When legendary New York Knicks broadcaster Walt "Clyde" Frazier said over a media room dinner before Wednesday night's Knicks/Wizards game in Washington "I'm worried about tonight," it was unclear what he was talking about. The food? Bad weather preventing the Knicks from getting out of D.C.? Surely the former Knick point guard and current trendsetting fashionista wasn't worried about the Wizards. The Knicks had won four games in a row and held the Eastern Conference's second best record. The Wizards were a punch line, the thing to do in D.C. if no other sports team was playing and there were no shows at the 9:30 Club.
But Walt's worries about the Wizards proved to be omniscient, as they walloped his Knicks 106 -96. The team that started the year 0-12, have now beaten New York, the Bulls, Thunder, Heat and Clippers. The sad-sack Wiz is the only team in basketball to have defeated six of the league's seven best teams.
Rest assured, the Wizards are not suddenly some juggernaut. Their 13-35 record puts them in second to last place in the Eastern Conference and that unimaginable start to the season basically ruined any playoff hopes they may have had. Still, they've won seven of their last eight at home and have really been competitive in the District all season. They've only won three games away from Washington all year, but that's a battle for a different day.
Part of this recent success can be attributed to the return of John Wall. The dazzling third-year point guard played his first game of the season on January 12th. On Wednesday, in front of his former college coach John Calipari, and the greatest point guard of all time, Magic Johnson, Wall put on a show. He finished with 21 points and nine assists and routinely beat the Knicks down the court for baskets.
Martell Webster, the always-thoughtful Wizards shooting guard was diplomatic after the win. "We care in this locker room, the record may not show it. We battle in practice and we make each other better. We're healthy now and we're starting to go full throttle."
Webster's probably right that the Wizards relatively healthy roster has helped them improve, but the remarkable thing about their recent wins is the quality of their opponents. Four of their victories came against the aforementioned Thunder, Bulls, Clippers and Knicks, meaning that the team that once couldn't win a game is now knocking off title contenders. By comparison, the Heat hold the Eastern Conference's best record, yet the only team in this group they've beaten is the Thunder.
Washington center Emeka Okafor was adamant after the game that these wins against the league's best were signs of good things to come. "Our record isn't indicative of the type of team we are at all. We get out there and compete every night"
If the last three months is any indication Okafor is right. Once seen as a doormat team in a fun city, the Wizards have shown some recent magic.