Jeremy Hyman - WashingtonWizards.com
The Wizards west coast trip has come to an end. Five cities. Nine days. And a 2-3 record to show.
Heading into the trip, I would have signed up for two wins, but with all five games coming down to the wire, and letting the first one slip away in Sacramento, it feels like the team could easily have returned with a winning record.
With that said, looking at the big picture, it was great to see them play the way they did out west. For any team, a west coast trip can be taxing and it is always tough for Eastern Conference teams to string together wins while playing out on the left coast.
The Wizards played some of their best basketball of the season during this stretch and seeing most of the team get healthy and play together, gave a glimpse into what the potential is for the future.
John Wall saw his minutes increase and really started to assert himself on both offense and defense. It was Wall’s game-saving block in Denver that sealed the first win of the trip. Head Coach Randy Wittman said that they will continue to work Wall back into game-shape before he enters the starting lineup and once he gets his conditioning back to 100% he should be in there.
We last left you in Denver before the Wizards took down the Nuggets. From there we took a flight after the game to L.A. for a showdown with the Clippers on Saturday. On back-to-backs, there is no shootaround in the morning, so after a team breakfast it was time to relax for a few hours. The weather in L.A. could not have been any better and we were right in downtown Beverly Hills. A few of the players did some shopping, while others enjoyed being outside under the sun.
Then it was gametime.
After riding through some L.A. traffic to get to Staples Center, it was time for #WizClippers. The Clippers entered the game with the second best record in the NBA, so not many gave the Wizards a chance. Chris Paul returned from his injury and was back in the starting lineup. After a good first half, the Clippers started to pull away in the second, but the Wizards made things interesting late in L.A. and if they had made a few more free throws down the stretch they could have stolen one in Hollywood. But, it was not meant to be and the Wizards fell to 1-2 on the trip. Then it was off to Portland after the game.
We arrived in Portland very early Sunday morning. After playing Friday and Saturday night, Sunday was a day-off. Many of the players took a ride over to the Nike Headquarters store just outside the city to load up on some new Nike apparel. Sunday was a good day to rest and watch some NFL playoff football while preparing for Monday night’s #WizBlazers game. There were a few happy staffers who hail from Maryland about the Ravens advancing to the Super Bowl so that was nice for them.
Monday morning meant shootaround at Rose Garden in Portland as the team prepared for their fourth game of the trip. The Wizards had already beaten the Blazers once this year back in D.C., so this was a chance to sweep the season series. On top of that, the Blazers had lost five straight so this was a chance to jump on a struggling team. The Wizards did that early, led by Nene’s 17 first quarter points. In fact the Wizards led for most of the game and the entire second half until Wesley Matthews would tie the score at 95 with just seconds remaining on the clock. We all know what happened next, but we may as well relive it one more time as this was one of those moments you won’t forget. With just 3.6 seconds left, Martell Webster inbounded to Jordan Crawford. JC took a few dribbles to his left to create space and then took a tough three from about 27 feet and hit nothing but the bottom of the net. Certainly the shot of the year for the Wizards and one Crawford will never forget. After the game, Dave Johnson caught up with Crawford where he learned that this was Crawford’s first game-winner of his career.
After the big win, the Wizards stayed over in Portland Monday night, which meant we could take a little bit of time to celebrate the win. What better way to celebrate than some FIFA with the game’s leading scorer, Nene. He and his manager have a pretty big FIFA rivalry going, but according to Nene it is very one-sided. Nene makes sure to let him know each time he wins by texting him the final score. This is their way of keeping track of their overall record. The games are quite entertaining to watch as Nene is not shy in letting everyone know who the best player in the room is. He teases, taunts, and celebrates all in good fun as he goes on for victory after victory. After claiming his dominance in the game, I was able to slay the great Nene in our first match, but that got his attention because he then got serious and defeated me in the rest of our bouts.
It was then off to Salt Lake City on Tuesday.
We got into SLC on Tuesday afternoon and went straight to practice at the arena. A good spirited practice for a team that was feeling really good about itself. After practice ended, many of the players hung around for some fun and games on the court. After such a tough start to the season, it was great to see them having fun and enjoying themselves.
Wednesday morning was the last shootaround of the trip as the Wiz prepared for Wednesday night’s #WizJazz game. This game was a chance to finish the trip on a positive note and head back to D.C. with a winning record.
The Wizards fell behind by as many as 21 points before rallying back in the fourth quarter to get within two. Unfortunately, they could never get the lead and fell 92-88 to the Jazz to close out the trip. A tough way to end the long trip, but there were a lot of things to build on.
The team flew back to D.C. after the game and arrived just before sunrise. Snow was falling, the ground was icy, and it felt like it was about 10 degrees out. Yet, it was great to be home.
Looking forward to #WizWolves on Friday night and this upcoming three game homestand.