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The Wizards Misery Report is making a comeback here at Washington City Paper. Started in 2012 by former staff writer Will Sommer, the report captured the many blunders of the Wizards organization and the increased apathy of fans.
Although the Wizards have gone from national laughingstock to perennial playoff contender the last few years, the team took a step backward after last season’s inconsistent play and infighting among teammates.
And Thursday night’s NBA Draft didn’t make it any better for a fan base used to disappointment.
“It’s a new era of Wizards misery,” says Sommer. “They’re no longer built like the Washington Senators. They’re no longer the worst team, but they’re in this uncomfortable place where they make the playoffs and then get knocked out in the first or second round.”
With the No. 15 overall pick, the Wizards selected Troy Brown Jr. out of Oregon, an 18-year-old who was predicted to be taken several spots lower in mock drafts. In the second round, with the 44th pick, the team went with Issuf Sanon, a Ukraine native who is also 18 and is expected to continue to play and develop overseas (a.k.a. a cash-and-stash).
Neither selection by Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld has elicited much enthusiasm from fans and national publications have been mixed on Brown, who is seen as a player with upside.
“It wasn’t clear what the Wizards were doing,” says Kyle Weidie, who founded the popular Wizards-focused blog TruthAboutIt.net in 2007. “They drafted a young kid, but he doesn’t seem to fill the core needs of the team. They needed someone who can back up Bradley Beal or shoot, or a shot blocker who can minimize the damage that Ian Mahinmi has already done. It seems like those kind of players were available.”
Grunfeld, who touted Brown’s “very high basketball I.Q.” and ball handling skills to reporters after the draft, has been the target of fans’ ire for years. He was hired in 2003 and quietly received a contract extension months before the eighth-seeded Wizards lost in the first round of the NBA Playoffs in April.
Candace Buckner, who covers the Wizards for The Washington Post, can feel the discontent from the fan base when she scrolls through her Twitter mentions or emails. After Thursday night’s draft she says she received emails criticizing the picks and expressing general unhappiness with the organization.
“I didn’t get the sense the draft picks were popular,” Buckner says. “I think a lot of picks would’ve come under scrutiny, but right now [the fans] are restless. …It’s hard to generalize a fan base, but every time you have a Wizards story, there’s an evident amount of restlessness and displeasure about what is happening.”
Weidie points to the fact that the San Antonio Spurs and Boston Celtics, who drafted after Washington, ended up selecting two players that some Wizards fans had wanted, Lonnie Walker IV and Robert Williams, respectively. The Spurs and Celtics are seen as model organizations within the league and have experienced far more success in recent years than the Wizards.
“It’s just spitting in your eyes,” Weidie says. “I think it’s just sort of the same old shit for fans.”