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Terps, Hoyas, and Wizards

Heading to the arena, I knew last night was destined to be a night of firsts; I only could hope that one of those firsts include the Wizards’ finally landing on the winning side of things this season. Being new to this whole blogging thing (and being a player through college, not a journalist), I haven’t really experienced a “welcome to the media” moment until last night.

How was the game, a Pacers-Wizards matchup with the Wiz still desperate for the year’s first one, special you ask? The reason being it was my first opportunity of the season to take advantage of one of the Dime’s newest additions to our team, official Media Credentials. Entering the Verizon Center through the media entrance definitely made me feel pretty boss, but once I was presented with a personal badge for the game (name and affiliation included) I knew that not even another Wizards loss would be able to prevent me from having a good night.

Our next pre-game stop was the media lounge, where we would get a stats packet, our section assignments, and some pregame refreshments. The buffet surprisingly featured pork roast and leg of lamb, and even more shockingly at the table next to me sat David Alridge, a real NBA media vet. That’s when it all really sank in, and I realized that I was no longer just a fan, but a member of the media; during my career I never thought I would end up going this route, I always thought the media was a pain in the ass more than anything, but I can say that last night really validated the decision to start writing for me. After a short time, we headed up to our assigned section and prepared for the start of the game.

After an awkward set of player introductions where the loudest ovation may have been gone to the Pacers Roy Hibbert (a former Hoya), the Wizards came out flat as a board and got down big early. Hibbert, David West, and Paul George paced Indiana’s early scoring, and Washington stood offensively watching Jordan Crawford and A.J. Price force up contested jumpers. The Wizards fell behind 21-6 in the first quarter, and were never fully able to recover. It was not until the second unit, featuring Brad Beal, Shaun Livingston and Kevin Seraphin, hit the floor that the Wizards showed any signs of offensive life.

Lackadaisical second quarter effort from the Pacers and steady play from the bench unit was able to cut the lead going into halftime only down 9. The half was full of forced jumpers and bad isolations, but I liked the way the offense looked with Livingston at the point. With his size, we were able to use his post-up game and 1-on-1 ability against his smaller defender to get some good looks. His unselfishness, and the fact that as a PG he isn’t interested in leading the team in shot attempts (like our current starter does), makes him the clear best option for the team moving forward.

The second half started with the Wiz on a run, forcing Frank Vogel to call an early timeout. He was able to settle the troops, and they again opened up a large lead against our “starters”. Insert Beal and Livingston, and the game again turned around with another huge late 3rd quarter run. The Wiz trailed by 4 going into the 4th, and were able to draw even on a few occasions during the quarter. However, down the stretch David West hit clutch jumper after clutch jumper, the offense sputtered to get shot attempts, and we ultimately fell to a more talented opponent 96-89. Small consolation, but Beal had a huge second half tonight, continuing his emergence over the past few games. He scored 17 points during the half, aggressively searching for his shot from distance and not hesitating to attack the basket. I’m happy to see him continue to develop, and only hope he continues to shoulder the scoring load (even off the bench).

However, the story of course is the Wiz’s futility: with another game and another disappointing loss, the Wizards losing streak has now extended to a franchise-worst 9 straight to start a season. Ouch. The Wiz created enough chances for themselves with their comeback effort to pull off the win, but they were unable to get over the hump yet again. The slow start really derailed things, and our inability to defend the paint and rebound defensively cost us big down the stretch and throughout the contest.

After the conclusion of the contest, we headed down to the media lounge yet again for Randy’s post-game comments. He did not have much to say, in fact, he even admitted to having no idea what to do to improve, how to create rotations or get the team in a better position to be successful. Well without being able to establish rotations or style of play, he basically told us he had no idea how to properly do his job. Randy looked and sounded like a man who knew his days on the bench were numbered. Things certainly are not entirely his fault, our roster without Wall and Nene is the least-talented in the NBA, but the coach is always the first to go when things snowball downhill.

We moved from there to the locker room for brief player interviews before they headed off into the DC night. Seraphin, Beal, Crawford, and Livingston all expressed similar sentiments: the team is talented enough to win, they believe they can win, once they win one they will run off a few more, and they need to start better and play 48 minutes in order to win. Saying the right things sure, but the body language for some of the guys suggested they might not buy the story they’re selling.

Going through losing streaks are extremely tough on any athlete’s confidence, and this type of historic losing is extremely troubling. We need to get the taste of victory and soon before negativity creeps in around the team to completely derail our season. After a short time, the small crowd of media was herded out of the locker room, and my first evening covering an NBA basketball game came to an end. Certainly an evening of firsts for me at the Phone Booth, and regardless of the result, it’s one I doubt I will soon forget.

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