May 20, 2018

Otto Porter Bobblehead No. 2

This is blog post number two of the four I've promised before I shut this thing down for a bit in disgust at the Wizards 2017-2018 performance. Two more to follow this one then I'm off for the summer-ish.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you'll know I've lamented the lack of team-issued bobbleheads available to us hard core fans pretty much every year I've been writing this thing. While the Dallas Mavericks are off handing out double digit quantities of bobbleheads each of the last two years or the Golden State Warriors are offering up a half dozen or so per season, the Wizards are a little stingier. Or maybe a lot stingier.

By Wizards standards, the last few years have been pretty good. The one and only one in season giveaway was supplemented over the last four seasons by a chance to join the G Wiz Kids' Club and pick up a second team issued bobble to double the fun in any one season. Sure the Kids' Club costs $20 but I'd rather pay an extra $20 for a second bobble than go without. This year? No such luck.

The Wizards one and only bobblehead this year (and it was issued in late late March so apologies for not getting this out earlier) was Otto Porter. Why not, right? He's the latest Wizard to receive a max deal. The least the team can do is spend a few more dollars on a miniature likeness of him to mark the occasion. This is not the first Otto bobble issued by the team (and hence the title of this post); Otto made his debut in this department two seasons ago when he became the designated Kids' Club bobblehead. Let's see how we feel about this latest version of Porter, Jr.

First and most obvious, Otto is sporting the Wizards' City Edition kit that Nike rolled out as the fourth uniform for the team. It's the all-white one with "The District of Columbia" and the red piping outlining the shape of the Washington Monument on the shorts and below the armhole on the jersey. That's fitting considering the rest of the unis the Wizards used this year were pretty much duplicates of last year's outfits, although I should note we still don't have a bobblehead wearing the blue jerseys.

The uniform seems pretty well detailed, right down to the faux marble on the sides of the jersey/shorts and the extremely tiny but way excellent District of Columbia flag on the shorts waist. There's also the gold tag on the back of the jersey neck to signify the Wizards / Bullets at some point in their history won a title and in an extremely impressive nod to authenticity, the jersey actually has the seams at the shoulders in Nike's template which messes up the piping around the armholes on every jersey in the NBA.

If there are two items to quibble with here, it's that there is no Nike swoosh on the front of the jersey and the numbers are not quite right. The lack of swoosh is ironic considering the designers of the bobblehead went so far to use the unique seams that Nike uses then they somehow fumbled the swoosh. Maybe it was a licensing thing. As for the numbers, they have a three dimensional look due to the shading on the left side and top of the numbers. The real on court unis do not have this look, although the replica jerseys for sale at Capital One Arena do, oddly enough. Maybe it's an after correction to the real numbers on the real jerseys, which read just fine up close but are completely invisible from the upper deck. Despite these two blips, this bobblehead gets high marks from me in the detail department for the uniform authenticity.

Real numbers with no shading; bobblehead numbers with shading.
As for the rest of the bobblehead (the non-jersey part), I think it's pretty good for a freebie. The Chinese workers who crafted, assembled and painted this thing managed to get it to it looking pretty much like Otto rather than using some generic black man bobblehead. I also like the detail on the laces of the shoes, although after praising the craftsmanship there, I note that the floor paint is somehow creeping up the edges of Otto's sneakers. Oh well. It's free remember.

It is worth noting that this bobblehead makes a significant stylistic departure from the other bobbleheads handed out by the team over the past almost 20 years. They are using stickers for the numbers and jersey logos on Otto's doll. With the exception of the five mini-bobbleheads handed out during the 2005-2006 season, that's the first time the team has done this. All the other bobbleheads I own have numbers which are part of the casting process, meaning the digits are part of the body of the bobblehead. 

Cast painted numbers for Kelly Oubre, Jr.; decal for Otto Porter.

I'm torn on how I feel about this. Stickers or transfers or whatever they are represent a cheaper solution because they require less skill in painting. They can also, I suppose, delaminate from the body or peel away; paint won't do that. On the other hand, they are sort of error proof, providing the decal is affixed skillfully enough. Right now I'm still old school and liking the painted numbers. We'll see what future years bring here.

Finally, I have to comment on the box. Lately the Wizards have been advertising the career accomplishments of the actual player whose bobblehead is stuffed inside the box. Maybe they should have skipped it on this one. The career highlights for Otto? Drafted number 3 overall, All-Summer League First Team, first career double-double in 2015 (DOUBLE-double, not triple-double), career high 34 points in 2016 and signed a max deal in 2017.  I would have gone with something else here but maybe I'm just hating.

Overall, I love this bobblehead. Big picture, it looks like who it's supposed to look like and the craftsmanship is way above average. I can't wait to introduce my second Otto bobblehead to my first and the rest of the team just as soon as I get my life in order after my first house move in 14 years. Memo to the Wizards for next year: I still can't field a team because you keep giving me the same dudes in bobblehead form. I got multiple Otto Porters, Bradley Beals and John Walls along with a Kelly Oubre, Jr. I gotta bring in my Marcin Gortat action figure to get a starting five. Please please please make someone else next year. And consider more than one. Call the Mavs or Warriors for some advice if you need it.

May 12, 2018

What A Mess!

This is a long post. I apologize. Get an extra beer for this one.

It's been a couple of weeks since the Washington Wizards were bounced from the 2018 NBA Playoffs and I'm still furious. For me, the entire 2017-2018 NBA season was a complete waste of time, effort and money for this franchise and as an 18 year season ticket holder, I'm disgusted pretty much with this entire group. And by that I mean from the last guy on the bench all the way to ownership. I think most other fans of this team who are in any way emotionally connected with seeing the Wizards succeed are too. Except maybe the folks who are in charge of the team who purport to be fans too.

I've been writing this blog for about six of my 18 years as a hard core member of the Wizards faithful and I've never been so low. Not even after the two 19-63 seasons I've suffered through. In fact, I'm so annoyed, discouraged and devastated over this season that this summer I'm actually checking out. It's too late for me to get my money back for next season (unless I can leverage what I am sure will be no SummerFest this year - despite the promise on the Wizards website - into a full refund) so there's not much I can do except express my objections to this last season in this blog post and then stop paying attention to this franchise for a while.

So here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to write this post detailing all the ways I think this Wizards franchise is broken, write three more blog posts to wrap up the year and then stop. For a while. I'd like to be done with these four planned posts in May then you won't see anything out of me on this blog for either June or July and maybe not August. No thoughts on the draft, no thoughts on free agency (I know, right? What free agency?), no thoughts on team names or mascots or logos or anything like that. Nothing. I'm that pissed off right now. The Wizards have sucked the enjoyment out of being an NBA fan. I'm so down I can't even watch Clevealnd Cavaliers playoff games just to see them lose.

Here are my top 12 objections to the mess I've stood by, paid for and watched on the court of Capital One Arena from mid-October to the end of last month. Enjoy my rage! Ultimately this post will probably make me angrier because I know nobody at the Wizards cares.

1. Overconfidence
The Wizards started this year claiming they were the best in the Eastern Conference. Based on what, you may ask? Honestly, I have no idea. I guess the fact that they lost in seven games to the Boston Celtics in the second round of the playoffs last year? How bad is it for this franchise and the players on this team that after coming close to getting out of the second round of the playoffs (that means they won just one of the four rounds required to win a title) constitutes success to think you have arrived?

Bradley Beal was the early season advocate of the Wizards being the best team in the East during the first couple of months of the season and in true Beal fashion he based those calm, confident declarations on no results whatsoever. Eventually, even the Wizards on court futility caused Beal to stop saying that the Wizards were the best team in the East. Once he did that I was pretty sure this sort of silliness was going to end. Until...Markieff Morris claimed the Wizards were better than the Toronto Raptors. After the team had lost to the Raptors four games to two in the first round of the playoffs. I guess in this age of Trump as president we can convince ourselves anything is true if we say it confidently enough.

2. Bad Losses
In chronological order: at the Lakers, Phoenix, Miami, at Charlotte, Portland, at Utah (not necessarily to a bad team but 46 points!!), at the Clippers, at Brooklyn, at Brooklyn (not a typo; two different times). at Atlanta, Utah (without Rudy Gobert in a "revenge" game), at Dallas (0-2 vs. the Mavs this year), Minnesota, Denver, New York, at Chicago, Atlanta, at Orlando.

Some of those don't seem so bad right? Miami? Wizards lost by three after scoring 29 in the first half. Portland? Wizards were up 17 in the fourth. At Charlotte? Wizards were up 7 with two and a half minutes to play. At the Clippers? Lost by 1 to a team starting Sindarius Thornwell and Wesley Johnson. Minnesota? Wizards were up 7 in the fourth and let the Timberwolves end the game on a 25-13 run. Now they seem bad, right? Sure, the loss in Utah probably was going to be a loss anyway but the team quit before it even started playing. All told this year, the Wizards lost at least one game to 8 of the 10 worst teams in the NBA.

3. Poorly Constructed Roster
In an age of small ball, multiple shooters to space the floor and athletic wings who can play multiple positions on offense and defense, the Wizards have stayed traditional. It paid off this year in the form of the eight seed in the East. Stretch four? Maybe. Stretch five? The Wizards entered the season with $35 million committed to three mostly traditional non-stretch five centers. The exited it with five point guards and just one shooting guard on the roster. Cool. Who does this?

Other roster blunders? No draft picks the last two years and no undrafted rookies means no cheap labor with huge upside. Jodie Meeks contributed minimally this year but fortunately for him he has a player option next year worth more than $3 million. Guess who's picking up his player option next year? Well, yes, Jason Smith too, who's got one for almost $5.5 million. Jodie Meeks and Jason Smith aren't making almost $9 million combined anywhere on their own. Fortunately for them, they don't have to look for jobs next year. On the flip side, Mike Scott was a great free agent pickup this past offseason. Unfortunately for the Wizards, he has no contract for next year which likely means he's gone. Unfortunately for Wizards fans, the guy who created this whole mess won't.

4. Nobody Cares
Yep, I know I already said this. By nobody here, I mean primarily the players and the owner, although considering the job that's been done this year and in the past couple of years by everyone in between, it's not a huge leap of faith to understand how much those folks care also.

As a player, how much can you care if you lose to the Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks and New York Knicks (minus Kristaps Porzingis) at home? How much can you care if after losing to the first two of those teams you declare that you still feel your team is still the best in the Eastern Conference? How much can you care if you keep making the same mistakes over and over and over again and after each game describe how you have to fix your mistakes? How much can you care if you lose at home to the Atlanta Hawks missing their two best players when you really need a win to save playoff seeding? Or you lose to the Orlando Magic in the last game of the season when they deliberately sit their starters in the fourth quarter? No Wizards player said they don't care this season; they didn't have to.

After a disappointing season, I would expect the captain of the ship, the owner, to offer some words to season ticket holders about how this year's performance was not good enough, that he and the rest of management haven't done enough to put a successful team in place and that changes will be made if required to get this team pointed in the right direction. We didn't get that. Instead we got "our team showed this year we have the pieces to make [a championship] happen" and "we have a lot to be proud of." We do? What's that? An eight seed, one Division Title the previous season and a first round exit?

Leonsis then goes on the crow about how good the TV ratings were, noting game 5 of the Raptors series was the highest rated game in 10 years. I get it now. He cares. Ratings=money. I guess as long as ratings are good, we can declare a success.

But the biggest indicator of how much ownership doesn't care might be the tweet above. I can't believe Ted is telling Wizards fans (because that tweet addresses all Wizards fans whether he likes it or not) that he's not concerned about the team's struggles or future. 

I'm telling you...nobody cares.

5. The Salary Cap Situation
I've been a staunch defender of Ernie Grunfeld as the President of Basketball Operations for the Wizards over the years. But if there's one glaring unforgivable blunder, it's the salary cap situation the Wizards are in right now.

Here's the backstory. In an effort to rebuild the team around John Wall, the Wizards go young and cheap and manage to clear the books of a ton of salary for the 2016 offseason so they can sign a marquee free agent to a maximum deal. It's a plan they have spent years working out and it works out. They actually clear enough salary cap space to make a huge splash in free agency. 

One of the first rules of planning is that if something changes to subvert your plan, change the plan in a forward thinking way. Two things went wrong for the Wizards in 2016. First, there are really no marquee free agents outside of Kevin Durant, who's already said before free agency starts that he's not even going to consider Washington. Second, a new television contract kicks in, the salary cap skyrockets and tons and tons of teams have enough cap room to offer maximum contracts to free agents. How Wizards management didn't find out this was going to happen before it happened is beyond me. Isn't this the sort of stuff yu pay people to know? Whatever.

So what do the Wizards do to change their plan? Nothing. They strike out swinging on the next two free agents after Durant (Al Horford and Nicolas Batum if you must know) and then spend all their money on third tier guys for long term deals. The haul? Zero starters, including one guy (Andrew Nicholson) who's not even in the NBA any more. Know what the Wizards roster is going to look like next season? Pretty much the exact same as the eighth place team in the East this year. Know why? Because they are over the cap and the players they signed in 2016 are still on the team. It's like the Wizards didn't understand anything about the salary cap, which might actually be true.

For his efforts here, Ernie Grunfeld received a two year extension, presumably on the premise that the Wizards at the start of this season were now the best team in the East, which as we well know by now wasn't ever true. The Wizards are pretty much boxed into having to trade someone this summer with some legitimate upside. I hope Ernie realizes this.

6. Scott Brooks
When he was hired as the Wizards head man, most folks saw Scott Brooks as a huge upgrade over his predecessor, Randy Wittman. I mourned in my own way the departure of Randy Wittman. I appreciated Randy's straightforwardness and his ability to get the Wizards to play defense like they hadn't played in years, putting two teams into the top 10 of the NBA in defensive efficiency. While I hated to see the Wizards let the coach with the highest playoff winning percentage in team history leave, I also understood there was only so far Randy was going to get us.

Who thinks Brooks is taking us further? I'm serious. Ignoring the fact that Randy got the Wizards into the second round of the playoffs twice and Scottie's only done it once, what gives us hope that Brooks has this coaching thing solved? The team is still prone to inefficient and ineffective late game offense when Bradley Beal or John Wall dribble the ball for 16 of the 24 seconds on the shot clock. Both Beal and Wall play a ton of minutes. He refuses to make changes to his starting lineup (or any rotations really) when things aren't going well. He's shown a reluctance to play younger players, preferring to get predictable results with little upside rather than taking a chance and finding a gem. And the team is no longer the defensive juggernaut they were under Randy Wittman.

Still think I'm delusional about this subject? Tell me Randy was working with a better lineup than Brooks. You can't. Also Brooks is making about 3-4 times what Randy was making in his last year. You ought to get what you pay for. It's pretty clear in some games, particularly late in games, that Brooks is a step slow. I don't know what he can do to get some help this offseason, but he needs to find a way. I'm not advocating going back to Randy Wittman as coach but look, something  has to change about Brooks' approach to the game. Different assistants maybe?

I stubbornly maintain that Randy Wittman is my favorite Wizards coach of all time. Brooks was on his way to passing Randy until this year. He's now got work to do.

7. Otto Porter
If there are folks out there dying to tell us how great Otto Porter is as a basketball player (and there are), they point to how efficient he is as a player. Efficient game. Efficient defender. Efficient shooter from two (50%), downtown (44%) and the charity stripe (83%). Third on the team in points per game, second on the team in rebounds per game, first on the team in steals per game, second on the team in Player Efficiency Rating (PER). Efficient, efficient, efficient.

Know why Otto's so efficient? Because if there's a shot he doesn't like, he generally doesn't take it. He engages correctly when the time is right which is awesome. I'd love a team full of Otto Porters. The problem? Otto Porter is the highest paid player on the team. He has to take more risks, drop that efficiency and have a greater effect on the game. During the playoffs, he slipped to the fourth leading scorer behind Mike Scott. I get that Wall and Beal are going to get their shots but 8 shots per game during the playoffs for the man making more than anyone else on the team don't cut it.

8. Free Agents
Two years ago, Al Horford chose the Boston Celtics over the Washington Wizards. He blamed it on the fans. Yes, the fans. Like the Wizards fans. Yep, you and me. I think there's something else going on.

Two years ago, the same summer that Al Horford signed a max contract in Boston and the Wizards answered with millions and millions for Ian Mahinmi, Andrew Nicholson and Jason Smith, the Philadelphia 76ers had just finished a season in which they won just 10 games. This year they won 52 games, a mark that the Wizards haven't hit since 1979. 

What does that have to do with free agency? Well, in the scrap pile that is buyout season in the NBA, the Sixers, winners of just 10 games two years ago, picked up Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova, two legitimate rotation players. The Wizards got Ramon Sessions. Now I'm not knocking Sessions. He filled in nicely as Tomas Satoransky's backup. But it's telling that when John Wall came back from injury that Sessions couldn't even get in a game. And after the Wizards signed Ty Lawson before the playoffs, Ramon couldn't even get dressed for some games. Yes, the same Ty Lawson who couldn't get an NBA contract before the season started. Why can Philly sign quality free agents mid-season and the Wizards can't?

I'm thinking Horford choosing Boston had more to do with confidence in this team's direction than the fans. Call me crazy. I'm also thinking the Wizards have zero chance of attracting a ring chasing veteran that's got some life left this offseason. Call me crazy there too if you must.

9. John Wall
I hate to say anything negative about John Wall. He's my favorite Wizards player of all time and the Wizards best player of all time (Wizards, not Bullets, folks). But we can all improve, right? 

If I had two wishes for John Wall this offseason it would be this. First, live up to the challenge Kobe Bryant gave him (and which he accepted) to make NBA All-Defensive First Team. I get that the knee injuries probably held him back this year from being all he could be on the defensive end but we need more. John could be a serious defensive stopper in this league. He's got all the physical tools and is one of the best shot blockers in the league. All it takes from here on out is effort. No more letting guys go by and trying to poke the ball away from behind. When it works, it's great; when it doesn't, you just let your man go right by you forcing someone else to rotate or just allowing an easy bucket.

Second, get some ball skills coaching. I've seen a number of Wizards bloggers imploring John to get together with Drew Hanlen who's worked with both Bradley Beal and Kelly Oubre to improve their skills. Last summer, John embarked on a barnstorming tour of closed gyms visiting and working out with other NBA superstars. John is one of the scariest point guards for opponents to defend. Imagine him with an improved handle. If there's one thing that drives me nuts about John's game (other than the matador defense cited above), it's the bad turnover. Some folks have told me you can't have an aggressive John Wall without them. Why not?

10. Two Way Contracts
This fall, the Wizards will finally field a G League (formerly NBDL or D-League) team. When they do, they will become the 27th franchise to do so. Not the last of adopters, but awfully late, right?

Over the past few years, I've waited for this to happen and watched player after player be shipped off to who knows where to play with other teams' systems and develop not much at all. Or at least not in a way that would benefit the Wizards. Maybe next year will be different.

Of course I thought that about our two way contracts this year. In case you missed it, this was the first year the NBA allowed two way contracts. What does that mean? A player signed under a two way contract spends the majority of his time in the G League but is able to be called up to the NBA level by one team and one team only. It's a way teams can identify developing talent relatively inexpensively which could help them in the future. 

In the past, the Wizards have treated the G League like an obligation and not a benefit. They have engaged in the most minimal ways and predictably, they have reaped pretty much zero benefit. I was shocked when the team was a relatively early adopter of the two way contracts, locking up their maximum two shortly after the draft. But my mid-season Michael Young was gone and it took until game 82 for Devin Robinson to get in a game.

Will it change when the team has a G League team of their own? There are no indicators that it will. But the Wizards have to change here. It seems organizational from top to bottom.

11. Season Ticket Costs
I know I've ranted plenty about this subject in the last few months but I have to bring it up again. Considering everything I've written about in this post so far, do we really think the Wizards deserve to raise ticket prices by up to 20%? What are they selling, exactly? Unless something serious changes this summer, we've gone in one year from a team in the top two or three in the Eastern Conference to a team that has been passed by Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Indiana with younger rosters with more upside and more cap flexibility.

I get that Wizards tickets can sell better now than five years ago. I get that John Wall and Bradley Beal form a backcourt duo that people are willing to pay to see. But if they don't win it won't last long. People will become bored and lose interest in the same old Wizards. The best way to get fans in seats in my opinion is to build loyalty and a can't miss experience for season ticket holders. To me, that means a more competitive team and cheaper tickets that can't be re-sold. I floated this idea before on this blog and I'm still all in on this concept.

Charging me 20% more next year is close to criminal. But as I've already said, nobody cares.

12. Missed Opportunity
This is my last point on this post. If there was a year, however improbable it might seem, that the Wizards might have made a run at the NBA Finals, it was this one. Now, keep in mind, I'm not saying win the NBA Championship. I said NBA Finals and that's probably it. Think about it, at the beginning of the season it seemed like Cleveland this year was not the lock they have been in the past few years to come out of the East; Boston after major trades may have needed a couple of years to gel; and nipping at the heels of the top teams in the East (which presumably at the beginning year included the Wiz) were the maybe-really-good-in-the-future-but-not-ready-this-year Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks. It seemed like the Wizards if they were really serious could have sneaked in there.

Now, I get that with the Eastern Conference Finals about to tip off this weekend and both Cleveland and Boston looking like there's no way the Wizards could beat them that things don't look quite like I described them in the paragraph above. But what if the Wizards had really made a serious run from the beginning. Yes, John Wall's injury derailed some things but the team was losing to Phoenix and Dallas and Brooklyn (twice) before Wall went down. Flip 13 of those 17 bad losses I've listed above and the Wiz are in second place.

Too rosy an evaluation? Maybe. What I've written above still wouldn't have overcome the poorly constructed roster and the fact that free agents don't want to sign in Washington and John Wall's injury. But we'll also never know because of the overconfident, don't care way the team including the coaching staff went about this year. These opportunities don't come along that often. Look at the next two years for the Wizards: they are stuck with the same general manager who got them into this mess with the same coach who has struggled with late game execution with the same lineup that's a year older (which is a bad thing in some spots) and no ability to sign free agents for any kind of salary. How was last year not the golden opportunity? The Wizards are faced with a situation where they are going to have to do something different to fundamentally avoid repeating the same mistakes and they have shown no tendency to do that in the past.

Maybe I'm being too harsh but to me the plan that Ted and Ernie came up with a few years ago has failed. What now? You're putting the hopes of fans in the care of the same people and expecting different results. It's a measure of how despondent I as a fan feel that I could come up with 12 things that I don't like about the current situation. I could have kept going. At one point I had 14 but just felt that would make too long a post. This situation needs some serious help. It's on everyone in the organization. Prove to the fans that you are charging more money next year to watch this mess that you care.

Sam Cassell feeling the mood of Wizards fans. Although the Wiz did win this game.

April 1, 2018

Price Check!

I know what you are thinking. I said just less than three weeks ago that I was done complaining about the cost of Wizards season tickets on this blog. Let's address the issue head on, shall we? 

First, the Wizards lost today to the hapless and nothing-to-play-for Chicago Bulls. Yes, we were on a super-rare afternoon back-to-back but if this team is really supposed to be going places, it needs to beat the Bulls even in Chicago at this point in the season. The Wizards are just one game ahead of the Miami Heat at this point. And the Heat have the tiebreaker for the division title (and higher seed) and they don't have to play the Houston Rockets or the Cleveland Cavaliers on the road.

Second, Twitter happened. I saw a tweet this morning objecting to the price of Wizards upper deck tickets, something I myself have ranted about for the last couple of years. I believe seats in the 400 level are overpriced and I also believe that long-time season ticket holders should get a discount of some sort to allow them to hold on to the tickets they've sat in through multiple, multiple losing seasons. And not just losing. Like horribly losing. That tweet got me wondering, though. Are the Wizards upper deck tickets really overpriced vs. the rest of the NBA? I took a similar look at this issue three years ago. I think it's time for a refresh on this one.

Finally, I'm not complaining. Other than in the previous paragraph.'s the deal with what I've done. I've looked at the price of the front row and the back row seats in most of the arenas around the league and ranked them 1 to whatever (it's not 30, oddly enough). I did my comparison shopping at center court and nowhere else and based on the tweet I saw this morning, I did it only in the upper deck. Just one vertical slice through the building.

Some disclaimers: 

One: This comparison took me less than an hour so it's inherently not researched very thoroughly. I used data from each NBA team's website about the cost of 2018-2019 season tickets, where the information was available. If it wasn't, I moved on. That's why prices aren't ranked 1-30. I just didn't get some.

Two: All arenas are different and I'm not considering that in this quick post. The upper deck in Memphis or Detroit or Portland or wherever else may not be equivalent to the 400 level at Capital One Arena. Some buildings don't even have the same number of levels as the Wizards' home over at 601 F Street NW.

Three: Pricing of NBA tickets is way more nuanced than comparing the price of center court tickets in the uppermost level, even beyond considering the geometry of the different arenas in disclaimer two above. As you move towards the corners of the arenas to the end zones, prices may fluctuate differently in different buildings. The rankings below may be completely different when you look at that data. I didn't. I just skipped it. Ordinarily, I wouldn't do this, since I consider my tickets to be in the corner; the Wizards, however, don't so I'm paying center court prices for corner tickets. Sorry, that was a complaint.

On to the results? Well, not quite yet.

Below is a list of the prices for back row upper deck tickets for 20 of the 30 NBA teams. Why only 20? Because I couldn't find pricing easily for 10 of the teams. Following that, there is a list of the prices for front row upper deck tickets for 18 of the 30 NBA teams. What happened to the two other teams from one list to the other, you may ask? Well, Houston prices their tickets "starting at" but doesn't give a upper range and Phoenix only shows prices for available seats, and there are no seats available at the front of center court in their arena. The Suns sold all those out.

And what about the other 10 teams? Well, four teams (Boston, Golden State, the Lakers and Toronto) have wait lists and just haven't published their prices. Chicago also has a wait list but they published their prices. Of the other six, two (Cleveland and Indiana) want you to make an inquiry (I didn't, or more accurately chose not to, have time to wait for that) and one (Oklahoma City) just doesn't give any information at all (I'm kind of assuming there's a wait list here too).

The other three are the Atlanta Hawks, the New York Knicks and the Philadelphia 76ers. Philly, like Phoenix, only shows pricing for seats that are available and it appears the entire upper deck where season tickets are available are sold out. If you want Knicks tickets, it appears there may be some but the team wants a $250 per seat nonrefundable deposit. If they have seats, they'll let you decide if you want to buy them when they tell you where they are. Don't like the location? The team keeps your $250. Finally, I just got a black screen when I clicked on the Hawks' link for season tickets, which somehow seems perfect for that franchise.

I'm taking this page to mean that the Sixers' upper deck tickets are all gone.
So, with all that said, here are the prices for the last row in the upper deck of 20 of the 30 NBA franchises, with most expensive listed first.
  1. Chicago Bulls: $70 per game.
  2. Sacramento Kings: $1,806 per season.
  3. Miami Heat: $40 per game.
  4. Brooklyn Nets: $35 per game.
  5. Portland Trail Blazers: $33.60 per game.
  6. Houston Rockets: $1,364 per season.
  7. Detroit Pistons: $1,320 per season.
  8. Milwaukee Bucks: $29 per game.
  9. San Antonio Spurs: $28 per game.
  10. Washington Wizards: $28 per game / $1,190 per season.
  11. Phoenix Suns: $1,177 per game.
  12. Orlando Magic: $1,099 per season.
  13. Minnesota Timberwolves: $1,008 per season.
  14. Los Angeles Clippers: $968 per season.
  15. Denver Nuggets: $22 per game.
  16. Dallas Mavericks: $766 per season.
  17. Utah Jazz: $18 per game.
  18. New Orleans Pelicans: $750 per season.
  19. Charlotte Hornets: $14 per game.
  20. Memphis Grizzlies: $11 per game.
The Wizards are listed 10th on the list above. They are actually tied for 9th with the San Antonio Spurs, which is amazing to me that possibly equivalent seats between the most consistently successful franchise in the NBA over the past two decades can cost the same as they do for a Wizards season ticket holder. Three years ago, I put the Wizards 24th out of 25 teams in a similar study of season tickets with decidedly different parameters. While it's clear the cost of Wizards tickets have risen relative to the rest of the NBA, I'm not sure they are that out of line with other cities.

Some other things that stick out here. The cost of tickets in Chicago are insane; I can't imagine paying $70 a game for upper deck last row tickets. And they are all sold. Sacramento's tickets are equally surprising, although almost $30 per game less than in Chicago. I actually went back to Sacto's website to check my numbers were correct and they are. The only thing I can think here is only game in town and new building. Finally, if I'm in Memphis, how do I not have season tickets. $11 a game? Seriously? Charlotte too at $14, particularly if it gets me any shot at the All-Star Weekend activities next year. I'm not sure it does by the way.

As far as the Wizards place goes vs. the rest of the league, they are right in the middle of things. There's little variation in price between 14 (the Clippers) and 6 (the Rockets). Some teams list price per seat; others list price per season. Depending on the number of preseason and overseas neutral site games (read: Mexico City and London), positions may switch just a bit. But overall, this list shows Wizards tickets in the last row of the upper deck center court are not overpriced, especially considering Washington has to be in the upper half of cost of living and what I'm assuming are some of the most expensive tickets (Boston, Golden State, New York and Toronto) are not even on the list.

Had to double check but indeed, Sacramento Kings tickets are really expensive.
So what about the front row in those same sections? Well, here's that list. Remember I dropped two from the list.
  1. Chicago Bulls: $80 per game.
  2. Sacramento Kings: $3,096 per season.
  3. Brooklyn Nets: $72 per game.
  4. Portland Trail Blazers: $68.40 per game.
  5. San Antonio Spurs: $68 per game.
  6. Miami Heat: $55 per game.
  7. Milwaukee Bucks: $53 per game.
  8. Los Angeles Clippers: $2,275 per season.
  9. New Orleans Pelicans: $2,100 per season.
  10. Minnesota Timberwolves: 1,932 per season.
  11. Denver Nuggets: $43 per game.
  12. Charlotte Hornets: $42 per game.
  13. Dallas Mavericks: $1,770 per season.
  14. Detroit Pistons: $1,760 per season.
  15. Washington Wizards: $40 per game / $1,700 per season.
  16. Orlando Magic: $1,699 per season.
  17. Utah Jazz: $34 per game.
  18. Memphis Grizzlies: $31.50 per game.
Some notes here. First, San Antonio tickets are way more valuable in the front of the upper deck than they are at the back. Justifiably so, I think. Four titles in the last 20 years and the only major sports team in town I think let's you do whatever you want. Second, I'm still buying tickets if I'm in Memphis and also Utah on the basis of this list. Probably more so in Utah considering the team's play this year but on a city basis, I'm picking Memphis. Finally, I still can't believe the price of tickets in Sacramento. Who buys these things? Although, let's be honest, I likely would if I lived there.

Now, it seems like the Wizards tickets in the front row of the upper deck are priced near the bottom of the league. That's not really true. I'd consider the price of tickets from spot number 9 (the Pelicans) to spot number 16 (the Magic) to be pretty much the same. Heck, if Orlando charged $100 more for an entire season, they'd jump up four spots. The Pelicans tickets are going to go up on April 12 by the way; early bird pricing ends on 4/11. My conclusion about these tickets for the Wizards are the same as the back row: these tickets are not overpriced relative to the rest of the NBA.

All that's not to say that Wizards tickets aren't too expensive. I still think they are. All this is also not to pick on the tweet I saw this morning. I think in spirit, I am right in line with the thinking that I saw on Twitter. The one thing that I'll say about all this though is that more price hikes by the Wizards in coming seasons the likes of what we've seen over the past couple will put the cost for season ticket holders higher than other arenas in a hurry. They'll be priced like tickets for teams in New York or teams that sell out at least half their games in every season or teams that have won championships recently. The Wizards for sure aren't any of those.

March 24, 2018

VIP Last Hurrah?

If you read my post earlier this month about the changes made to the lower level all-inclusive ticket packages for Wizards season ticket holders next year and you've ever had the privilege of taking part in this experience, I'm sure you are about as bummed as I am. For the last I-don't-know-how-many-years, this has been an event to look forward to once or twice or maybe more (if I'm really lucky) per season.

Whether it's been through comps from my account representative; Monumental Rewards; the Fluid Tickets program; or the mystery season ticket renewal envelopes, I've had an amazing time just about every time I've done this. Next season, all this might change. I might never get this opportunity again. So if the remainder of this season represented my last best chance to do this ever again, I picked up a couple of all-inclusive tickets behind the baskets on the east end of Capital One Arena for last night's game against the Denver Nuggets. Here's my night in pictures. I'll let those do all the talking here.
6 pm arrival. Marcin Gortat warming up. Gortat is always warming up at this time. Dude's a machine about fitness and health. Mike Scott's also out there. John Wall would be too if he was playing.
Wristband line. First stop before entry. These people wield an uncanny amount of power.
The Etihad Airways Lounge. It will be like this later on when the game's going on. When we enter, it's empty. But first...
...gotta pick up a beer. May not be the last one, either. Always tip your server, folks! Especially when it's free. Yes, I'm drinking Budweiser. I like Budweiser at games.

And a little food with that beer. It's Jamaican night, meaning beef pasties, oxtail stew. Also some Hoffmann sausages with sauerkraut and mustard. Not Jamaican but must haves.
A pre-game edge of the court walk has to be made at sometime. I'm not sure what's going on in this pic. Some sort of Indian dance set to an Indian-ized Ed Sheeran's The Shape of You.
The DCFAMILY logo in the pic above has the names of all the season ticket holders on it. One last stop by my name this year is in order.
On the other end of Capital One is the MGM National Harbor lounge. More bare bones than Etihad. We assume this is gone next year.
Some dessert, maybe? Yes, please! The cheesecake bites were a miss but, by God, these white chocolate, macadamia nut cookies are amazing. I'm glad a took a full cholesterol pill that morning.
No Bud on the MGM side so back to Etihad, by which time Otto Porter, Jodie Meeks and the rest of the Wizards are warming up. Every time I make this walk I'm shocked by the size of these guys. There's always one dude who surprises me. This game, it's the Nuggest Mason Plumlee.
Bud in hand, back to the seat for the game. They always have these notices at the VIP seats. Odd.
Almost ready for the game. I'm not showing pics of the game because that's not what this experience is about. Suffice it to say, the Wiz come out flat en route to another disappointing home performance.
The halftime show is the retirement of Phil Chenier's jersey at this game (more on that in another post I think) but they bring the ice cream out at halftime and I'm not missing a chance to wrap my fat fingers around an ice cream sandwich. Usually I'm a strawberry shortcake guy but finding none, I go with this thing.
The second half is disappointing and the Wiz end up with yet another bad home loss (see Dallas, Phoenix, Portland, Minnesota, Miami, etc.). We split with 26.3 seconds to go.
So that's pretty much it. For those of you out there who feel like I do about this change in policy, you now have just five home regular season games to do this for yourself. Get yourself to TicketMaster, or more preferably StubHub, and get yourself some tickets for one last VIP hurrah of your own. If I'm right, I'll miss this for as long as I'm denied it. 

One of the great perks of doing this and sitting in the east end of the building is being able to get close to the team after a big win. Since this team seems determined to play for sixth and last night lost to a Denver team they beat in Colorado earlier this year (another bad home loss), I skipped that part. But for the sake of completeness of what the VIP could be, I'm including a photograph of that part from earlier this year.

John Wall walking off the court after a win earlier this season. Need this guy back soon or we might be playing the Cavs in the first round.

March 21, 2018

Loyalty Milestone Changes

Friday is the deadline for Wizards season ticket holders to renew their season tickets for the 2018-2019 NBA season. If you are coming up on a multiple of five years as a season ticket holder, I'm sure you are looking forward to your anniversary milestone, just like I am with my 20th next year. might want to check that your milestone rewards are still what you thought they were. They've changed from when I wrote about these and ranked them two years ago. Most are better. But some...well, read on.

Way back in the first half of the aughts, the Wizards invented an anniversary rewards program which rewarded season ticket holders for every five years of buying season tickets. The program got instituted right before my fifth year as a season ticket holder and since then I've enjoyed the program with emotions ranging from complete indifference to genuinely feeling appreciated. I wrote about what I consider the best reward in my 15th season when I got to treat a bunch of my friends to a catered game in a Verizon Center suite for free. That was pretty awesome.

So what's changed? Take a look. I'll list each of the new rewards with the old reward below it for the same milestone and then some of my as always super valuable commentary.

5 Years: Private Reception with Wizards Management and Special Guests
Former Reward: Exactly the Same Thing

So nothing's changed at the five year milestone. You get a reception of sorts I assume somewhere in the Capital One Arena (ours was in what is now the PwC Club) with probably Ernie Grunfeld, maybe Tommy Sheppard and at least one player. I know Kelly Oubre, Jr. was there this season because I know someone who is celebrating her five year milestone this year and I got a picture of Kelly hugging her texted to me during a game. Our special guest was Gilbert Arenas. But Gilbert never showed, alleging a flat tire. So I got some snacks in the arena on an off night for my five year reward. Cool.

10 Years: Trip to Philadelphia for 76ers vs. Wizards Away Game
Former Reward: Member's Name Displayed on the Wizards Wall of Fame

In my ranking of rewards two years ago, I rated the 10 year reward, which at that time was your name on a wall, as having absolutely no value whatsoever. The Wizards must have figured that out too because they ditched it for a trip to Philly to see the Wiz take on the 76ers. This is a huge upgrade. This trip used to be the 20 year milestone reward so moving this thing up 10 years and losing the name-on-the-wall thing is definitely the right thing to do. Only problem is...we'll get to it.

15 Years: Lexus Level Suite for Wizards Game
Former Reward: Exactly the Same Thing

If you are anywhere close to your 15 year anniversary as a Wizards season ticket holder, please don't cancel. This experience was and I'm sure still is fantastic. I devoted a whole blog post to it three years ago that's linked above. Do this and then quit if you can't afford tickets any more.

20 Years: Roundtrip Car Service to Wizards Game and Dinner Pre-Game
Fomer Reward: Trip to an Eastern Conference Away Game

I can't tell you how much I was looking forward to my 20 year milestone. My friend Mike and I were pretty pumped about getting on a Wizards party bus and heading up to the City of Brotherly Love for a game at Wells Fargo. We've even talked about the importance of making it to 20 so we could cash in on this reward.

And then they moved the trip to the 10 year mark, an anniversary for which I received my name on a wall which now comes just for free. It's replaced by roundtrip car service to a home game (I'm assuming the game's not in Philly but that would be even better than a bus trip) and dinner pre-game. Are you kidding me? I get cheated on my five year anniversary by an Arenas no show, now I feel I got cheated on my 10 year anniversary and I'm now looking forward to something less enthusiastically for my 20 year reward? I'm furious about this. Can't tell you how disappointed I am. The Wizards should let people in my class (and similar) get both this reward and get on the bus to Pennsylvania when we hit 20.

Just a note here: the former 20 year reward was a trip to an Eastern Conference away game, but I know the most frequent destination was Philadelphia so I'm considering the former 20 year reward as the 10 year reward. I still can't believe this is happening.

25 Years: DC12 Club Wine Club Subscription
Former Reward: Participate in the Pre-Game Captain's Meeting at a Pre-Selected Home Game

Finally, someone saw the light of day and the absolute absurdity in rewarding 25 years as a season ticket holder by having your photo taken at half court in an experience that lasts about maybe a minute. 25 years and thousands upon thousands of dollars for a quick pic with Marcin Gortat and whomever the other team sends to center court? No thanks. The new reward (and who knew there was such a thing) is a DC12 Club Wine Club Subscription. I'm assuming this is valuable and not just a couple of $10 bottles of Sauvignon Blanc from Safeway or Trader Joe's. Maybe I'll find out someday.

As an aside here, my friend Mike offered the opinion that the former reward was better. It's not but he doesn't drink wine. If it were a year's worth of Bud Light, he'd feel the way I feel about this. I hope I'm not too optimistic. Again, maybe I'll find out someday.

Just in case I offended anyone, I get wine at Safeway and Trader Joe's all the time. I'll take it. Just hoping for something different is all.

30 Years: Dinner Reception with Members of Coaching Staff
Former Reward: Two Tickets to the Owner's Suite for a Pre-Selected Wizards Game

Honestly, I'd rather have the old reward, although there might be a problem since there's not really an owners' suite anymore because Ted and Co. sit downstairs courtside while Abe Pollin (who instituted the rewards program) had a box at the top of Section 101 with a private elevator to the garage below. The only thing that could make the new reward comparable to the former anniversary milestone would be if the dinner was private (i.e. just you). If it's in a group, isn't it the same as the five year reward but without players?

If they wanted to make this really special, they'd give two of the Owner's Seats courtside to the folks sticking it out for 30 years. Just saying. I've done about everything I've wanted to do as a Wizards fan short of watching the team succeed more except sit courtside. It's just way too expensive.

The view of the court for our 15 year suite game; of course the Wizards lost to Brooklyn.
35 Years: Roundtrip Limo to Wizards Game and Lexus Level Suite
Former Reward: Exactly the Same Thing

This reward stuck and for good reason. If it's cool to get a suite for you and your friends, it's even cooler to get a limo ride there and back. I'm never making this one, but I want this.

40 Years: Overnight Trip to a Pre-Selected Wizards Away Game
Former Reward: Exactly the Same Thing

Two rewards in a row are the same as they used to be. I guess when you get this high up on the season ticket holder tree, there's only so much you can hand out. I'd do this. Heck, I do it almost every year on my own. This is worth something, especially if you've never taken a road trip. Hopefully, it's not a trip to Philly.

Vegas, baby!!
45 Years: Two-Night Trip to Las Vegas for NBA Summer League
Former Reward: On-Court Recognition and Choice of Overnight Trip to an Away Game or Trip to an Eastern Conference Away Game

Who doesn't love Vegas? I'd head to the desert for a couple of days of Summer League on the Wizards' dime, even if it's way way more crowded than it was when I started going there in 2007.  I'm hoping the team puts you in a nice hotel and not at the Excalibur where we pretty much always stay. This reward (which used to be the 50 year reward) is an enormous upgrade over the former reward, which was essentially the former unappreciative 25 year reward combined with the 40 year reward. Or in other words, you'd get pretty much the exact same thing for 40 and 45 years.

50 Years: Overnight Trip to Choice of Wizards Road Game 
Former Reward: Trip to Las Vegas for Summer League

If you make it to 50 years, they should take you to EVERY road game or as many as you want. Heck you have to be retired at this point, right, so fitting every road game into your schedule shouldn't be difficult. I assume you get to pick. I'd probably go somewhere expensive to get to, like Sacramento or something. Maybe Sacto's a bit sleepy but after 50 years as a Wizards season ticket holder you probably need sleepy. As an aside here, there are no current 50 year season ticket holders. According to the names on the court at Capital One Arena, the earliest season ticket holders date from 1970.

So that's the scoop! Coming up on 10 or 25 years? You ought to be thrilled. If you are near the 20 year mark, I'll meet you at the Budweiser Brewhouse before a game some time and commiserate over a beer or two. Ask Roxy at the back bar to point you in my direction. I can talk for a good 10 to 20 minutes on that subject. I'd love for the Wizards to take me up on my suggestion and offer the 10 year reward on a grandfathered basis in addition to the new 20 year reward. Consider it, Wizards. Please!