November 3rd, 2009. Most likely, this date has no relevance to you at all. What this date really means, however, may hit you with a little shock. Before Monday, it was the last time the Washington Wizards winning percentage was at .500. On that date the Wizards lost an early season battle to the Cleveland Cavaliers and fell to 2-2 on the season. Ever since, it would always seem as if the Wizards were ages from hitting the .500 mark again. After a blowout win over the Orlando Magic on Monday, the Wizards are finally back to the .500 mark.
After a late offseason trade for Marcin Gortat, the Wizards adopted the expression of “Playoffs or bust”. 18 games into this young season it seems as if the Wizards will fulfill this promise. It all started with the emergence of 4th year guard John Wall as a superstar. During the summer, the Wizards signed Wall to a max contract and ever since he has proven his worth. Wall has greatly improved his scoring ability, averaging 19.0 points per game, including a stretch where he scored over 30 points in three straight games. His passing skills have entered a whole new level as he is second in the league in assists per game just behind Chris Paul. He’s even cleaning up the boards, averaging almost five rebounds a game. His efficiency is great as he’s made 60% of his field goal attempts plus an outstanding 50 % from downtown over the past couple games.
At 9-9 the Wizards aren’t even at full strength yet. Second year star Bradley Beal is currently sitting on the sideline with a stress injury, but he is set to make his return in the next week or so. Otto Porter, the 3rd overall pick of this years draft hasn’t seen any game action yet this year due to a hip flexor, but he is close to making his NBA debut very soon. At 9-9 the Wizards currently are the fifth seed in their conference.
The Eastern Conference is on pace to be one of the worst conferences in the history of the NBA. Currently, only the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers find themselves with a winning record. With preseason contenders such as the Knicks and Nets failing to meet expectations, it has opened a big door for teams like the Wizards. For the first time since the Gilbert Arenas era, Washington DC basketball fans have something to smile about.