I want to borrow a device used by one of the best sportswriters alive, Joe Posnanski:
Since the start of the 1990-1991 NBA season through last night:
Team A: 637-1,006 (.388), 5 playoff appearances, 1 playoff series win
Team B: 599-1045 (.364), 4 playoff appearances, 1 playoff series win
OK, just by looking at the title of this post and the pic of a suffering Flip, you can probably figure out one of these teams is the Washington Bullets/Wizards (Team A). The other one? The much-maligned, and perennially-mocked, Los Angeles Clippers. Let that sink in a for minute… Since 1990, the Wizards have averaged just under two wins (1.8) more per season than these guys:
The similarities don’t end there. Busted former #1 overall draft picks? Check (Michael Olowokandi and Kwame Brown). NBA legends who stayed way too long in an effort to rebuild their adopted hometown teams? Check (Elgin Baylor and Wes Unseld). Obnoxious season ticket holders? Check (Bill Simmons [before you blind loyalists filet me in the comments, relax: he doesn't care and this is a joke] and Robin Ficker).
What’s worse is that for the last 20+ years, the Wizards actually tried to win. Long-time owner/community devotee Abe Pollin was just about the exact opposite of Clippers owner/community pariah Donald Sterling: Pollin personally funded TWO arenas for his teams to play in (tell me the last time an owner did that) and gave big dollars to players like Juwan Howard, Chris Webber, Jerry Stackhouse, Antawn Jamison, Mitch Richmond and some dude named “Gilbert” all in an effort to remain competitive (which mostly failed). He hired the greatest player of all time (albeit not to play, mostly); handing over a piece of the team in the process.
All Sterling has ever done is force the trade or release of marquee players who grew too pricey for the franchise. Oh, and for the players the Clippers do manage to keep, Sterling doles out verbal abuse to them that’d make Mel Gibson blush. It’s safe to say any success this franchise has enjoyed has come despite terrible ownership. Does that make Washington’s ineptitude worse? Hundreds of millions of dollars is an awful lot to pay for 38 wins over 20 seasons.
So, what do we make of all this? Well, with new owner Ted Leonsis’ commitment to the franchise, as well as his success with the Washington Capitals, one might surmise the big man knows what he’s doing. But for a large-market like DC that loves its basketball, Ted’s going to have to do a lot more than just change the name.