But the Washington Wizards did everything they could to win with the power trio of Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler, and it just didn’t work. So they’ve scrapped everything—Butler’s now in Dallas, Jamison is in Cleveland, and Arenas is being pushed aside by the newer, flashier face of the franchise: John Wall. Change is coming to the nation’s capital.
2009-10 Record: 26-56 (fifth in Southeast Division, 14th in Eastern Conference, missed playoffs)
Celtics’ record vs. Wizards: 170-102 all time, 3-1 last season
Familiar faces: Hilton Armstrong (played at UConn)
Key additions: John Wall (No. 1 overall draft pick), Kirk Hinrich (traded from Bulls), Kevin Seraphin (Bulls draft pick, acquired in Hinrich deal), Yi Jianlian (traded from Nets), Hilton Armstrong (free agent), Hamady N’Diaye (Timberwolves draft pick acquired in trade)
Key losses: Mike Miller (signed with Heat), Randy Foye (signed with Clippers), Shaun Livingston (signed with Bobcats), Quinton Ross (sent to Nets in Jianlian deal), James Singleton (renounced, remains a free agent)
Burning question: How big an impact will Wall have right away?
NBA point guard and NFL quarterback—those are probably the two toughest jobs in pro sports to pick up. It takes years of hard work to hone your craft and rise to the top, even if you’re blessed with all the talent in the world.
So how good can Wall possibly be in his rookie season? He’s 19 years old, about to turn 20. He’s a boy going up against grown men every single night. And he’s expected to be the savior of an NBA franchise that desperately needs one.
Wall has more athleticism than quite possibly any other point guard in the league. But he’ll need some time to develop his game—making smart decisions with the basketball, scoring from all over the floor when he has to, defending against opposing point guards that are craftier and more experienced.
That won’t come overnight. And neither will the Wizards’ turnaround—they’re still a few years away from being a serious threat. This team will only go as far as Wall can take it, and at the moment, that’s not far.
But when Wall is Chris Paul’s age, the rest of the league had better look out.
2010-11 outlook: Let’s put it this way: If Wall and Arenas can quickly learn to peacefully coexist and share the ball, the Wizards will make a modest improvement upon their 26-win season last year. Thirty wins or maybe even 35 could be within their reach. But if that doesn’t happen, and Agent Zero eats away at the team’s chemistry on and off the floor, the Wiz are headed for trouble. That, and a long rebuilding phase with Wall as the centerpiece.
Did you know? Late Wizards owner Abe Pollin was a close personal friend of former Israeli prime minster Yitzhak Rabin. It was Rabin’s assassination, early in the 1995-96 basketball season, that prompted Pollin to change his team’s name from “Bullets” to the more politically correct “Wizards” name they use today.