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On the Wizards, and the Home Court, and Ranking the Opponents

If any of the people who used to read this blog are still around, you'll recall that I used to do nothing but write about the Wizards. And, despite a few hiccups and hair-pulling fights early this year, things seemed pretty joyous in the land of Wiz. Well, no more. Now BTH is a benched malcontent, and Caron has a broken finger, and fans are calling for various heads to roll in various directions. Before my baby was born and I took a long blog break, the Wiz were 31-25 (.554). Since, they're 8-8, and drenched in chaos.

An abstract representation of the Wizards' playoff hopes.

Anyhow, I've been promised by WaPo NBA editor Alexa I'll travel with our lads for the playoffs, which, at this point, might consist of two road games. There are four possible first-round opponents, unless something bizarre happens: Cleveland, Chicago, Miami, and Toronto. I've been trying to rank these locales in order of desirability, including at once travel amenities, blogging storylines, Wiz survival chances and basketball drama. Well, ok, mainly travel amenities. I've got it like this: Toronto, Chicago, Miami, Cleveland, Toronto pulling ahead on the strength of the Alecko Eskandarian blogging opportunities, the good kind of Smarties, and the chance to meet actual Canadian J.E. Skeets of The Basketball Jones.

Here's an obvious but key point: The Wizards are 26-10 at home, and could still finish with the East's best home record. The three other best home records in the East? Chicago, Cleveland and Toronto. Point: The Wiz want home court in the playoffs.

Here's another key point: The only way the Wiz are getting home court in the playoffs is if they make up the 1.5 games they're behind Toronto and claim the third seed. Even if they get the fourth seed, they'd almost certainly be on the road against fifth-seeded Cleveland or Chicago, because of an inferior regular season record. There's been some confusion on this point; the WashTimes's John Mitchell wrote today that "the Wizards don't want to slip out of that fourth seed and lose homecourt advantage," and last week, Ivan Carter wrote that "overtaking the Heat for the Southeast Division title would guarantee that the Wizards would be no lower than the fourth seed and would have home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs." I believe both are mistaken. They're not the only ones a bit confused; check out this story on the Jazz from the Deseret Morning News:

The topic at hand: NBA playoffs, and just how first-round matchups are determined after the league tinkered with the format for this season.

Jazz coaches and broadcasters debating over dinner recently weren't quite sure of the details. Neither were a few Jazz players who were discussing the subject recently, so they went to the most-trusted source they knew.

"If you win your division you can (be seeded) no worse than fourth, I believe. But if you play someone with a better record, you won't get the homecourt advantage, is what I understand," veteran forward Jarron Collins said. "It actually came up the other day in the locker room ... and that was the understanding I was given, I think, from Adam Klauke -- the ballboy, the source of information of the team."

Point being, unless young Adam Klauke was mistaken, and I don't think he was, the Wiz might want to make up that 1.5 game deficit pretty quickly. Furthermore, since "Lunkhead Play of the Week" author Michael Ruffin chose precisely the wrong team to be lunkheaded against, the Wiz lose the tiebreaker against the Raptors, meaning they're essentially 2.5 games back with 10 to play. On the whole, the Wiz have a slightly more favorable end of season schedule than the 'Tors. The Raptors should go no worse than 5-4 down the stretch, though, which means the Wiz need to finish 8-2, which would require at least three wins out of at N.J., at Miami, vs. Cle, vs. Chi, at Ind. Which is about as likely as a Giant-Headed Teddy Roosevelt launching himself off the roof at RFK Stadium only to be DQ'd for "flying."

So the big point is, I need to think of another way to spend my travel allotment. In the meantime, if you could help rank Miami, Chicago, Cleveland and Toronto, as travel destinations and Wiz playoff opponents and blogging meccas, I'd appreciate it.

By Dan Steinberg  |  April 3, 2007; 10:31 AM ET
Categories:  Wizards  
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Yay, the Wizards again!

Isn't Miami supposed to be an obviously great place to visit? The beach, et cetera, et cetera? I have never been there myself, though.

I've seen almost none of Toronto, either, but I think you're right that it should also be a good place to go - the Northeast in the springtime is usually pretty beautiful. Surely the Canadians can uphold that standard, right?

Cleveland has Lebron James going for it, but I don't know about the city. Meanwhile Chicago's quite a city, but doesn't really have players I'd be excited to see.

Maybe you could instead use your travel budget to zip around the world finding some kind of healing guru who could miraculously repair Caron Butler's hand in the next week or so. I know I would appreciate it... plus, it could get you to several additional playoff rounds! (Because the Wizards don't seem likely to get far without Caron in the lineup, being the implication, you see.)

Posted by: Josh | April 3, 2007 11:06 AM | Report abuse

Steinz blogging about the Wizards again guarantees that they return to their winning ways.

Posted by: AV | April 3, 2007 11:40 AM | Report abuse

go to Ukraine and find pecherov, tell him he's starting at 3.

i'd think toronto because of the left handed shot would be great, plus you can inundate garbosa with questions about our spanish player (5 years in the making) would be depressing (when did we beat them last?)...chicago is the best chance of a first round win...and the nets aren't much fun unless your malicious, which you aren't (laptops, ridiculous free agent contract this summer for an aging high flyer, can't think of anything with kidd...)

Posted by: CreditZard | April 3, 2007 12:09 PM | Report abuse

I'm with AV. Blog about the Wizards and all your travel dreams will come true.

As to the rankings, it is obvious:

1. Chicago
2. Toronto
3. Miami
4. Cleveland

1. Chicago and Toronto are beautiful cities with real personality. Chicago wins by a hair -- great place to just drop in on and see cool things. Take a boat tour of the architecture in Chicago. Go I get to travel to Chicago on business a lot and I love the tough, straight-talking people of that city. And they love their sports and their beer. It would be fun, fun, fun. Let me know if you need the low-down on hotels there. There's a modest-priced Swiss hotel in the shape of a triangle that's totally cool. And there's a place just outside of Chicago where they SURF! Lol.

2. Go to Toronto's Chinatown and get lost in an entirely different world. Canadians: great people.

3. Miami: NBA players like South Beach, but I say there's not much to recommend a bad beach scene of cheap women, drugs, and stupidity. Guess I'm just not an NBA player. Always too hot and muggy.

4. Cleveland: every stereotype about Cleveland is true. Only good point is underground music scene.

I would prefer not to play the Raptors in the playoffs. They are, like us, an emotional team. I think they could bring it on in the playoffs. I'd prefer to get some revenge for last years playoffs (Mr. James). So, while not wishing you ill, Dan, I'd like to see you off to Cleveland.

Posted by: Nancy | April 3, 2007 1:38 PM | Report abuse

I don't care who we play, but why don't we play both BTH and Etan at the same time? I think they could dominate down low, or at least give them a go at it.

Posted by: doublemint | April 3, 2007 2:03 PM | Report abuse

if we need to tank a game sometime in the last 10 (to not play miami, obviously), i say we put Todd and Etan in together. How great would it be to see them fight for the same rebound or box each other out as confused opposing team big men are unscathed

Posted by: CreditZard | April 3, 2007 2:11 PM | Report abuse

Wizards can't start both ET and BTH because the team foulability (yes, its a word) statistic would go through the roof. And you know Les Wiz don't like to foul. Also, it makes too much sense to have 0, 2, 4, 36, and 33 to start a game.

Jarvis Hayes is rather hated by the Wiz fans. I have a failproof solution - sign his twin brother to the team (his bro can play ball). Twins, as Eastern European research suggests, operate better when both are near each other. Jarvis' struggles are a direct result of not having his twin brother within 5 miles of him.

Posted by: Zuke | April 3, 2007 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Do you have any fun stories about the Wizards? It might make us all feel better about their impending doom sans Butler for the next 10 games and into the playoffs.

Posted by: Lisa | April 3, 2007 2:30 PM | Report abuse

Zuke, your twin idea is pure genius.

Posted by: Nancy | April 3, 2007 2:53 PM | Report abuse

I think the wiz are just in a funk b/c they miss Steinz. My prediction is that once they see Steinz is back: Eddie, Etan, and Brendan will have a group hug. Jarvis's jumper will be nothing but net, and Agent Zero will have phenomenal swag once again. (And yes I believe in the Easter Bunny but not Santa Clause.)

Posted by: thebigc_1982 | April 3, 2007 3:45 PM | Report abuse

we need BHAy and Etan together in that game, we need to double the excitement

Posted by: doublemint | April 3, 2007 4:41 PM | Report abuse

Admittedly an NBA West fan but follow the entire league. Watched the Wiz and Cats tonight. That was the MOST sorry-assed performance EVER from a team with something to seriously gain from a win against a team who incidentally came to the arena to pick up their dry-cleaning and mail, possibly their pay stubs, and oh yeah play a game. Nice defense Eddie. They win 1 game max in the post-season. WTF was that anyway?

Posted by: Reg | April 3, 2007 9:40 PM | Report abuse

Wiz: Call It a Season!

If losing Caron Butler for the rest of the season and the soon-to-be-short-lived playoffs wasn't enough, we have Brendan Haywood to thank for his unprofessional conduct on the court...and on the bench.

Never have I seen such lack of character from a man who is pulling in about $4.5 million this year from the Wiz front office. From his pitiful, uninterested defensive efforts to his pathetic run-ins with Etan Thomas (no doubt due to Etan telling Brendan to "be a man and bring his game" every night), Haywood fails to show professionalism, a trademark that has been his own all season long.

Then again, from my perspective this issue with Haywood has never been about money. It's about integrity, character, and the principal of living up to one's promise to the organization and fans and to the profession one undertakes. Brendan Haywood will never be known by Wiz basketball fans for his integrity, character, or principals. What he will be known for is the way he has stolen money from the Wizards organization and its fans. [Notice "its" not "his" since, in my estimation, Haywood has few, if any, fans.]

It's a little late in coming, but Coach Eddie Jordan and GM Ernie Grunfeld have finally caught on to Haywood's ploy. Of late, Haywood has been rightfully benched due to his lack of effort on the court. [Brendan, please, step up, be a man, and admit that you're not giving 100% every night, and we'll believe you. We just want to hear it from your lying mouth.]

Moreover, while he has been riding the pine, Haywood has refused to encourage his teammates, cheer them on, get his behind off the bench and stand up on those size 20 shoes and be a part of the Wiz team. [Isn't it amazing how a player's true character shows through every time?] He has created dissension and strife and---thankfully---Ernie and Eddie have seen right through Haywood's antics, rightfully discerning that lukewarm play and a foul attitude cannot earn privileges.

Another of Haywood's problems is---like many of today's youth---his sense of entitlement. [The world owes me...I'm too valuable...I have a right to...I'm too important...I'm getting mine.]

To build my favorite team, I would find five men with great attitudes, who left everything on the court every night, and played as a team---even if they had average NBA talent. Why? Fans want to see those types of players succeed. Haywood isn't even close to being that type of player. Give me five "gym rats"---Gil, Sean Elliott, Dennis Johnson, Ben Wallace, Luke Walton---any day of the week. [Yes, two of those five are retired.] Former San Diego Padre Tony Gwynn also comes to mind as one of the hardest workers in the game. But, please, don't ever mention Haywood in the same breath as these men.

I recall a game earlier this season at Verizon Center. The Wiz had not been playing much defense early on [care to guess who was jogging, not running, up the court on defense?]. Eddie subbed in Andre Blatche and, almost immediately, his impact was felt when he played some tough "d" against the opposing center and blocked at least two shots, leading to easy transition hoops for Gil and Caron. Wouldn't you know that the Verizon Center fans went absolutely berserk? You'd have though the Wiz just won their second NBA crown!

While I am sad about the injuries that the Wiz players have suffered this year---to Andre, Antawn, Caron, Darius, Gil, et al---nothing makes me sadder than to see a team that could have easily made it to the Eastern Conference finals this year come apart at the seams late in the year. Yes, losing Caron (twice) and Antawn for long stretches has been painful---for them and for us---but this angst started long ago with Haywood's unprofessionalism rearing its ugly head...way back in the pre-season.

Ernie, please. Rid us of Haywood once and for all. We could use a five worth a plug nickel.

Posted by: vah4bm | April 4, 2007 6:53 AM | Report abuse

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