Toronto plays Washington tonight in a game featuring teams that haven’t been very good lately. The Wizards haven’t made the playoffs since the high-point of the Arenas-Jamison-Butler years and are in the midst of a hefty rebuild.
Instead of providing the usual game preview with notes on the opposition and keys to victory, we’re going to try something different.
I sought out a former colleague of mine who lives in Washington DC and happens to be a Wizards fan who attends many of their home games (yes, they exist.) He agreed to chat with me about the team, the direction they’re heading in and what it was like when Gilbert Arenas brought weapons into his workplace.
Our conversation is below:
Sasha Kalra: So, what’s it like to be a Wizards fan?
Grant Phllips: It sucks
Kalra: So if you had to use more words to describe it?
Phillips: It’s a state of being eternally hopeful for the future. We get a lot of young players that have hype behind them and many expectations. Those expectations are usually not fulfilled. So yeah, it sucks.
Kalra: But it wasn’t all bad. Those Arenas-Butler-Jamison teams weren’t awful if memory serves me correctly
Phillips: That was great. We would have a great run every season but lose to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round. It was a typical DC sports experience to do so well and get manhandled by LeBron James scoring 40-50 points a game in the playoffs.
Kalra: Gilbert Arenas didn’t leave town on the best of terms
Phillips: I think we mostly still like him. Again, the whole gun thing was yet another typical DC experience. Players do well, come here and get into trouble. It’s happened in the past and it will keep happening. I’m not sure whether it’s players coming to DC or DC itself. Something happens to these players when they come here.
Kalra: Typical DC, eh? Does that cut across all sports?
Phillips: It happened to the Nationals two years ago with Strasburg. Another great player with great hopes but it all goes bad in the playoffs. And Ovechkin and the Capitals who always used to do well every season but go out in the playoffs to an unheralded, lesser team. They lost by eight goals one time in the playoffs! And of course, the Redskins. Things just go south all of the time here. It’s kind of the culture around here and it’s expected with sports teams. We still root for them and want them to do well but it’s evident that something usually goes wrong.
Kalra: Sounds depressing. Another team that hasn’t had much to be happy about lately is the Toronto Raptors. What do you know about them?
Phillips: Didn’t Vince Carter wear your jersey in the All Star game a couple of times? Yeah, that’s it.
Kalra: The Wizards were picked by a few people to make a run at a playoff spot this year. This team isn’t too bad, is it?
Phillips: I was at the game the other night against the Timberwolves. They were down a good amount, fought back and won the game. Teams in years past wouldn’t have been able to do that. Bradley Beal and John Wall are a great back court. If this team can stay healthy they can surely make a run at a playoff spot.
Kalra: What are the strengths of this team?
Phillips: Guard play. They get great play on both ends from their guards. Beal and Wall are quick and extremely fun to watch. They lack experience but that comes with time of course.
Kalra: What about weaknesses?
Phillips: Leadership and health. This is a young team that is pretty injury prone. If they can stay healthy and grow together this season it’ll have been a successful year.
Kalra: Best of luck with that. Prediction for tonight?
Phillips: Wizards win by 5 and Beal gets 28 points.
Kalra: I’ll hold you to that.