John Wall Press Conference/Get John Wall His Goddamn Billboard

Earlier today, the Washington Wizards held a press conference to formally announce the signing of All-NBA guard and franchise cornerstone John Wall to a supermax extension that locks him in as the foundational piece of DC professional basketball through at least the 2021-2022 season. With no disrespect to running mate Otto Porter, the Wall news was the marquee free-agency headline and the one that re-energized Wizards fans’ title aspirations in an otherwise uneventful and borderline disappointing summer.

 

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It can’t be understated how monumental (no pun intended) signing the WallStar to that extension was for this team.  We’ve seen a franchise cupcake use free agency to join the biggest bandwagon in sports (KD), another perennial star traded for nickels on the dollar before the get the chance to leave (PG13), and on the very same day that the Wall news broke, a more-hyped but less-talented point demand an exit from the situation that gift-wrapped him a ring and three straight trips to the Finals (the flat-earther from Duke).

 

A similar exit by John Wall would’ve had far more devastating effects on the franchise that drafted him. When you have a shallow roster and a GM who’s best move was lucking into the #1 pick after a season of unintentional tanking, it’s a safe bet your team is going to be pretty miserable for years to come if you lose that #1 guy. That’s why Wizards twitter was getting anxious when John didn’t sign the extension right away and we were forced to endure a litany of hypothetical trade proposals and Wall2LA conspiracy theories from obnoxious Celtics fans. Personally, the thought of this team without it’s WallStar was enough to send me into a miniature existential identity-crisis that forced me to fathom a future where I no longer pledged allegiance to the #DCFamily.  Fortunately for me and all the Wizards faithful, John quelled all the doubts and proved his commitment to the city by signing on to lead this team for the foreseeable future.

 

In his press conference today, John said a bunch of things that he’s said before, but that we were still more than happy to hear him affirm: “This is the team I want to be with for the rest of my career and I won’t stop until we get to hang a banner in the rafters.” With John in the fold for the long-term, and Eastern Conference rivals on the decline, us Wizards fans are for the first time feeling confident enough to consider that a championship in the nation’s capital could be a realistic possibility. Considering where this team was before the franchise savior arrived, the $170M Ted Leonsis will be paying over the life of the extension to retain his point god might be a steal.

 

This week, another Wizards blog wrote a piece chronicling the Wizards journey over the last ten years. It was a good piece, but it could have been summed up quicker. The Wizards sucked, they lucked into John Wall, John got better every year while making his teammates better each year, Wall helped establish the Wizards as a contender, John Wall kept Wizards championship hopes alive into the future by signing his supermax extension.

 

I know I’m coming off as a John Wall fanboy, but at this point it’s impossible to be a Wizards fan and not be. That isn’t a bad thing; there are much worse people to rep than a guy that shows loyalty, gives back to his community, and puts the city on his back. Today’s press conference was a celebration of that: a four year extension of the privilege to don jerseys with the number 2 stitched on the back, to hashtag tweets with #WallStar and #WallWay, to chant “MVP” at the Verizon/Capitol One Center, to enjoy and be proud of D.C. basketball.

 

Today, John Wall solidified his commitment to bring another Larry O’brien trophy to D.C. The only question that still remains as pertains to John Wall’s legacy in the district is where is his goddamn billboard? 

 

Back in early 2016, John was feeling under appreciated and marveled at the lack of exposure he was getting. “I was everywhere (in Kentucky),” Wall said. “I ain’t got no billboards in D.C.” Well, Ted Leonsis, can you please give this man the billboard he wants? 

 

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The temporary mural he shared with during the playoffs with backcourt mate Bradley Beal was nice, but I think we can all agree he needs something a bit more permanent. How much can a billboard possibly cost? Doesn’t the Verizon Center have space on an external wall that can be spared to honor the player that dominates inside the building? Shouldn’t the Verizon center just be named the John Wall center and turned into one giant billboard? Shit, John Wall needs five billboards, one for each All-Star appearance. Plaster his face on the Washington Monument, and then update the alternative logo to match. Come on Ted, get the man his billboard.

 

John Wall gives the team the cache to get media attention and nationally televised games.  He produced the most memorably triumphant playoff moment in the last 40 years of the franchise. He already has the franchise record for assists and steals, and by the time his extension expires he’ll probably also be the leader in points, and regular season games played. The man could retire today and go down as the best player in team history. 

 

Now, somebody get this man his goddamn billboard already.

 

Are Wizards Season Tickets a Good Deal? Here’s a Detailed Analysis

If you go to a few Washington Wizards games at the Verizon Center, you might discover that there is a peculiar breed of fan. These fans seemingly attend every single game, even the mid-week contests against Eastern Conference bottom feeder. These fans appear to have some obsessive compulsion that mandates that they always sit in the exact same seats at every game. It seems that each and every one of these fans owns the same red Wizards sport jacket, and you might hear them refer to a mysterious society called the “DC 12 Club”. Though all the evidence points to these fans being members of some satanic basketball cult, the truth is that these fans are in fact Washington Wizards season ticket holders.

For most sports fans from the DC area, the idea of a season-ticket holder is probably at best a very abstract concept. It’s hard enough to get folks to attend one Wizards game, so the prospect of willingly signing on to pay for admission to 41 regular season NBA games plus an additional 3 pre-season exhibition games is beyond inconceivable. Even for big Wizards fans, this is a tough sell. Having been a season-ticket holder for two years before opting out after the catastrophe that was last season, I can attest to the fact being a season ticket holder yields no value in and of itself. Individual game tickets, purchased from Ted’s Monumental Sports or elsewhere, get you into the arena just as well as season tickets, and they even grant you access to the very same game. The only rational reason for not buying Wizards tickets on a strictly game-by-game basis is that you expect to receive a quantity discount.

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And yet, Ted Leonsis will soon announce the prices for next year’s Wizards season tickets. For incumbent STH’s, the news compels them to decide whether or not to re-up for another year. For the less-invested fans like myself, this is an invitation to join the likes of the DC 12 Club members.

Is there any sensible reason that somebody would purchase Wizards season tickets? How much money can you actually save? Are there circumstances where it makes sense to make this investment? Is it possible to actually make money of this deal? Let’s take a look:

 

How Much Can I Save With Season Ticket versus buying Individual Game Tickets?

For two years, I had season tickets in Section 117 Row S. These tickets were in the sections behind the basket, which from my experience gave you the best value for your dollar. I was a single grad school student, so I had plenty of time to attend games and no one to answer to about my how I spent my money. Still, like even the most ardent fan, I didn’t have the time nor the finances to attend every home game. So I attended about a third of the games and sold the rest of the tickets on the secondary market, trying to strike a balance between attending good games and recuperating a decent amount of my costs. Being a business student, I of course tracked what I paid versus what I made back, to gauge if the season ticket deal made sense for me going forward.

This current season, after a second consecutive year of price increases for my seats, is my first one back to buying tickets one game at a time. Still, I’ve been tracking what the prices are in my old section for each game on the secondary markets (I buy on NBA Ticket Exchange), versus what I would have paid for a year’s worth of tickets. Those numbers are in the spreadsheet below.

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What you might be surprised to see by looking at the above table, is that in reality, there is a quantity surcharge instead of a quantity discount that came with buying Wizards season tickets this past season. Simply put, Ted Leonsis priced his tickets above market value. You could have bought two tickets for every game individually and saved $175 as compared to signing a deal for season tickets. That’s without even taking into consideration the fact that in all likelihood you’d have zero interest in going to many of these games, chiefly three worthless preseason games.

Regardless of what combination of games you wanted to attend, it was always cheaper to buy those tickets individually. STH overpaid for the majority of this year’s games. To put this into perspective, here is a lineup of Wizards games you could have gone to for $1,250, less than a third of the STH price: Raptors, Hawks, Rockets, Cavaliers, Suns, Spurs, Magic, Nuggets, Bucks, Hornets, Timberwolves, 76ers, Trailblazers, Grizzlies, Celtics, Pelicans, and Thunder. Even if you threw in the outrageously overpriced Warriors game, you’d still have paid only 40% of the STH price.

Luckily for fans locked into this deal, the game against the Golden State Warriors and two versus the Cleveland Cavaliers helped make the returns more favorable. Tickets for just those three games on the secondary market went for $1,100, a full $800 more than STH paid for them. On the flipside, it’s hard to be okay paying one-hundred dollars for a Monday night tilt against the Sacramento Kings in November when the guy sitting next to you paid only twenty-eight bucks.

 

How Will Likely Price Increases Figure Into the Equation?

Seeing how Ted Leonsis raised Wizards season ticket prices even in the midst of last year’s miserable season, it’s a near certainty that he’ll continue to up the prices now that the team is experiencing success once again. For season ticket holders that’s obviously bad news.  Now, it might make logical sense that a better team should translate to higher ticket prices, at both the individual game and full-season level. However, the truth is that the relationship between on court success and fan support for basketball in DC is not so perfectly linear.

The Verizon Center has lousy attendance, and we’ve seen in the past that not even a deep playoff run is going to do much to change that. If the median market for individual game tickets does see a bump, it will probably be offset by lower prices at the highest end of the spectrum. Resale prices this year for the Warriors game are astronomical, due to the intrigue of seeing Kevin Durant in his first return to DC since joining the Bandwagon team of the moment (who btw we should boo mercilessly). But those tickets priced should come back closer to Earth next year when that novelty wears off a little bit.

All in all, any raise in the price of season tickets are probably going to mean a worse deal for season ticket holders. Every extra dollar you pay for season tickets is probably just one more dollar that you’re overpaying.

 

What About Buying Season Tickets and Selling Them?

Based on regular season games, you should not try to do this. You’ll be able to accomplish this, you just won’t make any money.

The figures in the chart above are what buyers pay for tickets on the secondary market. The amount that sellers make is typically, at best, twenty percent lower once the selling platform takes out their fees or commissions. So that $4,075 figure that I could have paid for individual tickets would translate closer to $3,200 for the people who sold those ticket. You don’t a business degree to know that that is not a good return on investment.

 

How Do Playoff Tickets Play Into the Picture?

Considering the numbers in the chart above, it probably seems like a no-brainer that Wizards season tickets are an all-around terrible idea for fans, right? Well no, not exactly. There is one season ticket holder perk, really the only one that has any value at all, that can potentially alter the balance of this equation: guaranteed tickets to this year’s home playoff games. Those fans that commit to the full slate of next season’s tickets (sorry all you current STH’s, you get nothing) receive the privilege of buying tickets to all of this year’s postseason games at a low, fixed price. For the lower level sections behind the basket, that fixed price has historically been somewhere between $45 and $65 per ticket depending on the round, which is considerably less than what these playoff ticket will go for on Stubhub, NBA Ticket Exchange, etc. when the Wizards hype starts really rolling.

Since we’ve been defining the value of season tickets by the difference between what season ticket holders pay and what one pays on the secondary market, these cheap playoff tickets make a season ticket package more attractive. Depending on who the Wizards match up with in the playoffs, how many home games they get in each round, and how deep they ultimately go, it is possible that this playoff ticket perk will yield enough value to actually make season tickets worthwhile. If nothing else, this perk offers enough to make you take a second look. Here are some estimates for how much playoff tickets in my old Section 117 could be worth versus what they’ll cost DC 12 Club members:

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What is the Final Verdict?

So what’s the final verdict on whether or not Wizards season tickets for next season will ultimately be worth the investment? Well, like most things in life it depends. In this case it depends on how far you think the team is going to make it in the playoffs. If you think the team is doomed for a first-round disappointment, then you can easily rule against season-tickets (then again, if you think this is how our season ends then you’re obviously not a real fan, so why would you even want season tickets?). If you think the Wizards will repeat recent postseason history by winning the first-round and then fizzling out in the second, then you probably still want to stay away from season tickets. That result will bring you some value as compared to buying individual tickets, but certainly not enough to warrant having to start making payments now for tickets to games months down the line.

However, if you are bullish on the team and foresee them charging into the Eastern Conference Finals to challenge the reigning champ, then this season ticket package is almost too good of a deal to pass up. A series against Lebron and Kyrie, one of the greatest to ever do it and one of the most overrated to ever do it, will be the biggest sporting event of the moment, not to mention possibly the biggest ever in DC. Watching those games would be a once in a lifetime opportunity, and getting those tickets for cheap will save you a pretty penny if you go to the game, or make you one if you opt to sell. The numbers show that Wizards season tickets derive their value from the chance to buy playoff tickets for cheap. Therefore, this purchase decision is one that needs to be made on a year-by-year basis, depending on the team’s postseason prospects. If you paid for membership for the DC 12 Club last season when there were no playoff games to attend, you got hustled big time. But if you’re thinking about buying them for the upcoming season, it could actually be a good deal.

In the end, the question isn’t necessarily are Wizards season tickets are good deal, but instead how far do I think this team will go this season and am I willing to bet on that? For my part, being a diehard Wizkids fan and eternal optimist, I’m already trying to figure out how I can explain to my wife why we need to spend thousands of dollars on basketball tickets.

Wiz-Warriors: Let’s All Boo Cupcake Kevin Durant

This past weekend, Kevin Durant, the one-time NBA darling turned bitter front-running villain, returned to his old home court to a much-deserved, nasty homecoming.  His welcome-back presents were a chorus of boos and profanities from his old fans, and a bevy of hard fouls and harsh words from his old teammates.  The antagonistic reception was to be expected, regardless of Durant’s lengthy resume of past exploits for the team, after the biggest superstar in franchise history abandoned ship to join the one squad that had prevented the franchise from returning to the NBA Finals.

Kevin Durant and his supporters will maintain that KD’s only obligations in his free-agency decision were to himself and to his family, and that he had the right to go wherever he pleased.  This is certainly true and it’s difficult to imagine how anyone could argue this point. It’s also true, however, that those betrayed OKC players and supporters are similarly only obliged to support members of their own franchise, and they maintain a right to react to KD’s abandonment however they please. Considering the self-serving decision that Kevin Durant made, one that bucked every tenet of the spirit of competition, as well as the circumstances in which he made that cowardly choice, it would be surprising if KD is ever able to return to Chesapeake Energy Arena without getting heckled and chastised.  If that was my team, and sixty years down the line Kevin Durant came back to town for a Throwback Thursday night, I’d be sitting front row donning a cupcake t-shirt, with a “F*** KD!” sign taped to my walker.

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Washington Wizards

Fortunately for me, I’m not an Oklahoma City Thunder fan. Nope, I’m a Washington Wizards fan and I’m rooting for John and Brad and Jason Smith right now as write this while watching the two teams match up tonight. (BTW who would have thought when OKC was 1 game away from returning to the Finals and the Wizards had been out of contention since early April, that just 9 months later it would the WizKids who had the brighter future??)  But even though I wasn’t personally betrayed by Durant teaming up with the basketball equivalent of the Galactic Republic, I was completely repulsed by the choice all the same.

Two weeks from tomorrow, Kevin Durant is scheduled to visit another one of the towns he previously called “Home” for his first time as a Warrior – in what is currently 2nd to only Kobe’s last game in DC for the most ridiculously over-priced basketball ticket in Verizon Center history (It is beyond me how anyone can justify paying $200 for the worst Lower Level seats when the same seats consistently go for under $20 at other games!!) With the exception of the boos he induced last year with his comments deriding the #KD2DC fervor, Kevin has generally enjoyed a warm reception when he’s  returned to his native DMV to play professional basketball games. But just as KD is no longer welcome anywhere in the state of Oklahoma, the image of the Bay Bridge on the front of his jersey should also preclude KD from being treated as anything less than an enemy at the Phone Booth. Durant has been beloved as the basketball pride of the region, and therefore it’s easy to imagine that arguing to heckle the man could be considered a hot take. But here are some quick thoughts on why it should instead be considered an obligation for any true Wizards fan.

Shame the Bandwagoners

As anybody who’s been to a Wizards game knows, the city is full of fans from other NBA teams. No matter what game you go to, from a tilt versus the Memphis Grizzlies to one against the Portland Trailblazers, there will always inevitably be a sizable contingent of fans in the Verizon Center rooting for the road team. Being that DC is a mixing pot of folks from all over the country who move to the city to work in government or politics, the presence of away fans is a fact of life.

When this becomes a problem is when sports fans born and raised in the District jump on the bandwagon of the day rather than root for the hometown team. Over the past decade, the Wizards have seen its fan base dwarfed by the likes of the Lakers, then the Cavs, then the Heat, then the Thunder, then the Cavs again, and now the Warriors. (Why do you think these tickets are so damn expensive?) The band wagon obsession is more than a problem that has afflicted our city; it’s a virus. Bandwagon n***as marry bandwagon b*****s and have bandwagon kids. Now, Kevin Durant, who is supposed to be our hometown hero, and whose presence on the Thunder made it the one team outside of the DMV acceptable for DMV residents to root for, is following the same trend as all the pathetic flakes who buy themselves and their kids jerseys that say Curry and Thompson on the back rather than Wall and Beal. Us Wizards fans don’t accept this behavior from our fellow basketball fans, so why should we accept it from the biggest basketball figure to come out of this area? What’s worse, it’s all too obvious that bandwagon fans from DC will conveniently site their support for KD as the reason they suddenly support the most talented team in NBA history. The same way that we use the jumbotron to tease those DC fans with too little inner fortitude to rock with the home squad, we need to mock the NBA player too scared to fight for a championship with anyone but the most stacked team ever.

Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City?

While DC has always showered Kevin Durant with much love and respect, he’s never exactly returned the favor. And now, his latest decision shows how little concern he truly has for this town and its fans.  As Wizards fans, we can’t begrudge Durant for not coming home to play for the Wizards. Having lived here, he must know all too well how quickly promising dreams turn to dashed hopes within this city’s sports scene. It happens every year and in every sport. That’s precisely the reason why every self-respecting Wizards fan is enjoying every moment of the team’s recent success, but not yet visualizing even a game past the first-round of the playoffs. Still, couldn’t KD give just a little bit of acknowledgement of our support for him? You mean to tell me that he couldn’t even take the time to take a meeting with the Wizards, even if it was just to politely say no thanks? If for nothing else, than to validate that all the time we spent tagging our tweets with #KD2DC was not totally in vain?

Nope. Durant had no time to entertain the dreams of his hometown fans. In fact, the only comments we ever got about his view on playing for the Wizards was a rebuke of the fans around here.  Not only that, as an extra insult to Washington fans, Kevin opted instead to hear the pitch from the Boston Celtics, the recently buried, new DC rivals.   Seriously, KD!? That’s how you feel? You’d wear that ugly green jersey, sell your soul to Tom Brady, and go play for those Massholes before you’d play for the city that raised you? Damn, bro.

Partially, this is our fault for always being a little too eager to reunite with Durant; for being a little too available. Just like juvenile boys like Durant have been doing to naïve girls since the beginning of time, KD teased our interest, soaked up our affection, and then ultimately left for the sexier suitor, leaving us heart-broken with nothing to show for all the time we spent trying to make this relationship happen. If Kevin isn’t going to realize what he had with our support until it’s gone, then let’s show him how far gone it really is: with boo-birds every time he touches the ball.

Not My Precedent

The final reason that fans of the Washington Wizards have a duty to deride the Hell out of Kevin Durant when he visits in two weeks is a self-serving one. The example that KD is setting for NBA players, one of taking pay cuts to leave the teams that drafted them in favor of diminished roles and pressure on super teams, is a dangerous one for second-tier franchises like our own.

The Wizards have a former lottery pick up for a new contract this summer in Otto Porter. A few years down the line, it will be John Wall’s turn to test the waters of free-agency. Looking even farther ahead, we’ll eventually draft another franchise player who will one day have to decide between taking the harder route of pursuing a championship in Washington or opting for the easy route of joining a team full of All-Stars. Granted, our players like John and Otto are too valiant and have too much pride to make the same gutless decision that Durant did. Still, with our sports luck, we can’t rule out any tragedy, and we have to do what we can to get ahead of such an unfortunate situation.

Therefore, it is imperative that we set the tone now for how our fans are going to reproach the players who ditch this team versus how we’ll reward the players who make a commitment to our fans and to our city. Every player in the league, and especially those that wear the letters “dc” on their shorts, needs to see first-hand how the nation’s capital reveres athletes who stay loyal to the city and abhors endlessly those who do the opposite.

That all starts with Kevin Durant in two weeks’ time. When everyone sees how mean we are to a player who turned his back on a team that isn’t even ours, they’ll start getting the picture for how serious we take loyalty in DC.

Conclusion

There you have it. That’s my plea for why we have to make Kevin Durant’s next return to DC one of his most combative encounters yet. This goes further than simple discontent with KD’s free-agency decision. This is more about protecting our turf and demanding to be taken seriously as NBA fans.

Now, I’m not saying KD should be doomed to eternally be derided whenever he comes to DC. But though Durant is the DMV’s native son, like all children, he needs to be disciplined. Maybe one day, KD, like Lebron did for Cleveland, will realize his transgressions against his hometown and work to right them. If and when that day comes, I’ll be the first to say we should forgive him and welcome him back into the DC fraternity. After all, hand in hand with parental discipline, comes the opportunity for mercy and redemption.

That being said, for the time being, every Wizard fan with tickets to the Wizards-Warriors game on February 28th should be rocking a red and blue cupcake t-shirt and a stockpile full of insults and boos for Kevin Durant.

Where Do John Wall & Bradley Beal Rank Among Best Backcourts in the NBA?

Where Do John Wall & Bradley Beal Rank Among Best Backcourts in the NBA?

Last night’s big performance by John Wall and Bradley Beal reminded Wizards fans just how good the young duo can be when healthy.  At the same time, the close win over a poor team and the abysmal record thus far this season show that their brilliance can easily be weighed down by a lack of talent elsewhere on the roster.  So, how good is this backcourt really?  Over the past couple of years, their strong playoff performances and youthful upside have garnered them mentions in the conversation of best guard duo.  But how do they compare against the other top guard combinations in the Association this season?

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Here are the rankings and stats of the best backcourts in the NBA based on reputation and performance thus far this season:

  1. Steph Curry &Klay Thompson – Golden State Warriors

Combined 2016-2017 Stats: 46.4 PPG, 8.2 APG, 6.8 RPG, 2 SPG, 0.6 BPG

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The Splash Bros. are the obvious title holders for Best Backcourt in the NBA.  Even though their stats aren’t the gaudiest thus far this season, they easily retain the title based on their reputation and record.

  1. DeMar DeRozan & Kyle Lowry – Toronto Raptors

Combined 2016-2017 Stats: 50.8 PPG, 10.9 APG, 10.7 RPG, 3.1 SPG, 0.4 BPG

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The boys from the North are balling better than any other backcourt pair from the East.  But will that be enough to allow the Raptors to challenge the Cavs this year?

Note*: Let’s not forget the WizKids duo swept these two out of the playoffs just a couple years back.

  1. Russell Westbrook & Victor Oladipo – Oklahoma City Thunder

Combined 2016-2017 Stats: 48.5 PPG, 12.9 APG, 13.8 RPG, 2 SPG, 0.6 BPG

Image result for russell westbrook victor oladipo

This backcourt has more of a Batman-Robin dynamic than others on this list.  Anybody plus Russell Westbrook is going to make a good a duo when he’s average near a triple-double.

  1. Damian Lillard & C.J. McCollum – Portland Trail Blazers

Combined 2016-2017 Stats: 50.9 PPG, 7.9 APG, 8.9 RPG, 2 SPG, 0.7 BPG

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The highest scoring backcourt in the league and one that wasn’t even in the discussion not that long ago.

  1. James Harden & Eric Gordon – Houston Rockets

Combined 2016-2017 Stats: 44 PPG, 14.9 APG, 11.1 RPG, 1.9 SPG, 0.5 BPG

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If the dynamic of the Oklahoma City backcourt resembles Batman-Robin, the Houston backcourt evokes memories of perhaps Iron Man & his Jon Favreau-portrayed chauffeur.  Still, even if James Harden is doing the majority of the heavy lifting here, the combined stat line puts this combo definitively in the Top-5.

  1. John Wall & Bradley Beal – Washington Wizards

Combined 2016-2017 Stats: 46.4 PPG, 11.5 APG, 6.6 RPG, 2.8 SPG, 1.3 BPG

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Wizards fans probably didn’t expect to see their young stars this far down on the list.  However, they do have the fewest total minutes played this season of all the duos on this list. Hopefully, as the two get healthy and accustomed to their new coach’s game plans, they’ll rise up the rankings.

  1. Isaiah Thomas & Avery Bradley – Boston Celtics

Combined 2016-2017 Stats: 44 PPG, 9.3 APG, 10.9 RPG, 1.8 SPG, .5 BPG

Image result for isaiah thomas avery bradley

Al Horford chose to go team up with this pair instead of John Wall and Bradley Beal.

  1. Kemba Walker & Nicolas Batum – Charlotte Hornets

Combined 2016-2017 Stats: 38.8 PPG, 10.2 APG, 10.6 RPG, 3.1 SPG, 0.7 BPG

Image result for kemba walker nicolas batum

I really thought that Batum was more of a small forward.  But he’s technically a shooting guard, so these two have can’t be overlooked in the conversation.

  1. Chris Paul & J.J. Redick – Los Angeles Clippers

Combined 2016-2017 Stats: 33.8 PPG, 9.9 APG, 7.1 RPG, 4 SPG, 0.4 BPG

Image result for chris paul jj redick

Their stats are not the best, but they get the nod here because of the team’s success so far this season and because Chris Paul is still one of the best and somehow most underrated guards in the league.

  1. Eric Bledsoe & Devin Booker – Phoenix Suns

Combined 2016-2017 Stats: 38.06 PPG, 7.57 APG, 8.5 RPG, 1.92 SPG, 0.4 BPG

Image result for eric bledsoe devin booker

These two went toe to toe with House of Guards last night and almost came away with the W, showing that they belong in the conversation for best backcourts.

 

 

How Can We Build Up the Wizards Fan Base?

As a huge Wizards fan, I was quite discouraged to hear that one of the reasons Kevin Durant never considered DC as a viable free agency destination was that he felt the team lacked fan support.  Of course, there is a very obvious person to blame for the team’s failures in the free agency market.  Still, KD’s reported sentiments strike an insecurity that all true Wizards fans have: that our fanbase is pretty weak.  The Verizon Center is routinely half-empty, our franchise player is chronically underappreciated, and the fans themselves are often regrettably apathetic.  It seems you can’t go to a game and cheer for the Wizards without having to yell over a contingency of fans from the road team.  Nights like Kobe’s final game in DC highlight this unfortunate reality, and the home record speaks to the lack of any realized home-court advantage.

As tempting as it may be, nothing will get solved by wallowing in self-pity or hunting for a culprit to blame.  Instead, we should be productive and proactive in rebuilding the culture around being a Wizards fan.  We have to take it upon ourselves to foster the growth of this fanbase into one that free agents want to play for and opponents are scared to play against.  In that spirit, here are some strategies that Ted Leonsis and the core group of passionate Wizards fans can employ to build a stronger fanbase:

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Appropriate Season Ticket Prices: Okay, so this one is squarely on Ted.  Perhaps the most important variable in determining how many Wizards fans fill the arena is the price of season tickets.  And recently, season tickets prices have risen to levels that are clearly above market value.  After my first season as a ticket holder, I saw that the price increases following the 2015 season resulted in many of my fellow Section-117 plan holders opting not to renew.  After the most recent price hikes, even I couldn’t justify buying a season’s worth of tickets from Monumental when I could get individual game tickets on secondary markets for a fraction of cost.  Based on how many times Monumental extended my renewal deadline, I have a hunch that there will be a more dramatic drop in season ticket holders this upcoming season. Obviously, this attrition means that many of the most tenured and ardent fans are going to be replaced with more empty seats, or worse, bandwagoners in Cavs or Warriors jerseys.

Of course, Ted is running a business and he has to make money.  The marginal success the team has experienced over the past few years and the growing popularity of the league overall certainly justify some increase in ticket prices.   But prices above market value are hard to justify, especially when they come at the cost of lower attendance by the team’s most enthusiastic fans.  Ted, who has a vested interest in maintaining a base of loyal, repeat customers, should meet season ticket holders halfway.  Fair prices will allow more devoted Wizards fans to come more games, creating a better atmosphere in the stadium.  This will help develop a home-court advantage that results in a better team, which will drive fan interest, which will ultimately yield more demand for Wizards tickets.  In the end everyone benefits: Leonsis, the players, and the fans.  But it all starts with Ted setting the season ticket prices back at an appropriate level.

Special Cheering Group/Sections:  One of my biggest gripes against Wizards fans is that as a group we’re very subdued.  John Wall infamously commented that the fans seem to get more excited about free chicken sandwiches than they do about a win.  And if you are somebody who likes to cheer loudly and heckle the opposing team (me), quite often you’ll find yourself the recipient of reproaching glances from your neighbors.  We need to redefine the code of etiquette for attending a Wizards basketball game.  To do that, I propose starting a Designated Cheering Section.

This idea is not all unique; it comes from supporters of the University of Maryland Men’s Soccer team who started a fan club called The Crew.  The club started in 2003 with a small group of students who would sit behind the goal, loudly heckling the opposing goalie and raucously cheering on the home team.  The group quickly grew in size and sophistication, coordinating outfits and organizing chants.  The result has been a spike in interest in the team and a long standing reputation for one of the best home field advantages in college soccer.

We should bring this idea to the Verizon Center in the form of a few sections, preferably behind the basket, where fans are encouraged to cheer, yell, and heckle opposing players.  Obviously, fans are encouraged to do this all throughout the arena, but these sections would be reserved for the loudest, rowdiest, and most energetic fans.  Putting all these fans in the same section will allow them to feed off of each other’s energy, and also to coordinate chants and jeers.  These sections of boisterous fans will lead the rest of the arena in rooting for the team while teaching casual fans the proper way to cheer.

The Cheering Section would start small, but it will grow quickly as other fans see how much fun it is.  Passion is a contagious thing.  And once fans have yelled and screamed their support for the WizKids, they’ll probably find themselves more invested in the success of the team.  As the group of cheerleaders grows, signature chants, norms, and traditions are sure to develop and embed themselves in the culture of the team. Hopefully the end result is a more lively and intimidating home crowd and a few more Wizards wins at the Verizon Center.

Own the Wizard: I, like many of my fellow fans, think that “Wizards” is pretty silly moniker for a collection of world class athletes.  But I figure that if we’re not going to change the name back to the Bullets, then we might as well take ownership of the name that we do have.  That’s why my friend and I went to last season’s home opener on Halloween dressed as Wizards.  As in actual wizards; with hats and beards and a staff that got confiscated by security.  It was incredibly silly, but it was one of the best times I’ve had at a game.  I think the team should encourage more things like that.  We have a weird mascot, so let’s have fun with it.

For starts, every year the game that falls on or closest to Halloween has to be costume night, where everyone comes dressed up as their favorite Wizards.  This past year I was Gandalf, but let’s fill the stands with some Harry Potters and Hermione Grangers and Merlins, etc.  Bonus points for wearing a jersey over your costume.  Next, we should build out G-Wiz’s backstory.  He must be some sort of wizard, but what kind of powers does he have, what kind of quests has he been on, what the hell species is he?  Someone needs to answer these questions.  And one more suggestion: Since the NBA is making new alternate jerseys each year, can we get something wizard inspired?  Like maybe the team can warm up in hooded cloaks for a couple games.

Bandwagon Shaming: Among the worse symptoms of the Wizard’s underachievement this past decade is that we have a lot of bandwagon fans in DC.   It’s easy enough to understand where they’re coming from: they haven’t had a home team to root for in the NBA playoffs so they pick another team to support.  Still, it’s pretty lame when they just pick the best team to root for, and even more shameful when they’re rooting for those teams against the home squad.  We need to call these fugazi’s out.  We need to remind everyone that the only fans that get respect are loyal fans.  We need to shame the bandwagon fans clogging up the Verizon Center.

The Wizards were one of the first teams to get into bandwagon shaming, with the Bandwagon Cam on the jumbotron a few years ago.  I say let’s take this a step farther.  Let’s rig the nightly seat upgrade promotion so that a Warriors groupie wins, but then let’s upgrade them to the last row in the 400 section.   Let’s raise the stake on the Bandwagon Cam and show losers in Cavs jerseys on the jumbotron with the nerdy Snapchat filter.  Let’s send G-Wiz out into the stands to prank clowns wearing LA Clippers gear.  Or we can give a kid in a KD jersey a chance to play someone 1-on-1 for a prize, but then have him faceoff against one of our D-League players.  This may sound like a harsh way to treat these confused fans, but the truth is that we’ll be doing it for their own good.

Bonus Thoughts:

-A Wizards branded sports bar near the Verizon Center that fans have a place to come for road games or before and after home games to kick it with other fans.  Maybe they can set it up so that every now and then players will roll through after the game to interact with fans.

-Let people send SnapChats to the team and pick a few of the best ones to display on the jumbotron or the CSN broadcast.

Bring back G-Man.

-Fire Ernie Grunfeld!

 

2016 Free Agency Is Proof That Wizards Must Fire Ernie Grunfeld

I was one of two people with signs at the Verizon Center for the Wizard’s final game home game of the regular season.  The Wizards were already eliminated from the playoffs, rendering the game essentially meaningless, and the four best players on our squad were in street clothes.  Still, I believed the game would be memorable in that it was to be Coach Randy Wittman’s last, and I came with a sign in hand to heckle Randy as we saw him out the door.  There was a guy a few sections to my right with a sign of his own, with a lot of words that were hard to read from a distance.  I eventually made my way over to him on my way back from the Chickfila stand so that we could share signs and misery with one another.  When I got closer I saw that on his sign he had written an entire paragraph explaining why GM Ernie Grunfeld should be fired, culminating with a bolded “Fire Ernie!”  While I could certainly empathize with this sentiment, I was content with just getting rid of the coach.  But after the past two days of his gross mishandling of NBA free agency, it is clear that Ernie Grunfeld, probably even more than Randy ever did, needs to be fired from the Washington Wizards.

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Seriously, how is Ernie Grunfeld allowed anywhere near the Verizon Center, much less in his thirteenth year of being paid to be the Wizards general manager?  To say that Ernie has had a suspect track record in DC is being extremely generous.  This is the man who built those #soWizards teams that went 117-277 over five years and were crucial to Shaqtin A Fool’s initial success.  Here is the guy who took a team one broken wrist away from the Conference Finals and parlayed that into a disappointing 41 win season.  Literally the only thing that Ernie has to hang his hat on is that the basketball gods blessed him with a top pick in the 2010, and that he managed not to fuck it up by not picking the consensus number one player.  Up until this point, Ernie and Ted may have been able to gloss over their failures over the past few years to surround John Wall with better talent by pointing to their plans for the free agency of summer 2016.  But now that most of that has passed us by and left our roster looking more barren than ever, it’s time to wonder if there’s more to the story than Grunfeld not being able to attract star players to DC.  Maybe Ernie Grunfeld is the reason that NBA players don’t want to come to DC in the first place.

For us Wizards fans, this free agency has been like a dud firework.  We’ve been refreshing our Twitter accounts and monitoring ESPN waiting for big explosions headlines of big name signings.  Instead, those dreams all fizzled, a when the smoke cleared, all we were left with was a backup center for $16M per year in Ian Mahinmi.  Is that what Ernie’s been making us wait for these past few years?  Is that why he didn’t make any of the potential big moves that would’ve kept us from wasting a year of John Wall’s youth?

I think the biggest indictment on Grunfeld is that Kevin Durant didn’t even want to waste his time meeting with him.  Ernie spent two plus years getting the roster and salary cap ready to make a run at KD, only for Kevin to feel he already knew enough about the man to know that he had no shot at building a real winner.  What does that say about Ernie’s ability as a GM?  To bring big-time stars to DC we need front office personnel who can convince those stars that they can win in a Wizards jersey. But even before that, we need to secure meetings with those stars so that we can have the chance to present them our case.  Ernie couldn’t even clear the initial hurdle, despite the fact that KD is from the area and has Maryland tatted across his back.  Whether or not you agree with his past picks and trades (why the hell would you agree with them though??), the fact that this GM can’t bring anybody to play in DC proves that he should not be the GM in DC.  Sure, people can point fingers at the fans if they want, as has been done.  But aren’t even those disengaged fans a product of the abysmal teams that Ernie has sent out on the floor over the past decade?

David Aldridge tweeted that Al Horford had been leaning towards DC and might have chosen the Wizards had he made a decision on Friday night.  The only way I can interpret that is that any player who thinks about it long enough will clearly realize that any team managed by Ernie Grunfeld will never yield much more than a paycheck.  And if you think about it long enough, it makes perfect sense.  The Wizards have been synonymous with failure and disappointment for most of the past decade.  The one constant over that span: Ernie Grunfeld.  If we want to turn around the culture, turn around the fanbase, and ultimately turn around the team fortune, then we have to turn over the keys of the franchise to someone new.  All the free agents of 2016 realized this, now it’s time for Ted to get a clue.  Fire Ernie!!

Fan Challenge: Who’s Got the Dopest DC Basketball Jersey Collection?

Yesterday I got a new John Wall 2016 All-Star jersey in the mail in time for the last home game of the season.  That brings my collection to nine jerseys, most of which I think are pretty dope.  This got me thinking, what Wizards fan out there has the best DC-exclusive jersey collection?  Check out my growing collection below, and let’s see who can top it.

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Jersey Descriptions: (Clockwise from top right corner)

John Wall Home White– This is the obviously the cornerstone of any fan collection: the home jersey of the franchise player.  I got this badboy as a Christmas present from my parents back when the team first changed its colors.

Kevin Durant USA– The #KD2DC dream isn’t dead yet! I’ve worn this jersey to two OKC games at the Verizon Center and pretty much every Fourth of July since 2012.

John Wall Rookie Road Throwback– I wasn’t a big fan of these colors, but you can’t go wrong with a jersey from John’s rookie season.  This one is a good choice for a Throwback Thursday.

Wes Unseld Bullets Road Mitchell & Ness– These are my favorite jerseys in the franchise history.  The blue on these is super clean, the Bullets logo is fresh, and it’s a throwback to the team’s one championship trophy.  I was really lucky to find this jersey for cheap o Ebay.

John Wall 2016 East All-Star– This team has one All Star, so it’s cool to give him props by rocking his All-Star jersey.  The jersey itself is not terribly good-looking, but this one is clearly better than John’s 2014 and 2015 All-Star jerseys, which were hideous and bland, respectively.

JR Wizards Rec League(reversible)- I’m not exactly sure where I got this.  I actually think my mom bought this from a thrift store or else it was handed down to me from a cousin.  In either case, I’ve been balling in this for years and like to pretend that I played for the JR Wizards Rec League.

Michael Jordan Wizards Road– Like every other male my age, I was obsessed with MJ as a kid.  And when he came to the Wizards is when I really became a fan of the team.  I got the jersey along with tickets to my first NBA game for my birthday when I was in sixth grade, and I probably wore this once a week for the full year following that.  Today, I have mixed feelings about Jordan’s legacy as a Wizard, but it’s almost required to have for any Wizards jersey collection.

Nene Brazil National Team– To be honest, this is just a generic Brazil jersey and it’s not even Nene’s number when he plays for the National team.  But nobody knows that, and I’m going to get his name screen-pressed onto the back anyway.  This is going to be a great wear if we ever get a game on St. Patty’s Day and when I visit my classmate in Brazil.

Chris Webber Bullets Road– Chris Webber doesn’t have much of a legacy as a Wizards player, but he actually was one of my favorite players when he played for the Kings.  This jersey is pretty good looking too with the bright red.  I had a choice of picking up Webber’s jersey with #2 or #4.  I went with #2 as a homage to the WallStar.

Next Up:

My next jersey purchases (if my fiancé doesn’t read this and stop me), is a Marcin Gortat Road jersey, a Bradley Beal alternate blue jersey, and a Gilbert Arenas Zephyrs Throwback.  After that, I’ll feel like I have a pretty complete collection.

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