The number 13 proved to be lucky for the Wizards, who finally broke through with an 84-82 win over the Portland Trail Blazers at Verizon Center Wednesday night. In typical Wizards fashion, they made things way too interesting by blowing a 15-point 4th quarter lead. However, in the end they defended well enough to ‘improve' to 1-12 on the season.
There are so many things wrong with the Wizards. First of all, the overall talent is not equipped to deal with the loss of John Wall and Nene, their two best players. Of course, Nene is playing right now, but he's hardly at full strength. The Wizards brass have no idea if the roster they put together is any better than last year's because it is impossible to measure without Wall and Nene healthy. What we do know is that for one night, under a full moon, the Wizards were winners. How good of a night was it for the Wizards? So good that Emeka Okafor even helped save a fan from a nasty fall.
Will this be a springboard to a long winning streak? Not likely, and until Wall is back on the court with a healthy Nene, we truly will never know how good, bad, or indifferent this team would have been this season. Let's just hope it does not take another 13 games before they win the next one.
In this week's "Chain Reactions" we examine whether RGIII can once again rise to the occasion, and if the Nationals' latest trade means the end of Adam LaRoche.
RGIII Makes Everything Possible
The 2012 Redskins season started in the Superdome, a stadium where no road team had won the year before. Getting a win was seen as "Mission Impossible" for a Redskins team led by a rookie QB in week one. The 'Skins put up 40 en route to a 40-32 win over the Saints as Robert Griffin III proved that nothing is impossible if he's on the field.
Then, the home losing skid that had lasted over a year ended as RGIII ran wild in a 38-26 win over the Vikings. Shortly after that win, the Skins went on a 3-game losing skid and Mike Shanahan appeared to wave the ‘white flag' on the season. Hope appeared to be lost. Then RGIII promised better things after the bye. The 'Skins came back from the bye and ripped the down and out Eagles, 31-6 thanks to four RGIII TD passes. That win ended the run of winless November games at Fed Ex Field in the Shanahan Era.
Then the next hurdle: the Redskins had never beaten the Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day in six tries. That stat, too, is now history as RGIII put on a show in his first NFL game in his home state, throwing four more TDs in the Redskins' 38-31 win over the Cowboys. Now the Redskins are staring at a 9-game home losing streak on Monday Night Football as they get set to host the Giants this week. The 'Skins are also only 1-9 at Fed Ex Field under the Monday Night lights, with that lone win coming back in 1997. If that didn't scare you enough, the Giants are coming off a dominant performance in a 38-10 win over the Packers. It also happens to be December, the time of year when the Giants usually heat up.
Actually, there is no reason to be scared. The Redskins can play with anyone as long as RGIII is under center. His teammates believe in him, especially after the last two games, in which he has thrown 8 TD passes to just one interception. The Redskins players have been unwavering in their belief in themselves and the last two weeks have added to that belief as RGIII sees it.
I think it's increased the team morale. It kind of showed us that what we do have as far as team-wise, going out winning games, playing well when our backs are against the wall, when it's on the line, everybody showed up ready to play. We played physical. We played tough. I think that's a benefit for us because your season can go one of two ways when you're sitting there at 3-6. It can get really, really bad or you can have shining moments like we've had the past two weeks. We want to keep that going.
This will be RGIII's first second look at a divisional opponent and it will be interesting to see what adjustments the 'Skins and Giants make from the 27-23 New York win at MetLife Stadium back in October. A win would get the Redskins to .500 for the first time since they were 3-3 going into the first Giants game on October 21st. A win would also suddenly make the playoff talk more realistic for the Redskins, too. The Giants could all but end the 'Skins NFC East hopes with a win. The Giants found out in the last meeting how special a competitor the Redskins' rookie quarterback is already. Now, the rest of the nation is paying attention. It always seems that the bigger the stage, the brighter the lights, the better RGIII plays, which should serve the 'Skins well when the Monday Night show rolls into town.
Nats Find a Leadoff Man
The Nationals made their move shortly after their division rival, the Braves, signed free agent outfielder B.J. Upton to a big-dollar deal. The Nats countered with a trade that sent pitching prospect Alex Meyer to the Minnesota Twins for center fielder and lead-off hitter Denard Span. The 28-year old is a prototypical lead-off hitter that has the speed to cover plenty of ground in center field. Bryce Harper will now move to a corner outfield position, and likely into the cleanup spot in the batting order. Jayson Werth can also move into the two hole and hit behind Span now.
It also means that either Michael Morse or free agent Adam LaRoche is outta here. LaRoche is coming off a career year at the plate and in the field, winning his first ever Gold Glove. The Nats would like to keep LaRoche, but like everything with this franchise, it must be at their price. If LaRoche bolts, Michael Morse will likely head back to first base, or perhaps second-year slugger Tyler Moore will get his chance. Neither can replace LaRoche's leather at first, which the Nationals praised all season long. The franchise let Adam Dunn walk, to the dismay of some at the time, because he was a defensive liability at first. To let LaRoche walk would seem foolish after the season he had in the field and at the plate.
The perfect scenario for the Nats would be to deal Morse get some assets and to sign LaRoche for two more years. Then, in two years, they would move Ryan Zimmerman to first and prospect Anthony Rendon would be in the big leagues at third. However, this is baseball free agency and ultimately LaRoche will make the call based on what is the best for him. So the Nationals have to be ready to react, and as GM Mike Rizzo has proved in the past, he will do what's best for the franchise not just here and now, but for years to come.