Washington, DC busted out the pomp and circumstance on Monday to ring in President Obama’s second inauguration. Hundreds of thousands of people – including your humble sports blogger -- braved the cold and the crowds to partake in the celebration ushering in the president’s next four years. With the return of John Wall and the Wizards playing respectable ball of late, could it possibly be that we’re seeing the start of another revived second term in the nation’s capital???
Okay the analogy doesn’t perfectly hold. The POTUS after all has jobs to create and a military to command. And the Wizards….well…it’s “just basketball.” But suspend that thought for a second and just go with the comparison. Both find themselves in a deep hole heading into their respective “2.0” phases, but with fair amounts of momentum to build on. From the economy to Iran, Obama’s got a full plate but at least has a fresh mandate and renewed political capital to work with that follows any re-election.
The new beginning for the Wizards, of course, is the return from injury of John Wall -- the face and future of the franchise. Nine wins from forty games is a nightmare for any team to dig out of. But Wiz nation can at least build on Wall’s return which came at the opportune time following three straight wins -- including one against league juggernaut Oklahoma City -- and right before a five game road trip.
Since returning to the lineup Randy Wittman has used Wall prudently. He has yet to crack the starting lineup, has been limited in his minutes and the Wiz have alternated wins and losses over a five game stretch. But Wall has also demonstrated flashes of his old razzle-dazzle self, flipping underhand passes and soaring high to catch lob passes. There’s no question that his presence on the court -- rather than in street clothes -- is an automatic energizer for the team. Yes, they have been playing .500 ball but that’s a vast improvement from the ignominious days of November and December. And what’s important is that they have been playing opponents close -- all on the road too. The average margin of defeat in their three losses since Wall’s return is just four points, which includes a near 15 point fourth quarter comeback against the Jazz on Wednesday night.
Numerous question marks still surround how the team will gel going forward, but Wittman has a good dilemma on his hands -- the problem of plenty. With most of the Wizards healthy again he has all the tools at his disposal for the first time in a long while. It will be interesting to see Wall settle into pick and rolls with Nene while mixing up a fast tempo with high flying Bradley Beal.
The Wiz return home on Friday in what should be an electric atmosphere for Wall’s first game at the Verizon Center. With the first two months of the season having gone as they did, the playoffs are still a stretch, especially in an Eastern Conference tougher this season than previous years. The goal for now should be to get the pieces to come together and continue playing even .500 ball so their merits are judged by wins instead of close losses. Because of rough circumstances, neither Wall nor Obama have their fans screaming a Poltergeist version of “He’s baaaaaaaaaaack.” But that doesn’t mean great things can’t be in store for either of them.