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DaveO

The Washington Wizards (1997-), Formerly The Washington Bullets (1974-1997) and The Capital Bullets (1973-1974)

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Here is to the Wizards.  They made the playoffs.  Do you realize they have had the aggregate worst record in the NBA since 2000.  They probably had one of the worst records between around 1980 and 2000.  They have been a disappointing team.

....and I've followed them virtually all of that time.   I started watching them way back....in Baltimore...When Wes Unseld turned them into a fearsome team and Earl Monroe was a one of a kind unstoppable offensive whirlwind.  They had other great players back then including the incredibly powerful Gus Johnson.

And then the team got BETTER.  They won a championship in the late 1970's had an excellent team....and

a couple of dismal decades.... :(

So it is good to see this team with some young stars plus some wise stable veterans finally make the playoffs.

The Washington Post has an astonishing statistical look at the Wizards season thanks to 6 cameras attached to the tops of arenas catching every moment of every game.  Here is an astonishing little detail one might never know:  John Wall basically controls the ball more than any other player on any other team.  Lots of other little nuggets in the story.

In any case good luck Wizards in the Playoffs.   You would have made Abe Pollin proud.

---

[The following posts have been split into separate threads:

Wes Unseld (DonRocks)]

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Here is to the Wizards.  They made the playoffs.

...

and I've followed them virtually all of that time.   I started watching them way back....in Baltimore...When Wes Unseld turned them into a fearsome team and Earl Monroe was a one of a kind unstoppable offensive whirlwind.  They had other great players back then including the incredibly powerful Gus Johnson.

...

In any case good luck Wizards in the Playoffs.   You would have made Abe Pollin proud.

Yes, I was a Baltimore Bullet fan as a child, and remember going to games and cheering for Elvin Hayes, Wes Unseld, and Phil Chenier. What a great team they were in 1977-1978 when they won the NBA Championship over Seattle.

I remember remembering Earl Monroe (if that makes any sense), but not Gus Johnson.

In the 1990s, I was on the Board of Directors of a charity who took children living in DC government-subsidized housing on weekend trips, and we had a charity basketball game that Johnny Holliday emceed. He was able to get both Phil Chenier and Kevin Grevey to play in that game against a high school faculty (needless to say, guess who won) - both men donated their time, and were as nice as could be. Kevin Grevey, of course, owns Grevey's in Merrifield.

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I followed them for so many years.  I've seen the long(Manute Bol) and the short(Muggsy Bogues), the talented and the ill equipped, the knuckleheads (a lot of the players of the last few years that fortunately got traded away) and the disappointments, and some terrific players.

My biggest thrill occurred in 2000.  An incident got me to call a contact at the team/arena/Wizards.  I told him the story and purpose of the call.  He put me in touch with Wes Unseld.  (I really liked/admired Unseld as a player!!!!!!)

Wes listened to my story and request.  He met me.  He respected the story and request and gave me Earl Monroe's home phone number.

On behalf of a group I was hoping to get Earl the Pearl to show up at an event which had a tie in to him.  So I called.  I might have spoken with his then g/f wife.  I don't recall.  I left a couple of message.

Earl never responded.  I later learned he was going through a tough time at that period.

The event occurred without him.  It was still a great event.  I think he would have liked it...but that's life.

I got to meet Wes.  What a great ballplayer/ good guy/ loyal...a rock!!!!!!    That man had the strongest butt in the history of professional basketball.  He used it well.

Moses Malone was also good w/ his butt.  he invented the "ass-shove" and it made him an all time all pro.  Adrian Dantley probably perfected butt-pinning twirl around the defender offense.

But Wes's was probably the all around best.  here is to Wes, the Bullets and this years team.   And Earl.  He was a wonder to behold.

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Wes Unseld was perhaps the best outlet passer in the history of the game. And, from what I remember, he was regarded as "the man in the NBA people would least want to get into a fight with."

Yessiree Mr. DonRockaroni.  Wes was one of the great outlet passers in NBA history.  Its a lost art, but more on that later....

Wes was a tremendously reliable rebounder on the defensive end.  The outlet pass is a team concept.  Wes would grab a rebound raise the ball over his head and throw a 2 handed heave to a breaking bullet guard usually half way down the court and on one side or the other.  It led to many fast breaks.  The Bullets used it as a regular weapon in that Wes's rebounding was strong and reliable, the team had fast guards and wings and it created terrific offense.

Supposedly he could throw that two handed pass the length of the court.  I never saw that but did see many an outlet pass to a streaking guard and a resultant fast break.

BTW;   while Wes played the Bullets got to the NBA championships 4 times winning once.  Hard to believe but at one time for over a decade the Bullets were a good team.

Now as far as the outlet pass its mostly a lost art.  But here comes a beauty in video and the passer has a surprising connection to Wes Unseld.  Kevin Love the all star forward has a surprising middle name.  Its Wes.  Love's father Stan Love played briefly for the Bullets.  Note:  He did not use the middle name Elvin.

Kevin Love was schooled in old style basketball and understands and uses the outlet pass.  He can't do it the way Unseld did it with two hands but here is a beauty

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Kevin Love was schooled in old style basketball and understands and uses the outlet pass.  He can't do it the way Unseld did it with two hands but here is a beauty

Take another look at Love's pass: it was a blatant missed call for traveling.

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Take another look at Love's pass: it was a blatant missed call for traveling.

yep.  I thought the guy had scored.  If it was a rebound...yeah he traveled.  If after a basket it was okay.

I guess I was thinking about Wes and the dying art of outlet passes.  I'm not qualified to say Wes was the best ever.  I haven't seen everyone.  He certainly did it consistently over the course of his career.  Get a defensive rebound, swivel, the ball would be in both hands above his head...the bullet guards or a forward would be racing upcourt, usually around midcourt and Wes would blast a two handed over the head pass right to them.   It helped make the bullet offense.  It was one of the keys to their long period of excellent play while Wes Unseld was on the team.

The outlet pass isn't used much.  It should be.  Its a great way to get an offense moving.  It needs a center or rebounder who is team oriented and thinks ahead...like Wes Unseld.    Kevin Love is one of the few players in this era who applies it.

Anyway here is to the Wizards.  I hope they run through Chicago.  They are the underdogs.  We'll see what we shall see.

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Wonder of wonders.  Last night the Wizards won the first game of their participation in the first round of the playoffs.   So they haven't won game 1 in the playoffs since 1986!!!!!

That is 28 years.  That is at least 3 generations of pro basketball.  It spans the end of the Dr J era/middle of the Magic Johnson/Larry Bird era.  No first game victories during the Michael Jordan era.

Then no first game playoff victories of the Shaq/Kobe  San Antonio dominance era....and no first game victories during the Kobe/Lebron era.

That is a long long long time.  From a personal perspective and an arena perspective its a lot of beers, cokes, hot dogs, burgers and nachos.   Not only have they been dumb arena overpriced...but losing leaves a bad taste.

So here is to the Wizards (nee the bullets) for finally ending that drought.  Hopefully they wrack up 3 more victories against Chicago.  Playing Chicago is a great opportunity.  Its a team with lots of grit and little relative scoring talent.  If the Wizards match them grit for grit they can beat them on talent and skill.   So be gritty Wizards.   It ends up making the beer and sodas and hot dogs and burgers taste better.

Meanwhile that is a cool video from 1986.  The shooter is Dudley Bradley who was primarily known as a defensive player, a native of Maryland who played in the ACC before being drafted into the pros.  He was definitely not a scorer or a shooter.  Meanwhile the awkward looking pick setter appears to be Tom McMillian, the former U MD basketball player, Rhodes Scholar, former member of Congress.  It had to be at the tale end of his career.

Finally as this playoff competition goes on and assuming no injuries it will feature the very gentle battle of the long haired centers

post-9660-0-24949600-1398117521_thumb.jp

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Last night the Wizards accomplished a franchise FIRST.   This franchise goes back 50+ years.  Its a first.  (took a long time).

It was the first time the Wizards(nee the Bullets) ever won the first two games of a playoff series with both games on the opponents court.  Yikes.  That is a lot of history.

(back in the day...the playoffs used to rotate game by game between cities.  So way back in the day this feat was impossible.

(frankly I should be reading novels rather than wasting my time on these little statistical anomalies)   

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Try being a diehard Knicks fan for over 50 years and see what that gets you.  One great championship, one weak Charles Smith put-back that didn't happen and too many years of Isiah.  And, of course, our mutual admiration for Earl Monroe.  So"¦ the reason for this post, another of my pointless stories.  When I was playing gym ball in the '80s at my local "health" club, pick up games included some interesting characters.  After all, it's Brooklyn.  One day, mid-'80s, I find myself guarding Earl Monroe.  Needless to say, he got the ball off before I could even register playing any defense.  But he didn't move much.  Friendly as all hell while he was dumping the shots in though.  After the game, I thanked him for not also flying by me when I fell for every fake & he responded by saying that he wasn't being nice, he'd just had both hips replaced and didn't want to get roughed up going to the hoop.  Nice.

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Try being a diehard Knicks fan for over 50 years and see what that gets you.  One great championship, one weak Charles Smith put-back that didn't happen and too many years of Isiah.  And, of course, our mutual admiration for Earl Monroe.  So"¦ the reason for this post, another of my pointless stories.  When I was playing gym ball in the '80s at my local "health" club, pick up games included some interesting characters.  After all, it's Brooklyn.  One day, mid-'80s, I find myself guarding Earl Monroe.  Needless to say, he got the ball off before I could even register playing any defense.  But he didn't move much.  Friendly as all hell while he was dumping the shots in though.  After the game, I thanked him for not also flying by me when I fell for every fake & he responded by saying that he wasn't being nice, he'd just had both hips replaced and didn't want to get roughed up going to the hoop.  Nice.

Great great story.  I appreciate it.  I grew up in Northern NJ then moved south for college.  I got to witness the amazing Knick/Bullet rivalry of the storied knicks teams against the bullets when they matched up so well--every position had a great match up.  Willis/Wes   Gus Johnson/the Great Debuscherre    Earl/Clyde   Bradley/Marin and so on.

Those were classics.  My loyalties are divided.  I still like the Knicks...but so many woes over so many years since those great teams.  The good bullets outlasted the good knicks as some key players were younger than the great knicks of those classic days.

In the interim the Knicks had some more highlights...but haven't been able to get to the top.  oiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii.

Great story on Earl.  here is my tale.

In my college days my closest friends and I had an intramural team called the Pearls.  We've stayed in touch over so many decades.  In '99 one passed away.  I was a contact person for his family while he was in the hospital in critical.

At death I contacted people on their behalf about the funeral.  One was a woman from those college days.  One was an ex Pearl--her old boyfriend from those days.    The woman was able to make the funeral.  She and the fellow who passed away had maintained a great friendship over the decades.  She actually flew in from the far East.  Her old bf couldn't make the funeral.  (an aside--on one weekend in the late 70's the fellow who passed away, the guy who couldn't make the funeral and I played bb for 3 straight days in Ohio taking on everyone in fierce competition)

Some other old friends made it, including old "pearls".   One of them saw her and invited her to his daughter's upcoming bat mitzvah.  I told the ex boyfriend about this and he got invited to this bat mitzvah also.  Co-incidentally the old gf and bf were not married at the time.   They hit it off and rekindled old feelings.  One year later they were married.

The old pearls held a reunion to celebrate this rekindling of an old flame and honor the fellow who passed away...and on a certain basis was the reason they got together again so many years after first having a relationship.   The reunion was in NYC.   I was able to get a hold of Wes Unseld to tell him this story.   He gave me Earl's home phone number.

I called Earl a lot.  I think/recall I got his g/f or wife at the time.  I related the story.  I left messages.  We were offering an "appearance fee" as I understand that is how things are done with old celebrities and old sports heros.  He never got back to me.  Later I read that was a tough period for him.   C'est la vie.  I hear he is doing better now.

That was my one shot to meet Earl.  It never occurred.  I did get to meet Willis though, when I was a teenager and shake his hand.  In retrospect I'm surprised I've washed that hand ever since.   That meeting was a thrill of my teen years.

Here is to old Knicks and old Bullets when they had the greatest rivalry mano a mano in all of basketball.   I suppose the Celtics/Lakers had a similar rivalry in the 80's but it wasn't as mano a mano'ish at every position.

One final Knicks memory.  I had floor seats at MSG one time way back in the day.  They were underneath one of the baskets.  Bob Lanier crashed through into the fans while chasing a ball.  There he was lying down, stretched over fans.  I got a close up of his humongous feet, reportedly the largest in the NBA at the time, maybe ever.

Those were humongous feet.  Two of them.   :D  Each beyond enormous!!!!   :D   It made the game. Watching from under the basket is not a great vantage point but those feet alone were a sight to behold.

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I remember remembering Earl Monroe (if that makes any sense), but not Gus Johnson.

This video of Earl the Pearl is so slick.

He was an offensive wizard.  When he was traded to the Knicks he toned his game down...but oh my he was slick:

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This video of Earl the Pearl is so slick.

He reminds me of the Water Wiggle I had as a child.

At 1:15, he bounced the ball off a defender's chest to regain the dribble. If you watch that segment several times, he appears to have briefly panicked (stop/start the video every 1/2-second beginning at 1:13 to see the nuances), as if he'd been caught off-guard by the defender being there, and I suspect that's exactly what happened (if you think otherwise, keep watching - he spun to his left, and briefly threw up his hands and over-spun, like for 1/100th of a second he didn't know what was going on) - but he somehow regained his composure in a split-second to make it look like he had planned the entire thing. I'm not sure if he was ever interviewed about this, but if he was smart, he would have said, "Of course I knew what I was doing, the whole time," while giving a quick wink.

Bob Cousy was the original slick dribbler in the NBA (though the Globetrotters had one of their own, pre-Curly Neal, by the name of Marques Haynes), but Monroe added this dimension of uncertainty while playing to win, like Diego Maradona - he could improvise and spin his way through a dense cluster of blockades, losing only a small percentage of momentum as he charged forward, leaving bewildered defenders in his wake.

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@ Steve R:  I went back and viewed videos of Earl Monroe, the Knicks, Bullets of those days and video that included Earl in college.  It was a revelation and a hammer to the head in terms of recollection.  Earl was a unique one of a kind inventive, thoroughly coordinated master and magician.  Have there been other players who had a style like his?  I don't recall any.

He combined a unique level of body coordination with amazing hand eye ball control, a body of moves, fakes and spins that included his head, shoulders, arms, waist, hips and legs feinting and faking in every way possible,  He had to have had the softest of hands and large ones to boot.   He had a lot of dipsy doo shots when he faked a shot, got the defender to jump, went under him and put in a shot with spin, in a way that Kevin Mchale gained fame for in the 80's.  He also had an incredibly soft touch with his shot.

Earl was supposedly a great high school soccer player in Philadelphia and Don made a reference to Maradonna and what were incredible ball control moves.  Earl did it with his hands.    He certainly had to have carried the ball endless times among his spins and twists, but it was difficult to call, and frankly was so bball artistic and unique that it deserved being allowed.  LOL.

He said he used to do magic tricks for the Bullets at half time.  I don't recall that.  I went to a number of Bullet Knicks games in the old Baltimore civic center.   The mano a mano match ups were legendary.   Earl vs Clyde was the highlight.  Two magicians covering one another with the highlight being Earl's offense versus Clyde's defense.  In some of those videos there are scenes of Clyde strategically taking a defensive swipe and Earl just beating him by a millisecond with the ball and body leaving Clyde in the dust.  I'm sure there were other incidents when Clyde beat Earl by a similar millisecond and stole the ball.

It had to be a treat to cover him one time.  Earl was a unique one of a kind dude on the court, possibly even in his late 40's or early 50's and even with 2 hip transplants.  His hand eye coordination was unmatched and oh those soft touch shooting hands.   My goodness.

I know there were better shooting guards;  West, Jordan, Kobe, maybe some others...but Earl was great, magical and a one of a kind.

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yep.  I thought the guy had scored.  If it was a rebound...yeah he traveled.  If after a basket it was okay.

I think you're right - the guy had scored (everyone was running down the court, not contesting any sort of rebound), and Love was stepping back out of bounds to throw it in. I think outlet passes are technically only off of defensive rebounds, but this was certainly a variation of one.

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I think you're right - the guy had scored (everyone was running down the court, not contesting any sort of rebound), and Love was stepping back out of bounds to throw it in. I think outlet passes are technically only off of defensive rebounds, but this was certainly a variation of one.

Might be.  I don't know the definition of outlet pass.  Love, though, is one of the players that uses it pretty frequently and more regularly than most players.   Its a play that involves teamwork.  The guards and small forward have to break to the other basket.   Its used so rarely these days.

Love's father must have evidently really admired Wes Unseld...hence Love's middle name.   I just wonder if Love was schooled in some older traditional methods that end up spurring a focus on things like outlet passes.   I don't know.  Its just a guess.

I'd like to see a guy like Love on the Wizards.  I don't think Nene is long for the basketball world.  He is very brittle and is also getting up in years.  Nene is such a plus for the Wizards...but I don't believe he'll have a lot of productivity in front of him, primarily because of one type of injury or another.

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The Wizards won their first game of the 2nd round in Indiana.  Bah Boom History.   The Wiz/Bullets haven't won the first game of the 2nd round since 1982.  That is 32 years.  Its a lifetime.

What I found dumbfounding was how poorly the Pacers' center, Hibbert played.  Last season in the playoffs I thought his performance made Indiana one of the favorites for the crown this year.  And it did.   For half a season.  Then he went bad and the Pacers became mediocre over the last third of the season and during the first round against Atlanta.

Hibbert is interesting.  He is a local.  Played his high school ball here and played his college ball here at Georgetown.  He was 7' 2" in high school.  One of our former employees played HS ball with him.  He was a high school star...but not because of talent...because of height.  When he got to Georgetown he was a project.  Long before they worked on his basketball skills they worked on his athleticism, coordination, and strength.   By his Junior and Senior years he was good in college and became a high draft choice.

He still had years of development in front of him.  Last year and the first half of this year he blossomed.  He was playing at an all star and dominant level.

And then he crashed.  In every way.  Its very hard to figure.  He is slow and late on every move.  He is a problem for Indiana...and as a Wizards fan I'm happy.   But for him...I hope he learns what is wrong and fixes it.  Hibbert has been  an excellent testimonial to hard work.

Its as if Hibbert is playing while he has some kind of virus that his slowed him down...a mystery virus that has yet to be medically detected.

Meanwhile...with a lousy Hibbert for Indiana...the freaking Wiz were great in a many facets.  Shooting, teamwork, rebounding, teamwork, teamwork.

Go Wiz.

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The Wizards won their first game of the 2nd round in Indiana.  Bah Boom History.   The Wiz/Bullets haven't won the first game of the 2nd round since 1982.  That is 32 years.  Its a lifetime.

What I found dumbfounding was how poorly the Pacers' center, Hibbert played.  Last season in the playoffs I thought his performance made Indiana one of the favorites for the crown this year.  And it did.   For half a season.  Then he went bad and the Pacers became mediocre over the last third of the season and during the first round against Atlanta.

A two-time All-Star, and Roy Hibbert shows up last night and drops *zero* points and snags *zero* rebounds. I'm sure this has happened before, but I can't remember when (his teammates aren't happy).

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A two-time All-Star, and Roy Hibbert shows up last night and drops *zero* points and snags *zero* rebounds. I'm sure this has happened before, but I can't remember when (his teammates aren't happy).

And yet, the Wizards have dropped the next two games.

Over at the Washington Post, great writers like Thomas Boswell had all but written off the Pacers after Game 1, going so far as to say there might not even be a game 6, even if Hibbert shows up to play.

I'm no sportswriter, but I don't have to be one to know that when a basketball team - any team, much less something of a perennial doormat - is in the second round of the playoffs for the first time in nine years, you don't dismiss their opponent, period. Boswell was talking like all we had left to do was tie the bow on the gift we were being handed!

I remarked on Hibbert's historically bad game - zero points and zero rebounds! - but I was not foolish enough to dismiss the Pacers. Please, somebody, let this be a lesson: these are professional athletes, and both teams are trying to win.

There's a reason that Steffi Graf used to win her tennis matches 6-0, 6-0 in 37 minutes, and it's not because she was so much drastically better than her opponents (even though she was); she was smart enough to realize that if she gave her opponent a chance to take even one breath, well, she might not lose, but her day might be longer than she wanted it to be. She gave it her all, every single point, as if her life was on the line - no matter who she was playing. I advise the Wizards to start doing the same: immediately.

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The Wizards are now 1-3 in the second round of the playoffs following a first game win.  The last 3 games have included one strong win by Indiana and 2 games that could have gone either way.  In the two close losses the Wizards gave up big leads.  They faltered in the stretch.  Tough to watch, especially at the end of the close games.  On the other hand over the years it is a pattern for how teams develop.

The Wiz do have a very strong young backcourt with an excellent playmaker and an excellent shooting guard, and both players can switch roles with Bradley Beal able to distribute the ball and John Wall able to be a big time scorer.   Here is hoping for a victory in game 5 and continued fortunes in future years.

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The Playoff Wizards Crushed Indiana the other night, 102-79, staving off playoff elimination, winning the game after 3 straight losses and moving the playoff results to 2-3 in favor of Indiana.  First team to 4 wins takes the playoff series and competes against Miami for the Eastern Division Championship.

What was simply astounding was the rebound margin in favor of the Wizards.  The Wiz had 62 rebounds and the Pacers had 23 leaving a margin of 39 rebounds in the favor of the Wiz.  That is the 3rd highest rebound margin in NBA playoff history with the largest margin ever being 42.

Something like that virtually never occurs.  Certainly not in the Playoffs and not with teams with entire rosters of players at the highest levels of the sport.  It was historic.  In this playoff series as in so many that have occurred over the decades one sees incredible swings;  one team crushes the opposition in one game and in a following game the team that got crushed returns the favor and demolishes the other team.

I've always found it astounding.  It has occurred every year, year after year, in series after series going back to the beginning of the professional sport.   In this latest match up it must have been a combination of the Wizards playing inspired ball with desperation and drive and the Pacers playing with absolutely no emotion or mental or physical effort.

One never knows what is going to occur for the most part. (current exceptions being Lebron James and Kevin Durant virtually ALWAYS playing great)  It makes watching the games worthwhile.

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Good season, Wiz.  Possibly the best or 2nd best season in the last 34 years or so.  Ughhhhhhhhhh.

Hoping for a somewhat better season next year.

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Very interesting perspective:   Abe Pollin's eldest son reflects and comments about the name change that his father made in converting the team name from Bullets to Wizards:   Of course he wrote this as it reflects upon currrent controversies regarding the name of the Redskins.

I simply think its a thoughtful piece.  It comes from the "inside".  It adds a lot of perspective.  .....and frankly this person, with a connection to a team changing its name didn't need to comment at all.  He lives and has lived in Massachusetts for many many years.   Now I'm a real long term fan.  I followed the team in Baltimore and have followed the team in DC.  I still sometimes call them the bullets.  They had their heyday as the Bullets.  In fact they were a very competitive team for about a decade all as Bullets.

The name change issue with the Redskins is one that I don't comment on.  Its one where my perspective on a singular level doesn't matter.  I know what I think about it...but I'll simply let that sit.

Regardless, I think its always interesting to get the perspective of somebody with experience on an issue.  This is an enlightening perspective from somebody with a real inside look.  Its interesting.

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The above article is terrific.   It captures the playoff sweep and the changes the Wizards made to enable them to win convincingly in 4 straight games.  Really astonishing that in their long history they have never before had a 4 game playoff sweep.  Heck, its been a terrible ride.  Most years since the beginning of the 80's they never got to the playoffs.

In the early part of the season the Wizards had a dominant record.  Everything was rosy.  Mid season on, the record was entirely mediocre.  The team and coach drew a lot of criticism.  Much of it directed to the coach for sticking with a huge front line and not playing a "stretch 4"/ outside shooting big forward as with so many teams in the league.

Wham bam, in the playoffs the coach did just that.  Pierce played the big forward and drained 3 pointers.  Otto Porter, a former #3 pick in the draft, and to date a disappointment relative to his draft status played as if a new man, and the player envisioned when he was drafted at that level.  He filled the small forward spot, playing offense, defense grabbing rebounds and exerting tremendous energy into the game.   With a stretch 4 driving lanes opened for Wall and Beal and Gortat scoring on give and gos. The Wizard offense opened up.

A smashing victory and an excellent series.  Good luck into the next round.

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