: The words on the jerseys are lowercase, which may be a nod to Twitter and e-mail and the slow erosion of capital letters in our online world — or it may just look good. (Or, perhaps, the folks around Verizon Center don’t want to think about Capitals these days.) In any case, the “wizards” on the white home jersey and the “washington” on the red road jersey are both lower case, as is the “dc” logo. The upstroke of the “d” ends with a hand reaching for a ball, which is also a tribute to an old Bullets logo.
There is also a star on the side of the shorts and, we’re assured, a small “w” as well. When Greg Bibb, the Wizards’ executive vice president of business operations, pointed out this feature, Wall and Crawford leaned down and began searching for it — to the delight of the crowd of Wizards employees and season ticket holders, as well as members of the Bullets-Wizards alumni association.
Sadly, the old Wizard logo, which I’ve never cared for, remains, but it’s been colorized. And it is not on either jersey, happily. Two new logos have been added, however: The lowercase “dc” logo is also a standalone, as is one other new logo — a basketball that includes the Washington Monument and a star. In the end, of course, these are cosmetic changes; who ends up inside the new jerseys is far more important than their appearance. The Wizards won just 23 games last season, and it’s going to take some more draft lottery magic to turn this franchise around in a hurry.
“The jerseys and the look and feel that we show you will look even better when we’re a really, really good team,” Leonsis said.
What you don’t see in all this Bullets redux is the word “Bullets.” Reverting to the former nickname was nothing more than a dream, although longtime fans held out hope almost to the end. However, Gilbert Arenas’s behavior two seasons ago ended even the faintest hopes that the Bullets would be back. Wish all you want, but that nickname is history.
Besides, it would be out of character for Leonsis to disrespect Abe Pollin’s wishes in such a manner, especially when he’s counting on Irene Pollin to help rebuild the franchise. Or at least an Irene look-alike. Asked if he would consider sending Mrs. Pollin again this year, perhaps with Wall, Leonsis paused and said: “Irene? I don’t know. I have to talk to her.”
He’d better hurry. Once she hears about Wall’s wardrobe plans, no way she’ll want to go. No woman wants to show up at a party wearing the same outfit as her date.