ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith doesn’t hold back in terms of the viciousness of his critiques. Earlier in the week, he addressed national television, claiming the Washington Wizards were the league’s biggest disappointment at the NBA’s halfway mark. “I’m so sick of these people,” Smith began his rant. “What have the Washington Wizards done to think they’ve arrived?” The AFRO’s Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley took his question to mind in this week’s debate. Is Smith correct?.
Washington Wizards players Jhon Wall, Otto Porter, Jr., Markieff Morris, Bradley Beal, and Marcin Gortat. (AP Photo)
Riley: I have to agree with Smith’s assessment. I’ve been watching this team all season and there’s no greater frustration in the NBA than the Wizards. The team can’t seem to get it right, whether it’s in free agency, trades or late round drafting. Selecting Bradley Beal and John Wall at the top of their draft classes were no-brainers, but championship teams are formed through so many different avenues that Washington can’t seem to navigate. The team still doesn’t play defense and they have yet to find a suitable backup point guard and these have been reoccurring themes for the last few seasons. Unless some miracle trade happens or Otto Porter Jr. transforms into Scottie Pippen, the Wizards will be back on the couch again come late May/early June.
Green: I expected the Wizards to make the playoffs this year and make some noise in the postseason. So far, they’re in fifth place in Eastern Conference standings with a 25-18 overall record, which is on pace to reach the playoffs, so they can’t be a disappointment to me. Teams that have actual championship aspirations like Cleveland and Oklahoma City have been bigger letdowns, in my opinion. I’m still giving the Thunder a pass until they gel fully, but the LeBron James’ Cavs doesn’t resemble any type of unit that’s capable of beating Golden State and that should be a disappointment to their fans. The Cavs were stampeded last June and are playing worst ball than what they did last year. Add in the fact that the Cavs are essentially playing for a semblance of hope that James will re-sign next season and they’re barely in the top three, record wise, in their own conference. Thus in my opinion the Cavs appear to be the biggest letdown in the NBA thus far.
Riley: Whatever Cleveland’s fate , one thing that fans and players, alike, can say is that the team experienced a championship just a few seasons ago. James has already done more in his three-year return to Cleveland than the city has ever experienced in the history of the town’s professional sports. Washington, on the other hand, has continued to experience disappointment after disappointment despite being in one of the most prestigious cities in the country. Washington hasn’t had anything to be excited about except for dreams potential. Wall and Beal haven’t swayed the needle towards being competitive and they’ll likely endure another season of the same.
Green: How disappointed can you be when the expectations aren’t very high? Did anyone pick the Wizards to win the NBA title this year? I know I didn’t and you didn’t either, Riley. Cleveland, however, is a championship caliber unit with a sure fire Hall of Fame player leading the team. They’ve got another Hall of Famer coming off the bench in Dwyane Wade, yet they’re in third place in the East with a 26-16 record. That’s right—they only have one more win than the “disappointing” Wizards. Anything below average or slightly better is a letdown for LeBron. This could be his last season in Cleveland and the team is playing with no urgency and zero effort. They were dominated, 4-1, in last June’s Finals matchup and with theway they’re currently playing, they’ll be lucky if they’re not swept should they even make it back to the Finals.