Almost two months ago, when the Wizards were 9-9, Marcin Gortat opined that he thought they could be a 50-win team. Then, after he had time to consider what he'd said, Gortat reiterated his conviction.
They quickly went on a four-game losing streak, got back to .500 at 14-14, failed to get over that hump, made it back at 19-19 and then 21-21 until losing to the Utah Jazz on Saturday.
Today, Gortat says he has "learned my lesson" from getting too excited. He admits, the Wizards (21-22) haven't shown the maturity to live up to his initial expectation.
"I want guys to believe they can win 82. If you're not just talking the talk, you got to walk the walk to," coach Randy Wittman said when asked last week to look back on Gortat's prediction. "I've got no problem with guys speaking their mind about the team and what we should hope to do. It doesn't bother me."
So looking at what is ahead going into All-Star break, the Wizards have their work cut out for them: Tuesday at Golden State Warriors; Wednesday at Los Angeles Clippers; Saturday vs. Oklahoma City Thunder; Monday vs. the Portland Trail Blazers; Feb. 5 vs. San Antonio Spurs; Feb. 7 vs. Cleveland Cavaliers; Feb. 9 vs. Sacramento Kings; Feb. 11 at Memphis Grizzlies; and Feb. 12 at Houston Rockets.
If they beat the Warriors or Clippers, who do not have Chris Paul because of a shoulder injury, the Wizards end this road trip 2-2 and return to D.C. just one game under .500. That would be a success given the degree of difficulty of two sets of back-to-backs.
The next five games at Verizon Center, where the Wizards have a losing record, are tricky. Last season's lesser-talented Wizards beat the Thunder at home, so let's assume they can do that again. The Blazers have problems with bench scoring, like the Wizards, so give them the benefit of the doubt there although that's a huge stretch. Again, remember, this is a best-case scenario, and this team tends to play up to elite opponents lately.
Then the problems start. The Spurs have owned the Wizards, the Cavs and Kings represent the trap games the Wizards have fallen prey to repeatedly and the last two before the All-Star break are road back-to-backs. That would put them at 26-26 with 30 games left in the season. To reach 50 at this point, they'd have to go 24-6.
Right, so that won't happen. Looking at the rest of the schedule, and assuming the Wizards will lose a few games they should win, my best-case guess is they could close -- assuming good health (and I'm not even factoring in Al Harrington's return) -- 17-13. That would add up to 43 wins at most (coincidentally my preseason prediction), which isn't bad, but for every game under .500 at the All-Star break subtract one from this total.
We'll revisit where this is by season's end to determine where the calculations were right and oh-so wrong. And weigh-in with your own thoughts, too.