I moved to DC in 1990, and, although I was aware of the Bullets, my loyalty to the Detroit squad continued unabated. I was mildly entertained by the pairing of Chris Webber and Juwan Howard and the sight of Gheorghe Muresan lumbering into the picture after the team had used up half of the shot clock or blocking a shot without leaving the ground always amused, but otherwise I felt nothing for the local boys.
When we moved to Macedonia in 1997, the Bullets announced two things: that they were moving from Landover to the city center and that they were changing their name to the Wizards. Having lived for 5 years on Capitol Hill and worked at Metro Center I was a strong supporter of the move and an equally strong opponent of the name change. Not understanding the evil ways of marketing, I bought a hat and a t-shirt, thinking that the owner, who made the name change in response to gun violence in the District, would not allow the production of similarly themed merchandise (in reality, it probably increased the sale, as the Wizards immediately started wearing throwback jerseys and filling the team store with retro merch).
But 1997 was also the salad days of the web and the Washington Post (our homepage at the time), attempting to ramp up its internet presence, hired Michael Lee and Ivan Carter to cover the team. Their quality and comprehensive coverage, along with the horrible quality of television in Skopje, gave me an unprecedented look inside the organization, and I began to develop a relationship with the writers and the players.
Then the owner hired Michael Jordan to run the team, and, when he couldn't manage that, the legend decided to put on a Wizards jersey. I can remember going to a sellout game against the Timberwolves at Verizon Center, and the enthusiastic crowd was not at all demoralized by the fact that Michael muffed a dunk and the team was torched by a young Kevin Garnett and a then unknown guard named Chauncey Billups. The team could do no wrong, even though, in retrospect, they were actually doing everything wrong: jettisoning young players and hitching their wagon to an aging superstar who could no longer carry a team by himself.
But I was hooked, and, even the OG got into it, identifying Gallery Place as "Michael's stop" when we took the Red Line to work/day care at Unon Station.
Fast forward to today, when the new ownership has finally thrown off the vestiges of the Jordan era (as well as the subsequent rise and fall of Agent Zero) and turned the aircraft carrier around to begin providing a quality product again. We knew it was going to be a slow haul, but in John Wall and Nene, the team had a solid core, along with a number of young players with the potential to develop into decent teammates. But of course, injuries have submarined the 2012 season from the jump, and the lone bright spot thus far has been the fact that Kevin Seraphin seems to have developed a nice offensive game.
Well, Grantland puts me in the Total Perspective Vortex today, assessing the young Frenchman's game as part of its "Fate Worse than Death" series, where writers report on meaningless NBA games:
Seraphin doesn't move particularly well and he kind of plays like the poor man's Brandon Bass, who kind of plays like the poor man's Carlos Boozer, who's several dozen poor men removed from Karl Malone. Still, Wizards fans are excited about him, and rightly so, I guess, because he has a soft touch and one real post move.It hurts to read that, because I know it's true. I also know that there is scant hope of Jan Vesely, Bradley Beal or the other youngsters developing into anything other than NBA journeymen (and I wouldn't even bet on that) and that Nene and Wall's injuries loom as major obstacles to them becoming all stars, if that was even a possibility.
When you read team blogs and local press, you lose a little perspective on reality. It's nice, if painful, for an objective observer to reveal the illusions of your own confirmation bias, which prevents seeing things as they actually are. I'm not going to stop watching (yet) but I enjoyed watching Lebron send the Spurs home singlehandedly in the 4th Quarter last night on TNT. And I might seek out a little more quality in the many games on League Pass. But Wall is rumored to be two weeks away from the court, and supposedly he has developed a jump shot in the off-season...