I have followed the Baltimore-Capital-Washington Bullets-Wizards since they moved to the Baltimore Civic Center (currently the Royal Farms Arena) in 1963. At the time, I was ten, and a big Football and Baseball fan, but loved to watch Wilt Chamberlain (who went to my Mother’s Overbrook High School in Philadelphia) usually play on the NBA’s, ABC game of the week on Sunday afternoon between Football and Baseball seasons.
I served the Washington Post back then and easily followed the box scores of the Bullets in my morning scan of the sports page before deliveries. When I was 12, I had grown to 6 feet tall, and decided to add becoming great in basketball to my crowded schedule of being already great in Baseball and Football on the Parkwood playgrounds. In 1966, I discovered WBAL 1090 AM on the radio dial and fell in love with the radio voice of Jim Karvellas broadcasting the Baltimore Bullets on my transistor radio (normally used to hear Beatles, Beach Boys, Rolling Stones new songs and Senators & Redskins games).
The 1966-67 Bullets won 20 and lost 61, but it fit in nicely with my sports portfolio of the 76-86 Senators and the 5-6-3 Redskins, not to mention the Maryland Terps Football team fumbling to a 4-6 record and the Basketball team dribbling in at 8-16.
The Bullets in 1966 had a great starting five of Leroy Ellis at center, Hall-of-Famer Gus Johnson & Ray Scott at forwards with Don Ohl and Kevin Loughery at guards. Duke rookie, lefty sharpshooter Jack Marin, Bob Ferry, little Johnny Egan and Jumpin’ Johnny Green came of the bench. They scored 115 points a game, but unfortunately gave up 122. Too me it did not matter because they became my team with Jim Karvellas turning out gems like “yo-yo-ing the dribble”, “up and in” on lay-ups and my favorite the “bulls-eye” call on outside jumpers.
The next year they drafted Earl “the Pearl” Monroe and in the next, Wes Unseld. In the 70’s they went to the NBA Finals, 4 times and won it all on June 7, 1978 (my 25th Birthday!). So with the 2016-17 season being my 51st as a die-hard Bullets-Wizards fan, you can see why I might be excited about the current season.
After starting 2-8, the Washington Wizards, led by All-Star point guard John Wall, have won 32 of 45 games. They sit at the top of the Southeast Division and third in the Eastern Conference. This is the most balanced starting five in the NBA, leading the league with the number of games that every starter has scored in double figures. Their back court of Wall & Beal averages 45 points a game, small forward Otto Porter leads the NBA in 3-point shooting percentage, center Marcin Gortat averages a double double in points & rebounds; and Power forward Markieff Morris adds meanness inside the lane, along with a 3 point shooting touch while adding 15 points and 7 rebounds per game.
The Wizards face a difficult final third of the season, playing 17 of 27 games on the road, including a four week (3/7 – 4/2) period when they play 12 of 16 away, including two 5 game West Coast trips. It is possible the Wizards may try to strengthen their bench by the February 23rd trade deadline. Health-wise they are at full strength with back up center Ian Mahinmi working his way back to game shape to help off the bench.
The Wizards will need to survive this brutal stretch of road games to stay in the 2nd or 3rd spot in the Eastern Conference. If so, it is possible to imagine, if the Wizards get by a first round opponent, they will have to face the hated Boston Celtics to get to the Eastern Conference finals, and perhaps a meeting with the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James.
Be ready for Nils Lofgren (A fellow WJ alumni) to update his famous song from 1978, “Bullets Fever”, to “Wizards Fever”; and for DC to “Feel the Fever” with the tonic being more Wall, Beal, Porter, Morris & Gortat leading the Wizards to victory.
Now that would be old school, DC!