By Dave Johnson
To be perfectly clear, I am giddy. Last week’s release of the NBA regular season schedule has me already looking ahead to the playoffs. Yes, I am talking playoffs.
This is not Jim Mora talking playoffs when he was coach of the Indianapolis Colts. Go ahead and google Mora playoffs and you will find his humorous reaction to a reporter asking him about the playoffs after a Colts loss. Unlike Mora in his last season with the Colts, I can’t wait for this new season to begin.
To be sure, it will be a journey. We know all too well around these parts about the importance of good health. Key players translated as players who can score will have to stay healthy. Still it’s hard not to dream. The Wizards demonstrated over the final four months of last season that it is a team ready to contend.
Emphasis should be placed on the word team. I am about to enter my 17th season calling Wizards games on the radio. I have been covering sports in Washington for about 25 years and the Wizards' ability to recover from their slow start and finish with 29 wins was one of the more impressive accomplished I have ever witnessed.
It takes a group of players that believe in each other to stay together through a 4-28 start. Even with little reward the Wizards remained focused and believed better days were ahead. Veterans like Nene, Emeka Okafor, Trevor Ariza and Martell Webster provided a steadying influence and professional approach for the Wizards’ younger players to follow.
From the outside, I was often asked about how I was coping with a difficult season. To see a team play so hard and consistently come up short was frustrating, but the Wizards' attitude made it easy to stay positive through the negative. Head coach Randy Wittman was a rock. He believed in his approach and that alone was reason for confidence.
In short, the Wizards have a good locker room and that will make a difference on the court. This season that I am so excited for, is also a long one. Talent makes a difference in games, but talent alone does not guarantee success. I have yet to see an NBA season that does not present an unexpected challenge, but after last season, the Wizards should be ready for anything.
As for the schedule that has me so excited for the season, I believe it is a good one for the Wizards. From March 18-23 the Wizards have to survive a four-game West coast road trip against the Kings, Blazers, Lakers and Nuggets; but once they return, the Wizards will then play eight of their final 12 regular season games at home.
The Wizards' heavy home schedule at the end of March and into April could be the perfect launching pad for the postseason. A lot has to happen between now and then for those late-season games to matter, but the Wizards have already proven they know how to accept a challenge.