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Wizards Consider Future after Playoffs

Stacy M. Brown | 5/21/2014, 3 p.m.
Wizards center Marcin Gortat will be a free agent this summer, but Washington team officials said they'd like to re-sign the big man. (Courtesy photo)

In the end, the lack of experience and the absence of consistent play by their big men doomed the Washington Wizards in their second round playoff series against the Indiana Pacers.

However, the prevailing thought around the NBA remains the same as before the series: the Wizards will be a force to be reckoned with for years to come.

“The first couple of years here, we were the laughingstock of the league,” said Wizards forward Trevor Booker after the team’s 93-80 series ending loss to the top-seeded Pacers in Game 6 on Thursday, May 15 at the Verizon Center in Northwest.

“But now we have everybody’s respect,” said Booker, 26, who like superstar guards John Wall and Bradley Beal should wear the red, white, and blue colors of the Wizards for years to come.

One day after the loss, Wizards coach Randy Wittman sang the praises of his players, who surprised many by handily defeating the Chicago Bulls in the first round of the playoffs.

“They battled and fought hard,” said Wittman, 54.

While dismayed that 36 years have passed since Washington’s last NBA championship, fans of the team said they’ve witnessed significant progress this year and are hopeful that, with the possible addition of one or two more top defenders via trade or free agency, the Wizards can compete for a title next year and beyond.

“Our big guys didn’t come through in the end, but guys like Marcin Gortat, Nene, and Trevor Ariza will know how to step it up next year and then John Wall, Brad Beal, Martell Webster and even Otto Porter, will be stronger and more experienced next year, so we’ll be fine,” said Sidney Vickers, a Wizards fan who lives in New Carrollton, Maryland.

“This was a learning experience, but I think the league had better be on the lookout because our talent is among the best,” said Vickers, 46.

There’s already speculation that the team could lose some of its key players going into next season because several of them, like Ariza, Gortat and Booker, are free agents and are certain to generate interest from other teams.

“I think this core that we’ve got can do some really special things,” said veteran forward Al Harrington.

Wall, 23, and Beal, 20, already have demonstrated that they are stars in a league where teams continue to try and stockpile as many big name players as possible.

The duo proved instrumental in leading the Wizards to their first playoff appearance in six years and their first trip to the second round in a decade.

“These two can easily mean four, five, six more wins for us during the season,” Gortat said.

The Wizards won 44 games during the regular season and even the top teams found it difficult to play against Wall and Beal, often adopting strategy to pressure the dynamic duo.

However, against the Pacers, the playoff pressures appeared to overcome the less experienced Wizards, who tuckered out in the end.

Still, the team’s fans applauded the exciting season as the Wizards walked off of the Verizon Center floor after the May 15 defeat.