- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 26, 2013


The Wizards won again Monday night in Toronto and they’ll take a three-game winning streak into Wednesday night’s home game against Detroit.

You look at the NBA standings, where the Wizards used to be easy to find anchored to the bottom, and you have to pass several teams on the way up before you come to Washington.

The record is still an eyesore at 18-37, but it is a significant improvement over the 4-28 mark the team “boasted” not that long ago.

Now start at the top of the Eastern Conference standings and count down. The eighth-place team as of Tuesday was Milwaukee, with 26 victories.

That means Washingt *** STOP. DO NOT GO THERE.

But the Wizards are only eight games out of a playoff position. A long shot, sure, with only 27 games left. Quite unlikely. Out of the question?


Or is it?

Of course it isn’t. What a story it would be if the Wizards did somehow manage to claw their way into the playoffs after that abysmal start. It would be a tremendous story and we’ll check back in a month and see if there’s still a playoff heartbeat with this team.

As it is, the Wizards continue to be one of the early feel-goods of 2013 even if they do fall short of the postseason.

The Wizards were, to be blunt, a blight on the area’s pro sports scene for a while.

The Redskins won their division last season. So did the Nationals, with the best record in baseball. They go into this year a legitimate World Series contender.

D.C. United are a force again in Major League Soccer. The Kastles (World Team Tennis for those scratching their heads) never lose. Seriously. They never lose. At least not since Washington Times Sports has been back in business. Look it up.

The Capitals are still spinning their wheels a bit. They’ve played better of late and are a much more realistic shot to make the postseason than the Wizards. Right now, anyway.

The Wizards, though, are winning more games, attracting some new fans and luring some former fans back. Saturday’s victory over the Rockets drew more than 20,000 to Verizon Center. That’s 7,000 more than they got for a Saturday home game in December against Detroit.

And — gasp — the Wizards actually appear to be set up for a brighter future.

Surge No. 1 this season coincided with John Wall’s return to the lineup after that stress injury in his knee.

Surge No. 2 can be attributed to Wall’s backcourt mate, 19-year-old Bradley Beal. He’s starting to show why the Wizards used the No. 3 pick in this year’s draft on him. He’s had 17 or more points in five of the past six games.

The most impressive number with Beal may be the 19 next to his age. He won’t be 20 until June.

The Bryce Harper of the Wizards? Not quite. Beal isn’t going to be Rookie of the Year. But Wizards fans no longer should be looking at the draft list to see which players the team passed up to get him. He’s looking more and more legit.

That’s a real, NBA-level backcourt. Wall, the elder statesman, is only 22.

Nene and Emeka Okafor are older, though not pushing retirement age older. They’re providing the type of inside play the Wizards need. Okafor has been exceptional lately. He has three straight games with at least 10 rebounds. He’s had at least 10 rebounds 23 times this season.

Nene and Okafor are 30. They were born 15 days apart in September of 1982. Hardly ready to be put out to pasture. The two “old” men and the two “kids” in the backcourt make for a very solid core that could play together a while. Nene is under contract through 2016. Okafor does become a free agent after next season.

The backcourt needs to continue its development. Okafor and Nene need continued good health.

A laughable thought at 0-13 and 4-28 -— the Wizards in the playoffs! — may not be realistic for this season. It is, at least, no longer a laughable thought for next season and beyond.

• Mike Harris can be reached at mharris@washingtontimes.com.

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