The Washington Wizards have been consistently pretty bad since their glory days in the 1970s.
But in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the Wizards were bad even by their own low standards.
Twice in the aughts, the Wiz went 19-63. Their first lost season came in 2001, the nadir so bad that it prompted Michael Jordan to give up on being an executive for a couple of years and instead try a comeback.
But 2009 is a special kind of dreadful. Indeed, the record tells only a small part of the story. The rest of the story is told by a loaded gun and a former star suspended.
Let’s don our fire suit and wade into this Dumpster.
The On-Court Record
The Wizards went 43-39 in 2008, making the playoffs for the fourth straight year.
They started the 2008-09 season about as well as the global economy did. Even Lehman Brothers had a better autumn that year than the Wizards did.
Washington started 1-10, costing coach Eddie Jordan his job.
They didn’t get any better after that. After an eight-game losing streak, the Wiz were 4-25.
And the Wizards’ season was toast.
Not that they were any good in any event. Besides going 15-38 the rest of the way to end up with that 19-win season, Washington posted the league’s third-worst Net Rating at minus-9.8. That kind of Net Rating would be dead last in a lot of years. Thankfully, the Kings and Clippers managed to be even worse.
The Featured Players
On December 21, Javaris Crittenton threatened to shoot Gilbert Arenas. Arenas, calling Crittenton’s bluff, brought four guns into the locker room and gave him his pick. And these weren’t little pocket pistols. There was a Smith&Wesson Model 29—the Dirty Harry gun, .44 Magnum and all—and a Desert Eagle in there, a gun more than capable of humiliating the unskilled user.
Making matters worse, Crittenton then pulled out a loaded gun at his own, pointing it at Arenas.
The incident, which thankfully did not end in murder in the first, did end in both men being suspended.
It’s not like you can talk much about stats when you’ve got that big incident hanging over everyone’s head.
Oh No! Anyway…
Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler both exceeded the 20 points per game mark. Jamison threw in .126 WS/48 while Butler popped .083.
Of course, that means someone else on the team had to be utterly dreadful.
Arenas only played in two games, so injuries mattered more than the suspension did.
It fell to Mike James (minus-.003 WS/48 in 1,575 minutes as the sixth man), Crittenton (zero WS in 1,l30 minutes) DeShawn Stevenson (minus-.032 WS/48 in 886 minutes), and Juan Dixon (minus-.031 in 816) to establish that whenever Jamison or Butler was on the bench, the other team had a hockey power play out there.
Jamison and Butler deserve kudos. Without them, this team might not have won 10 games.
Ed Tapscott took over as interim coach after Jordan’s firing. He never again coached in the NBA after presiding over a locker room that involved a firearms felony.
Jordan, who’d coached four straight playoff teams, resurfaced in Philadelphia the next season. After the Sixers went 27-55, that was it for Jordan’s career.
As always, where there’s a bad team, there’s a bad coach.
The Wizards drafted John Wall first overall after going 26-56 in 2010. They grabbed Bradley Beal third in 2012.
And while they were good for awhile in the mid-10s, eventually injuries caught up with them.
The Wizards fell out of contention in 2019. Despite a strong 10-3 start, Washington nosedived to 35-47 in 2022. And it doesn’t look good for them in 2023.
So what could have been quite a silver lining sadly ended in disappointment.
As for Crittenton, he’s in prison after murdering Jullian Jones in 2011. He may have been able to holster his urges with Arenas, but his character failings caught up with him. He’s eligible for release in 2036. On top of that, Crittenton joined the Crips when the Lakers drafted him in 2007.
And that might be the most important aftermath of all. Javaris Crittenton is a textbook example of the dangers of drafting a guy with character issues.
The Wizards might as well just call themselves the Bullets like they used to in the good old days. It’s fitting for them. There’s just something about sports in DC where the teams have to compete with the federal government for who can put on a bigger garbage fire (looking at you, Commanders and Dan Snyder.)
NEXT: I’m taking a few days to watch games and do accounts payable (trying not to do both at once, at least not as far as the boss knows—I get off work just in time for Pacers tipoff, so…)
If I have a thought chewing at my brain, I’ll probably write about it.
Anyway, coming Sunday, the annual Small Sample Sizes Make the Best NBA Stats column. I love writing it. I hope you’ll enjoy reading it.
So stay tuned, and thanks for reading!