Wizards look to have magical season

As the NBA season tipped off this week, hopes are high in the nation’s capital.

The Wizards enjoyed a successful season last year, ending the regular season with a 44-38 record and winning its first playoff series since 2005. In a campaign that saw John Wall make his first all-star team and Bradley Beal continue to develop into an all-around threat, the team won 15 more games than the season before. If the fans’ prayers are answered, this positive trend will continue through the winter.

As per usual, a few personnel changes were made this offseason. Trevor Ariza, who provided valuable defense and shooting for the team last year, left to sign with Houston as a free agent. In his place is 37-year-old Paul Pierce, who is near the tail end of a career that will likely earn him a spot in the Hall of Fame. Although Washington doesn’t expect him to produce at the level Ariza did, he should certainly serve as a veteran leader and emotional spark plug this season. Also new to the team are forwards DeJuan Blair and Kris Humphries, who figure to be valuable assets off the bench.

For the most part, however, this is the same squad that reached the Eastern Conference Semifinals last season. Head coach Randy Wittman and center Marcin Gortat were re-signed this summer, and the Wall/Beal combo figures to be a force to be reckoned with once again, even though Beal will miss the first six weeks of the season with a wrist injury. The two guards are just 24 and 21, respectively, and both have been steadily improving throughout their careers. Many who follow the NBA closely expect them to be among the best backcourts in the league for years to come.

In the aftermath of LeBron James’ decision to leave the Miami Heat and return to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Wizards have become favorites to win the Southeast division. Should they proceed to do so, they would be guaranteed home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs, which would put them on the inside track to play deep into the playoffs once again.