December 8, 2019

Looking Back On The 2013-2014 Washington Wizards: The Dawning of a New Age in D.C.

Before the season, if you would have walked up to any Washington Wizards’ fan and told them that this team would get to Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals before it was all over, you would have been met with many wide eyes and disbelieving shaking heads. With the recent history of the franchise, it would be hard to blame them.

The last time the Wizards had a winning record, you have to go all the way back to the 2007-2008 season, also the last time Washington made the postseason. Over the next five seasons prior to the 2013-2014 campaign, they went a combined 117-277. What once looked like a promising basketball franchise, quickly turned into a league doormat.

With bad basketball, however, comes high draft picks. In the past four NBA Drafts, Washington has had a pick in the top six. They used two of those selections to pick up John Wall and Bradley Beal, laying the groundwork for what would become a feared backcourt in the NBA. Beal’s ability to shoot perfectly compliments Wall’s quick and get-to-the-rim style of basketball.

In their first year together, the Wizards went 29-53, their most wins since 2008. Wall, however, was injured to start the season and returned for the team’s final 49 games. Without him, Washington went just 5-28. Upon his return, they finished the season 24-25 and many around the league thought they would have made the playoffs with Wall in their lineup all season.

While Wall was out, it gave Beal a chance to grow. Immediately, he was handed a spotlight role. Prior to Wall’s return that year, he averaged 13.1 points per game. When Wall came back, he averaged 15 points per game, including 46-percent from behind the arc. They may not have had much court-time together, but they were coming together nicely.

The 2013-2014 season rolled around and with it came some hype surrounding the Wizards. In the preseason, they were picked be one of the last teams in the playoffs, thanks in large part to their strong finish the season prior. The expectations were set, but the bar was still low.

Throughout the season, Washington made a pair of trades that added two key players in Marcin Gortat and Andre Miller. Gortat solidified a front-court tandem with Nene that gave Washington a strong post-game to compliment their backcourt. Miller fell perfectly into a reserve roll as a backup to Wall.

One thing that will hurt any team’s season is injuries, and the Wizards had their fair share. In the beginning of the season, Beal suffered an injured right fibula that left him sidelined for two weeks. Nene sprained his left knee and missed 20 games in the final month and a half of the regular season.

Thanks to their bench and a new addition, Washington survived both injuries. With help coming in the form of Martell Webster and Trevor Booker, Washington managed to go 4-5 in Beal’s absence. With Nene out, Gortat averaged 15.5 points and 10.6 rebounds as the Wizards went 12-8 down that stretch.

By the time Nene had returned and the entire lineup was healthy, Washington had secured a spot in the playoffs for the first time since 2008. After winning just 177 games in five prior seasons, the Wizards were just 16 wins away from an NBA title. They had come along way, but they weren’t done yet.

Washington entered round one against the Chicago Bulls the underdogs. But after defeating the Bulls in five games and going 3-0 on the road, Washington became a trendy pick for the conference finals. To do that, they’d have to get through the number-one seed in the East, the Indiana Pacers.

Washington opened up with a Game 1 victory in Indiana that stunned many around the NBA. The Pacers, however, then won the next three games and the Wizards were in a win-or-go-home scenario in Game 5. Unfortunately, after putting together one of their best games all season long to extend the series, Washington was then eliminated in Game 6.

As the clock wound down during a timeout with about a minute left in their final game, everyone remaining in attendance stood and applauded their Wizards for all their hard work and effort his year. “That was an emotional moment for us,” said Trevor Ariza. “We wanted to win so bad and they cheered very loud and were pulling for us.”

Led by Beal and Wall, Washington finished the year with a 50-42 record including the playoffs. When asked about his two young superstars following Game 6, head coach Randy Wittman said, “Great. I could not be more pleased with what they have done.”

Was it the finish that everyone had hoped for? Probably not. Every year, the goal is to win the NBA Finals. For this year’s Wizards, the fact that they forced a Game 6 against the top-seed in the conference is cause enough for celebration. They endured a lot this season and to still make it that far is quite an accomplishment.

“We’re definitely disappointed,” said Beal following the game. “But at the same time, nobody really thought we would be this far. … We should be proud of ourselves and there’s nothing we should hang our head about.”

For a season that was supposed to be about growth, these Wizards certainly overachieved. “Nobody expected us to be here,” said Wall after the game. “I think a lot of teams respect us now.”

While the future isn’t always clear, one thing is when it comes to these Wizards: with the pieces they’ve got and the talent that they have, this is a team to be feared moving forward. While this year’s run ended earlier than we might have wanted, it is still one that has provided us with plenty of hope for the future.

In his post-game press conference, Indiana Pacers head coach Frank Vogel had some encouraging words regarding the Wizards. “What they did with their front court and all the plays their coaching staff implemented, that’s the style of basketball that wins for you in the playoffs. I think their future is very bright.”

If there’s one thing that the 2013-2014 Wizards taught us, it’s that there’s a bright and exciting new age of winning basketball dawning in D.C.

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Brian Skinnell is a sports writer born and raised in the Washington, D.C.-metro area. He’s had work published on Yahoo Sports and Rant Sports, and has made several radio show appearances across the country to discuss his works. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+!

About Brian Skinnell

Brian Skinnell is a Staff Writer for District Sports Page covering the Redskins, Nationals and college football. He is a born-and-raised follower of Washington, D.C. sports, “The” Ohio State Buckeyes and auto racing. A graduate of Shepherd University in December of 2014, he has a degree in Recreation and Leisure Studies with a Concentration in Sports Communications. Prior to joining District Sports Page (for his second stint), he spent time with Rant Sports, Yahoo Sports and the Washington Redskins. For his day job, he is an Editor for Team Velocity Marketing. Follow him on Twitter @Brian_Skinnell.

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