The Washington Wizards as Jekyll and Hyde

The Washington Wizards’ Jekyll and Hyde parallel proves maddeningly difficult to follow. It’s time to visualize how the Wizards could, should, and maybe will play this season with fictitious game recaps from April 2019. Will 2018-2019 see more Jekyll? Or will the NBA and its Wizards fans hate Hyde once again?

The Washington Wizards’ Jekyll and Hyde parallel proves maddeningly difficult to follow. All-star guards John Wall and Bradley Beal appear to be the best backcourt in the NBA on any given night. When D.C.’s duo gets out and runs, facilitates, scores, plays defense, and smiles, the Wizards demonstratively showcase why they can be a top team in the Eastern Conference.

The same backcourt, however, chronicles its dysfunctional relationship the very next night. The loafing, poor shot selection, apathetic defense, and bickering tends to permeate the entire Wizards’ roster and results in disconnected, inconsistent play. This erraticness fuels superfluous drama and unfortunately contributes to a negative narrative for the Wizards.

The Jekyll and Hyde analogy highlights two Wizards identities: one that carries D.C. to the NBA Finals in the post-Lebron era East and another that drags the District into another disappointing early playoff exit. 

Enough has been written about, spoken of, and laughed off about the current dysfunctional and underachieving Wizards. Dwight Howard could be a cancer in the locker room. John Wall and Bradley Beal hate each other. D.C. doesn’t play defense. The Wizards’ bench stinks. Ernie Grunfeld should be fired. The Wizards talk too much. Scott Brooks wants to play with more pace. Otto Porter needs to shoot more. The headlines entering the 2018-2019 season are already tired.

It’s time to visualize how the Wizards could, should, and maybe will play this season with fictitious game recaps from April 2019. Will 2018-2019 see more Jekyll? Or will the NBA and its Wizards fans hate Hyde once again?

The Wizards as Jekyll ("NBA Finals Wizards"): April 9, 2019 vs. Celtics

John Wall knows this is his city and his time. Reminiscent of game six of the 2017 Eastern Conference semifinal against the Celtics, Wall took over the fourth quarter (19 points on 6-8 shooting in the quarter) against another Boston team and nailed the final dagger once again to officially seal the number one seed in the Eastern Conference.

“We’ve been playing this way all year. With urgency. With emotion. With passion, but under control. There isn’t a team in the NBA we can’t beat. We’ve proven that all year,” a smiling Wall exclaimed as a running mate and fellow all-star Bradley Beal appeared behind D.C.’s hero and gave him a kiss on the cheek.

The Wizards (60-22) completed the regular season tied for the most wins in franchise history, but the current squad hopes to finish it off with a championship--something the 1974-1975 Bullets couldn’t quite accomplish. “The guys deserve this. They’ve worked hard all year. We knew we had the talent in years’ past, but this year everyone took a leap. Everyone decided they wanted to get better. Be better. We saw it happen this season,” praised head coach Scott Brooks.

As the top team in the Eastern Conference, the Wizards will need to keep their momentum against a deep East. All-stars Wall (22.1 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 11.3 APG), Beal (24.2 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 5.0 APG, .427 3P%), and center Dwight Howard (18.3 PPG, 13.2 RPG, 2.1 BPG) know what they’re up against. “We can’t let our guards down like the last few years. We won’t. Our motto, ‘keep on the gas,’ won’t falter,” said Beal.

The historically jovial Howard hasn’t been so jovial this season, mainly because he’s on a mission to prove his doubters wrong. “You haven’t seen me smile all year, have you? I told you I’m here to win. I’m here to finish my career as a Wizard and win titles while doing so. You’ll see that old Dwight smiling, spraying champagne with ski goggles on later. I’m focused right now,” D.C.’s Superman said rather stoically.

While the three all-stars carried the Wizards to a historically great season, supporting cast members such as Otto Porter (15.1 PPG, 6.5 RPG, .453 3P%) and Kelly Oubre (13.2 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 2.0 SPG) give the District every reason to be excited about playoff basketball. Playing in 82 games without injury, Porter seems to be the max-contract player owner Ted Leonsis sought to lock up, while Oubre is looking for a big payday when the season ends. Everything and everyone is clicking.

This win over the Celtics may be a warning to the rest of the NBA that the Wizards are not content winning the most games in Washington’s history, playing with three all-stars, or leading the Eastern conference in both offensive and defensive efficiency, but rather, they’re heading into May and June as legitimate championship contenders. Or favorites?

The Wizards as Hyde ("8th Seeded Wizards"): April 9, 2019 vs. Celtics

John Wall knows this is his city, but his time may still yet be in the future. Unlike game six of the 2017 Eastern Conference semifinal against the Celtics, Wall faltered in the fourth quarter (2 points on 1-8 shooting in the quarter) against another Boston team, this time missing the final shot at the buzzer to officially stay in the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

“We’ve let things get away all year. No urgency. Limited emotion. We’ve played with some passion, but it’s still undisciplined. I still think there isn’t a team in the NBA we can’t beat, but we have to seal games like these,” a dejected Wall said as running mate Bradley Beal sulked in his locker room chair next to D.C.’s one-time hero.

The Wizards (40-42) hovered around .500 all season, but the current squad hopes to make a surprise run in the playoffs. “The guys put themselves in this position. We know we have the talent, but this year just never got going. Everyone decided they wanted to get better. Be better. We just didn’t accomplish that for whatever reasons,” head coach Scott Brooks said quietly.

As the last seed in the Eastern Conference, the Wizards will need to outperform their regular season selves in order to compete against this very same Celtics team in the opening round. All-star Wall (17.1 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 9.3 APG), shooting guard Beal (18.2 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 2.0 APG, .387 3P%), and aging center Dwight Howard (13.3 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 1.2 BPG) know what they’re up against. “We can’t let our guards down like the last few years. We won’t. We need to embrace our motto, ‘keep on the gas,’ like we said we would in October,” said Beal.

The historically jovial Howard hasn’t been so jovial this season, mainly because he’s been plagued by injuries (back) all season (appearing in only 30 games). “You haven’t seen me smile all year, have you? I told you I’m here to win. I’m here to finish my career as a Wizard and win titles while doing so. We haven’t come close to that. I’m just focused right now on getting healthy,” D.C.’s old Superman said rather stoically. Howard’s replacement center, Markieff Morris, didn’t support the cause either, finishing the season with a career-high 20 technical fouls.

While Wall and the other two former all-stars took much of the blame for their disappointing regular season, supporting cast members such as Otto Porter (11.1 PPG, 4.5 RPG, .403 3P%) and Kelly Oubre (9.2 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 1.2 SPG) did not help the Wizards climb the Eastern Conference ladder. Playing in only 55 games because of a bad hip and ankles, Porter has yet to prove he’s worthy of the max-contract Ted Leonsis gave him, while Oubre possibly played himself out of future money on his next contract. Nothing clicked this year.

This loss to the Celtics may be the final nail in the John Wall-era Wizards’ coffin. After a handful of years stuck in mediocrity, general manager Ernie Grunfeld will be tempted to overhaul the roster and start from scratch again. The Wizards are certainly headed into May with more questions than answers.

Which April 9, 2019 reality is more likely? It’s October. It’s Halloween. Hyde may be lurking closer than we think...

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