Nearly two months into the 2011-2012 National Basketball Association season, it’s clear the Washington Wizards are headed for another lottery selection as they dwell at the bottom of the NBA at 2-13.

So at this point, fans, and perhaps upper management, are just looking for signs of life as another ruined campaign carries on. Washington failed to play with passion in the early goings of the year but it appears the team has finally found some pride after an effort-filled week. The AFRO recaps the week that was for the Washington Wizards.

Jan. 16: Wizards 106 -Houston 114—
On Martin Luther King Day, the Wizards weren’t able to give the local fans at the Verizon Center a victory but they certainly entertained. And nothing was more entertaining than center JaVale’s McGee’s off-the-glass dunk that couldn’t ignite his teammates but did ignite the ire of head coach Flip Saunders, “That’s unacceptable. Maybe I’m too old school,” Saunders said after he benched McGee for the final nine minutes of the game. “Save that for the All-Star game. We have some players that look for highlights instead of substance.”

With McGee on the bench and the Wizards in a 19-point hole, guard John Wall (career-high 38 points) did everything he could to put Washington in position for their second win of the season. But a leaky Wizards defense couldn’t slow the hot-shooting Rockets. Wall scored 18 points in the final quarter and added eight assists and four steals.

Jan. 18: Wizards 105 – Oklahoma City 102— In a battle of “worst vs. first,” the Wizards gave the Western Conference’s best team their best game. Guards Wall, Nick Young and reserve Jordan Crawford combined for 67 points. The Thunder were led by Kevin Durant (33 points) and Russell Westbrook (36 points) but got little from the rest of their teammates as Washington battled back from an 11-point deficit in the second half. Durant, a local favorite at the Verizon Center, received plenty of cheers as the Suitland, Md. native gave his loyal fans a show. But late in the game with the Thunder trailing by three points, Durant’s long range attempt bounced off the back of the rim as the Wizards celebrated.

Wall added eight assists and seven rebounds and Young shot 5-of-10 from long range as the Wizards turned in arguably their best effort of the season.

Jan. 20 Wizards 104- Denver 108— The Wizards continued their home stand against the surging Nuggets and gave one of the NBA’s best teams all they could handle in a valiant effort. Washington outscored Denver 37-27 in the first quarter but couldn’t maintain the offensive efficiency as they tallied just 44 points over the next two quarters. Nuggets reserve forward Al Harrington scored a game-high 29 points while Wall fell a rebound shy of recording his first triple double of the year, finishing with 13 points, 10 assists, nine rebounds and three blocks. Six players scored in double figures for the Wizards.

Weekly Wrap up: Washington fell to 2-13 after the loss to the Nuggets but players continue to insist that the team is better than what the record shows. McGee’s benching after his stunt in the Rockets game showed that Saunders is fed up with player foolishness. Critical observers close to the team continue to cite immaturity and senses of entitlement to why Washington has gotten off to a slow start. Saunders’ reprimand appears to have gotten the team’s attention as they have played good, competitive basketball ever since.


Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO