Apr 30, 2014

The Sun Also Rises

In the years since Zards ALards! went dark, a lot has changed in the world (and if you're expecting a list of those changes, maybe two serious, one funny-ironic, head to Grantland (just kidding, please don't)). But one thing has remained unwaveringly constant. The Wizzles have sucked.

The degree to which the Zards have sucked is like the enormity of the universe, or the amount of time that has passed since its inception: extremely difficult to comprehend. Let's just say it's been severe and move along. This year's squad ambled out of the gate to a 2-7 start that had many Zards followers contemplating the void. Even after they rebounded, first to 9-9, later to 24-23 (going over .500 for the first time in John Wall's career. 238 games!), they rarely impressed. They stayed the Wiz as we've known them for the past six years. Uneven. Inconsistent. Frustrating. Occasionally rage-inducing.

Then the playoffs started. And friends, it has been a happy time.

The team we saw in the first round of the playoffs was the Platonic ideal of that regular season squad. They did almost no wrong. Trevor made every three. The other Trevor tipped out every board. John and Bradley rose to the moment splendidly. Even Nene's Game 3 ejection, the subsequent loss and his suspension only served to make Game 4's romp that much sweeter. Somehow the pressure cooker of playoff basketball, which has brought far greater teams to their knees, brought out only the Wizards' best.

It's easy now, amidst the euphoria, to forget a thing or two. With unbiased announcer and acclaimed basketball expert Steve Kerr proclaiming over and over that the Wiz were "obviously the better team", it's easy to forget the Wiz weren't picked to win this series. That the Bulls were not considered a good matchup. Too much heart, too much experience, too smart for Wall's simple tricks and Wittman's even simpler ones.

Or go back further, and forget how deeply the Gortat trade divided Wiz Nation and how widely it was panned by the rest of the league. "Why give up a lottery pick (in the best lottery in years!) for one year of a journeyman big and a first round playoff exit?" they asked, and within the ranks there were many who agreed.

Engage in all the revisionist history you'd like; we support anything that brings Zards fans together. Just don't, for one second, let that obscure how incredibly the Wiz Kids just played in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. They didn't beat the Bulls, they dismantled them. There are now exactly two teams who have passed into the second round. The Miami Heat. And the Washington Wizards. Not the Spurs, not the Thunder, not the Clippers. Enjoy that fully.

From here out the Wiz are playing with strictly house money. The Pacers are imploding and the Hawks look ripe for the picking, and if either team turns around and sweeps the Wiz, promise not to cry or scream or sulk, at least not for more than a day or two. For the faithful (and if you're reading these words, that's you) it may seem like ages since the Wiz have given us a reason to really care. But now, finally, they're doing it. Enjoy that too. It's been a long time coming.

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