Rui Hachimura: The Story of the Wizards’ Third Wheel

Rui Hachimura’s second season has been solid, yet it’s left Wizards fans wanting more from him. (Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Rui Hachimura is a good player. He’s the third-best all-around scorer the Wizards have, and he will continue to grow as his career progresses.

He’s at a disadvantage based on the personnel the Wizards have, though.

It’s a Guard-Driven League

The nature of the NBA – and basketball, in general – is to feature guards. They’re quicker and more explosive than most front-court players, and they tend to be more natural ball-handlers. The league has evolved to the point that some bigger players are able to dribble the ball and be playmakers with more regularity. But even with that stated, check the league leaders in points per game. You’ll see primarily guards near the top.

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Spring Training Battles for the Washington Nationals

Erick Fedde takes the mound to kick off Spring Training, as he competes for the Nationals’ fifth spot in the starting rotation. (Photo: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

There’s a lot to look forward to this spring for Nationals fans. The overwhelming majority of the team’s core from 2020 is returning, as well as a few players who opted out of play last year. Washington also added a few pieces that will play prominent roles in the upcoming season.

With the dawn of each new iteration comes a bevy of decisions regarding what roles each player will fill. Some years, those answers are more clear than others. This season, on the surface, there’s not much that isn’t apparent. But much like most years, there are numerous questions further down the roster that must be addressed, as well as the conundrum of how to restructure the batting order.

We’ve already introduced these topics earlier this week, but each merits some additional discussion, including an established pecking order in each race.

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Everybody Eats (On Both Sides of the Ball)

Bradley Beal (center) and the Wizards knocked off the Lakers on Monday night, stretching their winning streak to five consecutive games. (Photo: Adam Pantozzi, NBAE via Getty Images)

Throughout this entire season, The Wizards have been a talented basketball team, yet their record didn’t reflect it. It was just a matter of time before the results of the whole caught up with the sum of the parts.

In their last five games, the Wizards have defeated the Celtics, Rockets, Nuggets, Trail Blazers and Lakers. Not all of the margins of victory were close, none of those teams are truly bad (especially considering John Wall was motivated for obvious reasons), and four of those wins came against borderline Conference Finals contenders.

So what’s changed? We can all chalk it up to three things.

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Washington Nationals 2021 Spring Training Primer

Ryan Zimmerman returns in 2021 after a one-year hiatus, but he’ll take on an unfamiliarly reduced role. (Photo: Getty Images)

Spring Training is underway across Major League Baseball, and that means the newest iteration of the Washington Nationals is beginning to take form. Most of their key pieces from last year’s team will be back in 2021, but that wasn’t a season that returned many fond memories.

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Robservations: Wild Card edition

Taylor Heinicke Scrambles & Dives for INSANE TD - YouTube

It’s been almost a week since the Washington Football Team’s Wild Card performance against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The 31-23 Bucs victory was perhaps the most exciting game of a Wild Card weekend that was mixed with rivalry upsets, Nickelodeon blowouts and a defining moment for two franchises that have gone an eternity without playoff success. 

It was a fantastic week of football in general, yet the game I’ll keep coming back to was our own. This was the first playoff game Washington has had since 2015, which ended like many others before it in a semi-close but not really close fashion against a far superior opponent. How ironic that the 7-9 2020 Football game gave us the best fight since the Todd Collins run in 2007. This was a truly inspiring performance by a team that most wrote off from the opening kickoff. I won’t fault anyone for that opinion, especially against a Bucs team with as much offensive firepower as anyone in the league. 

Really, Washington had everything against them in this game. There was no reason to reasonably assume they actually had a chance to win this game with a fourth-string quarterback under center against an offense headlined by the greatest quarterback in NFL history. Yet here we are talking about a game that Washington legitimately had a chance to win. They showed the same fight and fire we’ve come to expect from this team, and they showed they belonged to be in that game. I’ve never been more inspired by a loss from this team in my life, I mean it was truly something special. There’s only one true place we can start when talking about this game though. 

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Robservations: Week 17

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Before we get started, I have to apologize for the longer than usual break in between blogs. I had some ideas for a Week 16 blog, mostly centered around Dwayne Haskins’ career in general, but I just didn’t really have time to do it last week. I’m thinking that’ll be a YouTube video at some point though (oh yeah I forgot to mention, I’m starting a channel, mostly for NBA content, but also might make one specifically for WFT opinions). But again, sorry about that. Then again, the Panthers game was so incredibly terrible that it would’ve been a lot of my tried and true whining, which not everyone loves. Hard to whine this week though because WE. ARE. IN. 

That’s right, people, the team formerly known as the Washington Redskins, the team that has suffered numerous scandals and PR nightmares that have painted Dan Snyder’s franchise as the biggest dump in all of football has somehow, someway become the most heartfelt Cinderella story in the NFL. We’re NFC East champions! I can’t even believe it. It’s crazy to think that last year’s game against the Giants was the first real time I actively rooted against my own team for a higher draft pick, and now just one year later they’re playing playoff football. Who could have possibly seen this coming? 

This team has a legitimate future; there are pieces in place to make this team a contender with the right kind of offseason. I’ve never been able to actually say that out loud before. The closest we’ve got to this point was probably RGIII’s rookie season which of course was filled with locker room controversies and power struggles that would carry over into the next two seasons, and the 2015 “You Like That” run, which of course was awesome, but it never really felt like we were in position to really become a true contender, especially with the Cousins contract drama starting to really come into full force. 

I love this football team, no, I love the Washington Football Team. I’m officially for keeping the name now I don’t even care. It’s got a dorky charm to it when this team wins. A team with no name actually won a division, that’s just hilarious when you say it out loud. Granted, it’s in the worst division in football and is the result of a 7-9 record, but this is a happy blog, so we’re just going to turn a blind eye and start clapping. 

In all seriousness though, we have to talk about this game against Philadelphia because I have truly never seen anything quite like it. My dad and I were just laughing after halftime because of how absurd it got. 

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Robservations: Week 15

This week’s Robservations are coming a little later than usual, but it’s not without purpose. In fact, I almost wanted to wait even longer, but I think doing it a day later than usual is probably the best move. 

This has been a wild week for the Football Team, and no, it’s not all entirely about what happened on the field. The 20-15 loss to the now 10-4 Seahawks (who are now first in the very tough NFC West) was a heartbreaker, but not a death sentence for Ron Rivera’s group, who needs just a win against the Panthers and a Giants loss to the Ravens for his team to officially lock up the NFC East crown. We’ll get into the game specifics soon enough, but first we have to talk about the very thing that’s made me hold off on this blog. You know what it is by now, it’s the Dwayne Haskins strip club scandal that has swept this pretty much drama-free team into a whirlwind of questions concerning its former first round quarterback. 

Haskins’ decision to go out after the loss with strippers without wearing a mask has completely taken over the D.C. news cycle this week. So much so that Rivera’s visible frustration at the constant media questioning over it seems like it has affected the team a great deal. The way I see it, it’s the exact type of bad publicity this team didn’t need, especially late in the season and especially with Alex Smith’s health still in question. Haskins not only got fined $40,000 from this, the most anyone has gotten fined for a COVID-related offense, but also got stripped of his role as a team captain. 

This is not a good look for Haskins, who not only played poorly in a pretty important game, but also showed the exact type of immaturity that his doubters have been pointing to since he was drafted. There’s a chance Haskins will be needed this week in an absolute must-win game, and I really don’t know what to expect. Will he finally play up to the raw potential he’s occasionally shown? Will he have the same respect he had with his teammates before this incident? Honestly, I don’t know. It’s just a really bad situation. 

Before I rant too much on the matter, let’s get to the nitty gritty on this Seahawks loss, starting with the performance of Haskins. 

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Robservations: Week 14

AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin

Well…well, well, well, well, look at what we’ve got here. The Washington Football Team’s stunning second half turnaround this season has built up to a four-game winning streak that’s now put them in sole possession of the NFC East lead with just three games to go. Who could have suspected that? 

With the Giants struggling against a Cardinals team that’s also trying to sneak into the playoffs, Washington’s 6-7 record is good enough to give them a one-game lead over Joe Judge’s team, who now has a tough two-game stretch against the Browns and Ravens before finishing the season off with a game against the Cowboys. That’s a much tougher finish to the season then for the Football Team, who has a tough game against the Seahawks before finishing with games against the 4-9 Panthers and the 4-8-1 Eagles. 

The ball appears to be in Washington’s court now after another statement game from Jack Del Rio’s defense against Kyle Shanahan and the San Francisco 49ers. The Niners, who are understandably struggling with a plethora of injuries, were still a respectable 5-7 team with minor playoff hopes heading into this Week 14 matchup. Those hopes are pretty much fantasies at this point, but this 100% had trap game written all over it for a Washington team that was riding high off of last Monday’s upset win over Pittsburgh. 

The 23-15 Football Team victory was a complete and utter defensive effort, with neither offensive units managing much of anything in terms of explosive playmaking or general excitement. Credit where credit’s due, defensive coordinator Robert Saleh and his defense played a damn good game against a banged up Washington offense that managed just 193 yards. Despite a strong effort from Saleh’s group, what truly decided this game was of course the performance of Del Rio’s defense that accounted for Washington’s only two touchdowns of the evening. The defense is a good place to start for this week’s Robservations 

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Robservations: Week 13

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to another edition of Robservations, where I have officially become a Ron Rivera fanatic. Seriously, the game was on Monday and I’m still jacked up about what this team accomplished. The thing is, I absolutely loathe the Pittsburgh Steelers, I always have, but they are pretty much always great. This year is no different, and as a result they generally always outplay us, but as Jonathan Frakes always says, not this time.

Seriously, the last time we beat them was in 1991, which puts me at -6 years of age. I’ve never seen Washington beat this team except in one preseason game, and we somehow did it this year. This sub-.500 team buried in the worst division in football that’s got an entirely new coaching staff with a third-string quarterback at the helm actually beat the last undefeated team in football. I mean, who could have possibly imagined that? Not only that, but we did it in primetime (If you consider 5:00 p.m. on a Monday primetime) at Heinz Field. 

These last two games have pretty much been a dream for me. We managed to beat two teams I absolutely hate in convincing fashion on national television. I’ve been back and forth on the prospects of winning this division, but fuck it, let’s go out and win this sadsack division. The Giants have the tiebreaker over us, but we’ve still got four games left to play this season. A lot can happen in those four weeks, but I am fully committed to this regime and their hopes at a playoff berth. 

This makes for a good transition to the first topic today. There’s almost too much to cover for a game like this. 

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If Not Justin Fuente, Then Who?

Unless the tide changes in the final two games of this season, we’ve hit the beginning of the end for Justin Fuente at Virginia Tech. (Photo: Michael Shroyer/Getty Images)

This season has been a colossal disappointment for the Hokies. There’s no better way to put it. There are other factors that come into play, but none that other schools aren’t also dealing with.

I spent much of the offseason as a Virginia Tech writer for Sports Illustrated, and I admittedly had high expectations for the Hokies. Shortly before joining the SI team, I had written a relatively all-encompassing article about Justin Fuente. Over the last few months, his stock has cratered.

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