Sunday April 17, 2011 10:30 a.m.
By Frank Hanrahan
Can the Wizards take what playoff teams in the Eastern Conference did this year and apply it for a playoff push of their own next season? Of course they can and should, if they want to get back to the playoffs for the first time in four years.
Here's what the Wizards should take from the top teams in the Eastern Conference this season.
Washington can look directly to the top-seed Chicago Bulls for inspiration. Just three years ago, Chicago was in the lottery and got the number one overall pick and took point guard Derrick Rose. The furiously graceful Rose is an MVP candidate this year, leading the way for the Bulls, averaging 25 points, 7.7 assists and 4.1 rebounds a game. As a rookie, Rose averaged 16 points and 6 assists a game, numbers that are eerily similar to the Wizards' point guard John Wall, who posted 16 points and 8 assists a game.
Rose and Wall have that uncanny ability to get to the basket and create new angles with their leaping ability to finish. Big difference: Rose has the right players around him so he does not have to do it all on his own. Rose has Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah up front, while Wall doesn't. The Bulls have surrounded Rose with pieces that fit, while the Wizards have to start getting Wall help this summer. I think the Wizards need to begin by getting front-court players through the draft or free agency.
Unless the Wizards go out and get two super-stars, nothing will come close to matching the star-power of the Miami Heat with Lebron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Despite the offensive firepower, Miami does commit on the defensive end as well, which is where the Wizards could learn a thing or two. Washington allowed a whopping 104 points a game while Miami just gave up 94 this season. The Wizards must play better defense next year. It's that simple, if they want to make the necessary improvements to be a playoff team.
The Boston Celtics are the defending Eastern Conference champions and, like Miami, they have the big names but they also bring a workman-like effort to every game. The Wizards should pay attention to the Celtics' preparation and focus, not only in the games but in practices as well. Celtics guard Ray Allen constantly hones his craft, getting to games three hours early to work on his shot. Now I'm not saying that's what each of the Wizards has to do, since each player should have his own style for the best method to prepare, but however its done the attention to preparation is tantamount to success in this league.
The Wizards can even look to Indiana as motivation to make it into the post-season next year. The Pacers made the playoffs with 37-45 record, but went 20-18 after they brought in Frank Vogel as interim coach. The Pacers gave the Bulls all they could handle in Game 1 of the series before fizzling out late in the fourth quarter.
So once you get in, as they say, anything can happen. But for the Wizards thats the thing -- just getting there.