These are the best of times for the Wizards, as their 10-3 record marks the franchise’s best start since 1974-75, back when they were known as the Bullets.
That was also when late Hall-of-Fame center Wes Unseld manned the middle for Washington. Today, his son, Wes Unseld Jr., is in his first year as Wizards coach. In fact, Unseld Jr. is in his first season as a head coach — period.
But he has the Wizards flying high.
An offseason trade of star guard Russell Westbrook to the Lakers sure hasn’t hurt. It was supposed to really help the Lakers. Instead, so far, it has mostly benefitted the Wizards.
As part of the five-team trade centered on Westbrook, the Wizards received small forward Kyle Kuzma, center/forward Montrezl Harrell, guard Spencer Dinwiddie, and guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. They also landed point guard Aaron Holiday from the Pacers.
The mainstay, of course, has been All-Star guard Bradley Beal, who finished second in the NBA in scoring (31.3 points) last season. Beal has missed the past few games following the death of his grandmother, but the Wizards have managed to keep on rolling.
They’re actually 3-0 in Beal’s absence, and part of that is because they aren’t as reliant on him. They have made his workload easier. And he has willingly taken a step back in terms of shots, becoming part of the bigger, promising picture.
In short, Beal has been a team player through and through, sacrificing individual accolades for the good of the team.
Along with the bigger names, the Wizards have received some solid bench play from the likes of second-year guard/forward Deni Avdija, point guard Raul Neto, and even rookie small forward Corey Kispert. Also, Daniel Gafford has been a solid starting man in the middle.
Despite the great start, though, Unseld and the Wizards are keeping it all in perspective. The NBA regular season is 82 games. The Wizards have played just 13.
“Records are made to be broken. I don’t know. It’s a good thing, honestly, and it’s exciting. I think it’s a testament to this group,” Unseld said. “But we still have a lot of games to play. If in 25 games and we’re still sitting here and there’s another mark, another benchmark, then that’s great too.
“But it’s a long season and we want to stay the course and continue to put in the time, put in the work.”
Things really have been fun so far. Harrell received a few “M-V-P” chants during Monday’s win over the Pelicans, in which the Wizards erased a 19-point deficit. There have been hugs and high fives and lots of chemistry, especially for a team with a bunch of new faces.
“I’m honestly tremendously honored to be a part of it,” Harrell said. “But [Beal and I] always tell people that we understand we haven’t done anything. It’s definitely a great feeling to be where we’re at.”