January 30, 2017
Sports Insider Weekly
For D.C. sports fans, nothing is a given.
The Nationals have been World Series favorites the past few years, but have been unable to advance past the first round. The Redskins can win their division, but not a playoff game. The Capitals, arguably the city’s most reliable team, can never catch a post-season break. It’s been 18 years since a Washington team has advanced to the championship round.
The Washington Wizards is the team that has struggled to be taken seriously the most, plagued by three consecutive last place finishes (2008-11) followed by fourth and third place finishes respectively. Despite the improvement, it wasn’t enough to reach the postseason.
In 2013 and ’14 the Wizards had impressive second place finishes and won in the first round of the playoffs both years before getting eliminated. Last year they reverted, finishing second to last. It was a struggle to even hit the .500 mark (41-41).
Much of their success hinges on All-Star John Wall, who is playing well after undergoing offseason operations on both knees. The point guard is averaging career highs of 23.1 points and 2.2 steals, along with third-in-the-NBA 10.1 assists. His performance has steered the team away from another disappointing year and towards a postseason berth.
After starting the season 1-5, they are now 27-20. Since Dec. 1 they are 19-9–the best record in the East–including a four game win streak. In their last eight games, they have lost only once, and they have the fourth best record in the league, trailing only the Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs, and Houston Rockets.
For coach Scott Brooks, the reason for the change is Wall.
“This charge, the last seven or eight weeks,” Brooks said, “is because of his ability to lead us and get to the paint and give us a lot of open shots.”
As long as Wall can stay healthy and continue to be a leader for his team, the Wizards’ future should stay bright.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins’ future with the Washington Redskins is hazy. While he is looking for a long term contract from his current team, the Redskins’ lingering doubts signal the team will either franchise tag him for the second year in a row–or cut him loose.
Perhaps it was with this in mind that after throwing an interception, Cousins chased down Aqib Talib late in the fourth quarter of the Pro Bowl on Sunday, stripping him of the ball. It was a great play during a meaningless game, during which Cousins could have been seriously injured.
“It’s because I want to win, man” Cousins told reporters. “I thought I had a chance to strip it, and maybe we’d recovered it, I don’t know. Something could’ve happened. You never know. You got to play it all the way through.”
This play to win mentality, during an All-Star showcase with nothing to gain, showed Cousins has grit. It showed potential teams the type of player he can be, and the Redskins what they would be missing if they let him go.
Since being named the starter in 2015, Cousins has passed for more than 9,000 yards with a record of 17-14-1. He has broken numerous team passing records and led his team to the NFC East title last season before coming up one game short of the playoffs this year with a Week 17 loss to the Giants.
“He’s a guy you can win with,” ESPN commentator and former NFL coach Jon Gruden said of Cousins. Gruden’s brother Jay is Washington’s head coach.
For now, whether or not he will be winning in Washington next year remains a mystery.