March 26, 2016

22 And Counting

These 2015-2016 Washington Wizards just don't seem to want to be playing in the postseason. Last night's double overtime loss to the woeful Minnesota Timberwolves means that the Wizards have now lost to two of the three worst teams in the Western Conference at home. They are now 3-1/2 games behind the Detroit Pistons for the eighth spot and seem to have about as much chance of making it as our starting shooting guard did of making a bucket in the second half last night. You can't score if you don't try, folks.

So with all that said, it's time to think about potentially happier times in the future, albeit something else the Wizards are sort of bungling at the moment.

At the beginning of the 2015-2016 season, there were 19 teams in the NBA Development League, the NBA's minor league of sorts that is rapidly morphing from a series of independently owned franchises with loose ties to the big leagues into a bona fide farm system. This season is the first year that all the D-League franchises have a single affiliation with an NBA team. That means the 19 NBA teams which have signed up for this deal get to assign younger players to a team where they can play which is also operated with the exact same defensive sets and offense schemes as they run in the show.

The Wizards, in true franchise underperforming seemingly always behind the times character, are not one of the 19 teams with this unique development advantage. That means they can't send someone like Kelly Oubre, Jr. anywhere to get him more playing time which reinforces what the Wizards are doing on NBA courts. They have to rely on meaningful in game situations for short spells or relatively meaningless end of game blowout win or loss scenarios where Kelly inevitably fouls too much and shoots too much or too poorly or both. The rest of the time, he's riding the pine watching and practicing with the big boys. Not saying that isn't valuable but it's not real playing time.

Next year, the NBDL will expand to 22 teams. Of course, the Wizards aren't one of those teams who are expanding. Our hometown franchise seems to be content to wait until the team's new practice facility is complete which should be 2018, barring construction delays. That means the earliest the team would field a D-League team is for the 2018-2019 season. That's two more years at least of being underserved in this department.

Rendering of the Wizards new practice facility.
The NBDL played it's inaugural season in 2001-2002 and was located entirely in the southeast of the United States. The league operated franchises in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama and nowhere else. The league could realistically be viewed as a complementary league to the now defunct Continental Basketball Association which stretched across the Midwest of the country and followed similar regional basketball leagues that had existed for decades.

The teams in those two leagues had some crazy names: Greenville Groove, Roanoke Dazzle, Mobile Revelers, Flint Fuze, Dakota Wizards, Gary Steelheads. Some of the team nicknames were tailored to have regional relevance and others weren't. What you ended up with was a set of teams with names that existed pretty much nowhere else in professional sports and this has always been one of the most fun aspects of minor league sports for me. I remember living in Cooperstown in the mid 1990s and checking out all the minor league caps for sale in town. The Chattanooga Lookouts and the Lansing Lugnuts were always my favorites.

Since the NBA's gotten more involved in the D-League, the names have been toned down a bit. Sure the Sioux Falls Skyforce still exists in the NBDL from the old CBA days but all the original D-League teams are relocated or gone and the only other CBA city other than Sioux Falls that still has minor league basketball is Grand Rapids. And only since 2014, when the Detroit Pistons bought and relocated the Springfield Armor from Massachusetts. The Pistons elected to call their new franchise the Drive, to align with their parent team branding, rather than go back to the old Grand Rapids Hoops, which I would have loved.

So let's say the Washington Wizards buy into the NBDL and start a team in 2018. What are they going to call it? Let's take a look at some possibilities based on the four existing examples set by the 19 current and three future NBDL teams.

Model One: Be Unique
This is my favorite category because the identity of the D-League team is totally different from the parent franchise. This allows regional identity to be expressed in the selection of the team's nickname which allows local civic pride to shine through. Instead of feeling like the team is owned by some larger, more profitable organization, the team feels like it's a part of the community where they play. Half of the 22 teams which will play in the league next season fall into this category and they all, with the exception of the Maine Red Claws, pre-date the current one to one alignment trend.

The Fort Wayne Mad Ants are named after General Mad Anthony Wayne (the city's namesake), the Rio Grande Valley Vipers are named after a local reptile and the Reno Bighorns are named after the elusive sheep that live in the mountains around the city. The Erie Bayhawks, Canton Charge, Iowa Energy, Sioux Falls Skyforce, Texas Legends, Bakersfield Jam and Idaho Stampede round out this category. Each name has nothing to do with the parent franchise. I love it!

Model Two: Use The Same Name
In 2012, the Golden State Warriors bought the Fargo, North Dakota based Dakota Wizards and shipped the team west to Santa Cruz. They re-named the team (are you ready for this brilliance?) the Warriors. Other than the coincidentally named Wizards who had no relationship to my beloved Washington Wizards, it was the first time an NBDL and NBA team carried the same nickname and it started a trend.

Starting with the 2016-2017 season, the Brooklyn Nets, Chicago Bulls, Golden State Warriors, New York Knicks, San Antonio Spurs and Toronto Raptors will all be affiliated with a D-League team named the same as their franchise. The Spurs even renamed the Austin Toros to the Austin Spurs in 2014. There is generally no inventiveness here; the teams are just copying their names to spread brand identity and it's pretty obvious to me that's the intent. I don't like this except I think it's worth highlighting the Bulls and Raptors efforts here.

The Bulls new D-League affiliate will play in Hoffman Estates, IL and they wanted I guess to keep the Bulls brand. Suffice it to say that they probably didn't want the Hoffman Estates Bulls so they rolled out the Windy City Bulls. I'm not thrilled but it's better than Hoffman Estates. It kind of makes it sound like there are two teams in Chicago named the Bulls though.

Toronto's D-League team, which began play this year in Mississauga, Ontario, has also elected not to use the place name in their team name. But unlike Hoffman Estates, the Raps have decided to use the area code to I suppose identify with a broader audience. They rolled out Raptors 905 (yes, that's the name of the team) last fall. While I don't like this whole overt identification with area codes trend, I'll give them some props here for doing it differently.

Model Three: Use A Related Name
The Philadelphia 76ers are named after the signers of the Declaration of Independence which was signed (in case anyone doesn't know) on July 4, 1776 in (yep, you guessed it) Philadelphia. When it came time for the Sixers to rename the Utah Flash, who they bought and shipped cross country to Newark, Delaware, they chose the name 87ers, to commemorate the first ratification of the United States Constitution, which was signed in (wait for it...) Delaware in 1787. Same theme, different place, different name. Get it? Good!

The 87ers aren't the only D-League franchise that is named along this theme. The aforementioned Grand Rapids Drive and the about to start playing Greensboro Swarm (owned by the Charlotte Hornets) are in this same category. I like this as a nice compromise between "you WILL use our name" and "do whatever you want." It ties back to the main franchise but also allows a completely unique nickname for fans of the minor league franchise.

Model Four: Same City, Different Name
In the 2016-2017 season, there will be two D-League teams that will exist in the same city as their parent club: the Los Angeles D-Fenders and the Oklahoma City Blue. And they both use the same city name as the major league team. They could have come up with a more imaginative solution here like the Bulls sort of did (admittedly not facing the same problem but the example fits) but they didn't.

The result for LA and OKC is pretty much just blah. The D-Fenders I guess is a play on the league's name but the Blue??? Really??? I get the dilemma a team could be in. Without thinking outside the box, you automatically name the team after the city where it's located and both the D-Fenders and the Blue play in their big brother franchises' cities. But you can't really name your NBDL franchise better than your main team, right? And both these teams have less than impressive names. I'm not suggesting that they deliberately picked mediocre names but, well, yes I sort of am doing that.

So all that begs the question, what will the Wizards do? Will we get Wizards 202? Or the Washington Red (please, no)? How about letting the Sea Dogs, that finished as runner up to the name the Wizards contest in the 1990s, finally see the light of day and let those fools who voted for that name at long last cheer for the Washington Sea Dogs. I'm pleading that it be none of these.

The Wizards clearly can't use the same nickname for their future D-League franchise if they also want the name of the city they are going to play in as the name of the team. That would yield the Washington Wizards and nobody really wants that at all. In fact, I'd steer clear of Wizards and anything Wizards related. No Ward 8 Wizards or DMV Wizards or Capital Wizards or any other Sorcerers or Spells or Necromancers or anything else magical. Although I'd consider Ward 8 momentarily before realizing it was incredibly narrow (albeit potentially powerful) in its breadth.

So what to do? Well in addition to the suggestions above that I've already thrown in the trash, I wouldn't use any of the names that lost the naming contest in the '90s. This would throw out Dragons (not close to Chinatown where it might make sense), Express (because it sucks) and Stallions (also because it sucks).

I don't think the team will use Washington Bullets for a couple of reasons: they've steadfastly refused to consider a name change for the Wizards and Washington Sports and Entertainment nixed the idea for the Arena Football League franchise they bought pretty quickly, although admittedly it could be because they are saving the name for the D-League. A few years ago, I thought it would be cool if the team put a NBDL team in Baltimore and called them the Bullets. I don't see it working in Washington, although it would sell a lot of merchandise I'm sure.

So where does that leave us? Washington Monuments? I wouldn't put it past the Monument obsessed ownership group but it's awfully difficult to chant that isn't it? I think it would be cool to borrow a former Washington sports team's name and use that. Professional teams played basketball in D.C. under the Capitols and Caps names in the '40s and '60s but clearly that wouldn't work. Other teams like the Senators (Major League Baseball), Lions (American Hockey League) and Diplomats (North American Soccer League) don't seem like winners either.

If it were me, I'd go with Capital Bullets. That would harken back to the 1973-1974 season for the current franchise and the only time the team used that name when they first moved to Landover in 1973. It would also have some more regional appeal and wouldn't be confused with the throwback Washington Bullets memorabilia that the NBA churns out. Plus maybe they could finally make that division champs banner that's missing from that's year's campaign (along with a couple of others) and hang it in the new building. Just my suggestion. I'm sure I won't be listened to.

March 23, 2016

Look Who's At Verizon Center!

I know some of these photos suck. Get over it.

When I first became a Washington Wizards season ticket holder, the scorer's table stretched from the home bench on the east side of the court to the visitors' bench on the west side of the court. At that time, the scorer's table was where the official timekeeper, the official scorer (hence the name), the public address announcer plus the television guys both for the Wizards and the away team sat. I'm sure it had been that way for about like ever.

Then a few years ago, Wizards ownership figured they could make a little more cash if they shortened the scorer's table a bit and added some seats next to each team's bench. Now before you scoff and think about how little money that is really worth to ownership, consider these seats for the 2016-2017 season cost $2,200 per game per seat. That's $90,200 for a full regular season per seat. Heck, that's $3,300 for three meaningless preseason games. WOW!!! And there's like 12 of these things. That's pretty much a cool million per year.

Now, since the table was shorter, someone had to go, right? They couldn't move any of the game officials (how would they deal with those "operations to the scorer's table" pages when the clock malfunctioned?) so they decided to move some folks who didn't need seats as close as they used to have: the television guys. Why am I writing all this? Well, when they moved the TV guys, they moved them to the top of Section 110 and all of them now walk up the aisle between Sections 109 and 110 before every game, which means they walk right by my seats.

That means I get to say hi to Phil Chenier and Steve Buckhantz every game if I want. It also means I get to have every opposing team's announcers walk within about three feet of me. Most of the play by play guys are broadcasting guys, vets of the business who have worked their way up from entry level jobs in television to calling 82 (or more for the right team) games per year on local cable. But they are usually partnered with an analyst who's a former player. And that can be pretty cool. Here are some of the guys who walked within arm's length of me this season.

October 31: Walt "Clyde" Frazier
Two time NBA Champion; seven time All-Star; Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 1987.

Walt Frazier anchored the New York Knicks backcourt on their two NBA Championship teams in 1970 and then again in 1973. In the excess crazy 1970s, Frazier was famous for wearing full length fur coats with matching hats and driving a custom Rolls Royce. He picked up the nickname "Clyde" because the hats he wore looked like the fedora worn by Warren Beatty in the movie Bonnie and Clyde.

While Frazier played all the way until 1980 (with the Cleveland Cavaliers of all teams), I never got the chance to see him play (too young and not interested in basketball in the first year we moved to the U.S.)  but used to listen to his broadcasts while a Knicks fan in my purgatory years in upstate New York. His game calls are about as flashy as his wardrobe. Love the pink suit. And he wasn't wearing it because it was Halloween.

December 4: Derek Harper

Unlike Clyde, Derek Harper never won an NBA title and never made an All-Star game (I'm shocked about that second one). He's also never making the Basketball Hall of Fame. That's what happens I guess when you spend the majority of your career with the pre-Mark Cuban era Dallas Mavericks. But like Walk Frazier, Harper did play for the New York Knicks which is why I love Derek Harper so much.

When I first got out of college, one of my favorite distractions to my otherwise non-exciting life in Cooperstown, New York, was watching the New York Knicks on the Madison Square Garden network. When I got to Cooperstown, the Knicks had just traded for Harp and moved him into the starting backcourt along with John Starks (also LOVE Starks!) to replace the injured and out for the season Doc Rivers. Harper was the missing piece the Knicks needed to get beyond the competition and make it to the NBA Finals, their first appearance since Frazier took them to the title way back in 1973. Yes, Michael Jordan playing baseball might have had something to do with the Knicks' success but I'm giving credit to Harper anyway. The Knicks lost on my birthday that year to the Houston Rockets. That was as close as Harper got to a title.

I loved watching Derek Harper play for the Knicks. He was without question my favorite player on the team. He was so in control of the game for the Knicks and seemed to be a stabilizing force for the team when he was on the court. If I'd been buying NBA jerseys back then, I would definitely have invested in a number 11 jersey.

December 19: Dell Curry
NBA Sixth Man of the Year 1994.

Is Dell Curry more famous today from his time as an NBA player or in his current role as Steph Curry's dad? It's hard to tell sometimes but Curry was definitely a force in his playing days, winning the NBA Sixth Man of the Year award in 1994 and scoring enough points in Charlotte to be (still) the Hornets' all time leading scorer.

Curry was selected by the Hornets in the expansion draft for that franchise on its way into the league when he was left unprotected by the Cleveland Cavaliers, the second team he had played with in as many years to start his career. He spent the next ten years in Charlotte before closing out the last four years of his career in Milwaukee and Toronto. Unlike Clyde and Harp, I have no special memories of Dell as a player, although I must have seen him play early on in my season ticket tenure when he was a member of the Raptors. I'm just happy to say I don't remember him being a Wizards killer, like so many other players have been.

December 23: Brevin Knight

I look forward to the Memphis Grizzlies' visit every year because Brevin Knight is calling the game for the visitors. Why Brevin Knight? Because right now he's the only former Wizard (Phil Chenier was a Bullet, remember) who's calling games on TV and I saw him play in his one partial season in Washington.

I remember noticing Brevin a couple of years ago making his way up our aisle and said to my friend Mike "hey, it's Brevin Knight!" Brevin stopped and talked to us, seeming surprised that someone at Verizon Center actually knew who he was. I told him I remembered him playing for the Wizards and said something about his number 22 jersey which I think struck home that I did actually remember him. Brevin spent 12 years in the NBA playing for nine NBA teams. Memphis was the third team he played for way back in 2001 to 2003.

The partial year Brevin played for the Wizards (he played for Phoenix and Milwaukee that same year) was probably not the highlight of his career but he's still my favorite visiting broadcaster. This year I said hi and got a handshake and a "Merry Christmas!" out of him. See you next year, Brevin!

January 25: Brian Scalabrine

NBA Champion.

Of the guys in this post, Brian Scalabrine is probably the least accomplished as a professional basketball player. But he did win an NBA championship, which give him something Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Allen Iverson and a whole lot of other guys who have played in the NBA don't have, including Derek Harper, Dell Curry and Brevin Knight.

Scalabrine became somewhat of a cult hero for Boston Celtics fans during the Pierce-Garnett-Allen (and Rondo I guess) years which produced an NBA title in 2008. He was the human equivalent of Red Auerbach's victory cigar during some of those years and at the end of a blowout win, the Boston crowd would often chant "Scal-A-Bri-Ne". Good for Brian, I guess. He parlayed the five years he spent in Boston during the middle of his 11 year career into a steady gig filling Tom Heinsohn's role as analyst during road games for the Cs. 

Dominique Wilkins

Nine time All-Star; Baskeball Hall of Fame Class of 2006.

I don't really remember watching Dominque Wilkins play basketball but suffice it to say he's likely the best player the Atlanta Hawks have ever had play for their franchise and for sure one of the best dunkers in NBA history, winning the Slam Dunk Contest during All-Star Weekend twice and earning the nickname "the human highlight reel."

Dominque never earned much team success in Atlanta. The Hawks never made it to the Eastern Conference Finals in his time there. But he did cement his playoff legacy in a game seven of the 1988 Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Boston Celtics. In that contest, Dominique scored 47 on the Cs in what is regarded as one of the greatest playoff one-on-one contests in NBA playoff history. His adversary that day? Larry Bird, who for Larry was having a pretty ordinary day until the fourth quarter when he poured in 20 points to lead Boston to victory in the series. It was in many ways Wilkins' signature moment of his career, although it ultimately came in a loss, which is sort of fitting considering the Hawks' success while he was in town.

I truly believe the NBA is the best in person sports experience in the world. One of main reasons I believe that is how close you can get to the action on the playing field. No sport gives the kind of in person, so close you can touch fan experience. For me the past few years, that experience has occurred in the stands as well as some pretty awesome former players have strolled by me. I thought it was worth putting some of this in a blog post.

I've managed to capture six of the 29 Wizards opponents' television analysts here. Notable among those who are missing are Shaun Elliot of the San Antonio Spurs and David Wesley of the New Orleans Pelicans. In the case of both those guys, I just wasn't paying attention close enough at the beginning of the games. I also missed former Wizards All-Star Antawn Jamison, who has assisted on the call a few times this year. Here's hoping AJ will make that spot permanent and spend the rest of my Wizards fan tenure walking by me.

March 17, 2016


This blog is not supposed to be about complaining but this is two complaint posts in a row and for that I'm sorry. Admittedly, on many levels the last one was not really a complaint. This one really is.

For the past 16 and a half (or so) years, my primary mode of transportation to get to work has been riding on Metro's Orange Line. Whether it's West Falls Church to McPherson Square or Ballston to McPherson Square, Foggy Bottom, Clarendon or Farragut West, I've done a lot of riding Metrorail to get from home to the place where I make some money. Getting to and from work would have been a whole lot more complicated without Metro, that's for sure.

For the past 15 and a half (or so) years, my primary mode of transportation to get to Washington Wizards games has also been Metrorail. Pretty much always the Orange Line from home and the occasional Red Line train from work or to take me from Metro Center (where I hop off Orange) to Gallery Place when I'm feeling lazy or it's raining or it's just too cold for me to tolerate hoofing it a few blocks downtown.

I know lots of people who don't like Metro. Either the cars are dirty (sometimes they are) or the stations are poorly lit (yep, that too even though they were conceived the exact opposite way) or constantly late (well, not constantly) or just don't run frequently enough (I guess...). I know at least two people who claim something goes wrong every time they use Metro. This last statement is not true. I can cite a number of times I've ridden Metro with those two people when nothing has gone wrong.

For my part, I love Metro. In fact, I generally love any form of public transportation. It's relatively cheap. It's relatively quick. It allows me to simply ride rather than drive (important after some games with maybe more than a couple of beers at Verizon Center). And it's really environmentally friendly. What's not to like?

But this year getting to Wizards games on Metro has been a little more challenging than usual and that's because this year, Metro has been a little more challenged than usual. It took me about an hour to get to Monday's game vs. the Detroit Pistons from my home in Ballston. I took Metrorail from Ballston to Courthouse; sat about 20 minutes at Courthouse while single tracking but with no trains coming the other way; abandoned ship and decided to cab but finding none hopped on a Metrobus to Rosslyn; where I took a cab with really old shocks and tires downtown to the corner of F and 7th NW. That 20 minute wait for nothing at Courthouse was a killer and it was all because there was a fire earlier that morning at McPherson Square and the issue hadn't been resolved 10 hours later!!!

Here's the thing with Metro. And by Metro, I mean Metrorail. When something goes wrong, there's the potential for it to go horribly wrong. And by horribly wrong, I mean huge delays, frustrated customers on crowded trains and in some terrible terrible cases, death. Yes, death. The same issue that caused Monday's delays all day filled a tunnel with smoke near L'Enfant Plaza last year and killed someone. To this day I get nervous when Metro stops in tunnels because that's where the death occurred. It's not supposed to be that way.

Free Metro!!! Not necessarily a bargain by the way.
Monday was not the first time I've had issues with Metro on my way to a Wizards game this year. January's snowstorm forced the closure of all above ground Metro tracks but somehow made the ride to the game, which for me is completely below ground, inexplicably slow. I don't understand how this happens when there's no temperature or ice issue below ground but whatever. We allowed some extra time and Metro made up for their slow service by just opening all the turnstiles and not charging anyone anything. Now, if they would only find a way to reimburse me for waiting 20 minutes at Courthouse on Monday...

Monday's issues with Metro ended for me with my trip to the game, by the way. By the time I got out of the game, the section of Orange Line between Federal Triangle and Foggy Bottom was closed. Bus service, as I understand it, was available to take me from Federal Triangle to Foggy Bottom but since I wasn't at Federal Triangle (or anywhere near by the way) I opted for $30 cab ride home. Now I really want that reimbursement for the whole Courthouse delay.

And then came yesterday, when Metro decided to shut the entire Metrorail system down for the day. The ENTIRE system for THE DAY! I'm not knocking Metro for erring on the side of caution by closing the system for the day. If there's a possibility of death, no matter how slim, then maybe something needs to be done. But honestly, there's the possibility of death every day on Metro from a variety of very very unlikely scenarios. Can't the inspection to identify possible sources of additional fires like the one on Monday be staggered over several days or be done at night? I guess somebody thought not.

My trip to last nights Wizards - Bulls game was stretched over about 11 hours. Not by Metro's choice but by mine. I walked to Clarendon to work; hopped on the most crowded 38B bus ever down to my other office downtown on K Street and then hoofed it over to the game (since I couldn't Metro). Not really inconvenient I guess but I would have liked to have handled things differently. Unfortunately, the ride home again cost me $30 since there's no way I was going to take a series of buses back home late at night. I'm hoping there's no more of this stuff. That's about all the guilt I'm willing to heap upon Metro for this moment. Time to think about other happier stuff.

So some of the things I've written here are tongue-in-cheek or trying desperately to be comical. But seriously, Metro, if you have to shut the entire underground transportation system of a major metropolitan city in the United States down for a day, then there's something really wrong with your operation. And it's not like this is a news flash. This has been going on for years. Despite my love of Metro (and I really really love the bus system which I think is fantastic), even I can't defend what's happened this week. Get it straight and quick. Yesterday was a mess of the first order and is absolutely and totally unacceptable. I'm fortunate that I could find alternate ways to get to the game, but I don't want to do that even once a year. I get the snowstorm issue and I appreciate the free ride, but for this Metro lover, this week was pretty much a catastrophe.

My friend Mike on his way to the Celtics game after the snowstorm. Metro car for one?

March 15, 2016

Section Row Seat

Beware: Snarky post! After that Wizards third quarter in Utah last Friday and the fourth quarter in Denver on Saturday, I think I have the right to be.

Last night the Washington Wizards played home game number 34 of the 2015-2016 NBA season. This year, I've been there in person for all of them. For all but three of those games, I've sat in my season ticket seats in Section 109 of the lower level of Verizon Center. I like my seats there. They are close enough to see the faces and more importantly the eyes of the players in addition to being within earshot of the court which allows me to enjoy the game on another level. Sure, I can't see much of the three point line on the north side of the court and I can't see any of the sideline on that side but I'll trade that off for being that close.

Every so often when I get to a game, there's someone sitting in my seats. This doesn't happen very often and usually the people know they are in the wrong seats and are hoping I just don't show up. But sometimes, the people sitting in my prized seats are convinced they are in the right spot. This doesn't just happen to me either. Every few games there will be a mid-game shuffling of confused people near me getting out of the wrong seats and into the right seats. Of course, usually this occurs when the game is going on and the people are inevitably in front of me. That's ok, guys, I didn't need to see that part of the game anyway.

Can't see guys! Find your correct seat this time. PLEASE!!!
The last time the Wizards played the Boston Celtics this year, I walked down the aisle between Sections 109 and 110 to Row E and found two dudes sitting in our seats. Turned out they were father and son and they stood to let us pass when we stopped at the end of the row. But I didn't want to pass; I wanted to sit where they were sitting. The ensuing conversation went something like this:
Me: You guys are actually in our seats.
Me: I do. We have season tickets and those are our seats.
Son: We are in Row F, right?
Me: No, you are in Row E.
Dad: Sorry, I was just believing anything my son told me.
I'm paraphrasing a bit here (I don't generally tape every conversation in my life so I can write about it later) but the "I DON'T THINK SO!" is an actual quote. Perhaps the all caps and the exclamation point gives a bit of the wrong impression because he didn't actually yell, but he was completely convinced that there's no way I could be right and made that clear to me. Turns out I was right, although I knew that already. My question here is why can't people find their way to the right seats in the arena? Is it that difficult?

Well, it must be, right? Otherwise there wouldn't be people in the incorrect seats like all the time. So I'm going PSA in this blog post. For all those non-Wizards regulars and that includes all the people that get up and move during game action and all the Lakers turned Heat turned Cavs fans, here's a guide to finding your seat at a Wizards game. It's pretty simple, I think.

First Step: Section

Verizon Center is divided into three levels (I'm not counting the Lexus Suite level here). These are labeled the 100, 200 and 400 levels. My impression is most people get this right, although I'm sure the ushers help some here.

Each level is divided into a series of numbered sections. The sections are numbered consecutively in a counter-clockwise direction starting at mid-court on the F Street side of the building. Sections are entered off one of the three main concourses in the building meaning when you walk from the concourse into the arena itself, you are walking between two different sections.

This is important and people make this mistake all the time. If you don't know which side of the aisle is your section, don't guess. You'll be wrong (by the odds) half the time. Believe it or not, the section number is painted on the back wall of the section. Look and then pick the number that matches the one on your ticket.

Second Step: Row

Each section in Verizon Center has rows. These rows are designated with letters. Generally speaking outside the hockey boards, Row A is in the front of the section and believe it or not, they are in alphabetical order moving towards the rear of the section, although there is no Row I (looks too much like 1 I guess). The row letters are on the floor of the stairs.

If Row A is at the front of the section and you are walking up the aisle (meaning climbing), Row B is next followed by C before you get to D and so on. If you are walking toward the court (or descending), it's the exact opposite. In the lower level, this means T-S-R-Q-P-O-N-M-L-K-J-H-G-F-E-D-C-B-A. Look and then pick the row that matches the one on your ticket.

Final Step: Seat

So you've found your section and your row. Congratulations! Now you just need to pick your seat. But guess what? You don't even have to do that because it's written on your ticket.

The seat numbers are on the front of the folding part of each seat. If the seat is empty, it's easy to see. If someone's sitting in it, not so much. So this may be a little tricky I guess but the seats aren't that far apart that you can't see the number on the seat adjacent to someone who's already seated. Look and make a decision.

One final note on the seats, if you see a seat with the same number as the one on your ticket, don't just sit there and assume you found the right one. Check the section number again and check the row number. Then sit down.

I hope that helps newcomers to Verizon Center. I know finding a seat can be sometimes confusing and disorienting. But follow the signs and the simple rules I've laid out for you here and you'll likely be OK. And no standing during game action to get to your correct seats. Please. I know there are a lot of points scored some games. I want to see all of them.

Thanks everyone. And go Wizards!

March 6, 2016

First One To 100 Wins

There's an old adage among basketball fans that the first team to score 100 points wins the game. Now, I don't really think that I'm a big believer in these sorts of statements (I hate it when people tell me all you have to do is watch the last five - or two - minutes of a hoops game) but I always (and I do mean always) say it when I'm sitting at Verizon Center watching the Wizards play. So recently I started wondering: how often does the first team to drop in 100 go home with the victory? The results surprised me.

There's probably some website somewhere that has this statistic for the NBA for the life of the league. And it's probably sortable by team and year. If there is, don't tell me, because it would mean I just wasted about eight hours or so of my life compiling the same statistics for what has turned out to be a very short blog post.
This year, the Wizards have been involved in 53 games (of their 62 so far - including last night's disappointing loss to the Indiana Pacers) where one team or the other has scored 100 points or more. Obviously when one team only scores 100 (like last night), that team wins. That has happened in 29 games this season, or 54.7% of the time. In the remaining 24 games, the first team to tally a century has won 20 of them, or 83.3%. The total percentage of "first one to 100" games won this season is therefore 92.5%.  That seemed like a reasonable result to me.
But when I started looking back further in the Wizards history (the prior five full seasons), this year's 92.5% is low. Over the past five full seasons plus this one, there have been 307 games where one team or both have hit 100. Of those games, the first team there has only lost 19 times. Of those 19 where the first team to 100 lost, nine have been overtime games (I didn't list overtime games for this season because the Wizards haven't played an overtime game yet). That means the first team to score 100 has won the game 93.8% of the time over the past five plus seasons. When the game has ended in regulation, that percentage jumps to 96.4%. So basically for every 28 games where one team scores 100 points and they manage to win in regulation, they win 27 times.
Now I know what you are thinking: the big reason this stat is so high is that most of these 100 plus games are blowouts, especially with the last six years Wizards involved. And that's a good way to look at things. When the game is close (five or fewer points margin of victory) the percentage drops significantly to 78.3% since 2010-2011.
So the first team to 100 points doesn't always win. But 288 out of 307 over a five year plus period is good enough for me. I'm still saying "first one to 100 wins!"