Wizards 2006: A DC-Metrocentric Retrospective
There is one thing Washington Wizards fans have learned to rely on from their team over recent years: duality. Every great thing that happens to this team is accompanied by an equally embarrassing one; sometimes in the same game (see Game 6 of last season's shootout with The Lebrons). Things are going to flow, and things are going to get ugly. This season is certainly no exception and it's been a rocky road already as we reach the second trimester of this 2006-07 NBA season.
It started ugly. Once the 2006 NBA schedule was released, and it featured an opening day playoff rematch between the Cavs and Wizards, we all knew what was going to happen. The same thing that happens every time the Wizards play a heavily anticipated game: Gilbert is going to get antsy. He's going to think too much. He's going to come out and fire off some blanks for the whole world to see (and you wonder why coaches won't let him on the all-star team). Game 1 of the Bulls series, first 3 quarters of Game 1 of the Cavs series, and now this opening day rematch: 7 points in a loss. Gilbert's anemic opening day performance wasn't as surprising as it should have been.
Things didn't exactly take off from there. The Wizards plane continued to taxi, as they posted a 5-9 record for the month of November and, despite three 40-point performances in the month, their star player was noticeably inconsistent, especially on the road, where the Wizards did not win one game. Things were looking down, and as is usual when Wizards fans start getting used to something, (in this case losing) Agent 0 comes in and switches it up on us.
It was Gilbert's December. His time of the year. It was his December, and it was all so clear. "Hibachi!" It's a round, cylindrical open-topped container that's designed to hold burning charcoal.
And it gets really, really hot.
"Hibachi!" is what you heard star guard Gilbert Arenas sometimes yell after the soundless yet sound follow-through and before the rip of tickled twine for about the next two weeks.
And as far as temperature goes, Gilbert was not to be outdone by a damn stove.
Starting with a 33-point and 10-assist performance against lowly Charlotte, Gilbert would go on to give Dallas 38, Houston 41, Kobe 60, the MVP 54, and come full circle to roast Charlotte again for 39.
Two Player of the Week awards and a Player of the Month later, the Wizards are sitting pretty on top of their division after a 12-4 December that saw Gilbert average 34 points, 6 assists and 4 boards while shooting 48% from the field and 41% from deep.
Some other notes on the first two months of the season:
- Caron Butler averaged 23 points 8 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals on 50% shooting in December. He's arrived, people. And to think the Wizards traded Kwame Brown for this guy? Ernie Grunfeld is a genius, if you didn't know.
- I am ready to declare C Brendan Haywood the team's MVP at this point. Not because he's good, but because his ankle injury inserted SF Jarvis Hayes into the starting lineup -- at the center spot. Etan and Darius, we're waiting.
- The play of Etan Thomas deserves a mention. This guy moves slower than slow and has a running vertical of approximately 7 inches but he's able to completely change the outcome of a game through heart, intelligence, and toughness alone. He writes poetry, too. Etan's performance on Nov. 6 deserves special mention. He single-handedly shut down the entire Magic frontcourt, and gave them 14 points, 15 rebounds, and 6 blocks. Well done.
- The fight between Brendan Haywood and Etan Thomas was probably really awesome to watch. If Haywood could let that anger leak into his play consistently he could be one of the best centers in the East. Still waiting.
Year 2006 is coming to a close, and so is this recap of the first two months of the Wizards season. It basically comes down to the usual: the Wiz Kids did it again. Just when you think they're down, the boys in blue (occasionally gold… unfortunately) scrap something together and make you love them again.
From here on out you'll be getting an article per week from me on the Wizards. If you want to contact me you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Till then, Happy 2007.