By: Patrick Waring
Thanksgiving is a time to appreciate and think about the positive things you have in life. People all over are reflecting or spending time with loved ones. It’s a time to give thanks for what you have, not what you don’t.
Sports is the same way. Fans in the D.C. area don’t always have a lot to celebrate throughout the season, or in the playoffs or postseason, but things may not be as bad as they seem. Let’s take a look at some teams in the area and what fans should be thankful for this time of year.
The D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera Decision
Last Spring, then junior guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera announced that he was going to pass on his senior season and enter his name into the NBA Draft. Well, a short time after, DSR decided to pull his name out and return to the Hilltop to finish his academic and collegiate career. The move gave head coach John Thompson III, his teammates and fans a veteran to help lead the Hoyas back to the NCAA Tournament. DSR averaged 16.3 points, 4.2, rebounds and 3.2 assists per game last season. Despite a 1-3 start to this season, many believe the Hoyas will still be in good shape for March due to the senior’s abilities and experience. The All Big East First Team selection will also be very valuable to the sophomores and freshmen that are contributing now and will be the future for the program.
Fans may have been thankful for DSR before he even put on a Georgetown jersey. The Indianapolis native originally committed to Xavier as a junior in High School before ultimately deciding to attend school in Washington, D.C. for the Hoyas.
A Hometown Hero
Sophomore guard Melo Trimble has lived up to all expectations Maryland fans have had to this point. The Upper Marlboro, MD native was the top ranked high school player in the state when head coach Mark Turgeon landed him before last season. As a freshman, along with former teammate Dez Wells, Trimble helped the Terps finish 2nd in their debut season in the Big Ten and make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 2009-10 season.
Trimble, this year’s preseason Big Ten Player of the Year, has already guided the Terps to an undefeated start, including a four point home win against local rival Georgetown. The guard is averaging 16.2 points, 4.2 assists and 2.8 rebounds per game. One of the strongest parts of his game is being able to get to the free throw line. Just think, the student home attendance was down and some were questioning Turgeon’s future before Trimble’s arrival.
Bryce’s MVP Season
The Washington Nationals did not live up to their very large expectations this year. Actually, the last few years, if we want to get technical. Many believed the Nats would dominate the NL East and advance all the way to the World Series. How did it work? The Nats played their last game at the end of the regular season and fired head coach Matt Williams. But there was Bryce Harper.
The fourth year player was the unanimous selection for the National League MVP Award. Harper put up one of the greatest seasons in MLB history by posting a .330 batting average, 42 home runs, 99 RBIs and 118 runs scored. The lefty had a .460 on base percentage to go with a .649 slugging percentage.
From being selected 2012 Rookie of the Year to 2016 NL MVP, Harper has had great bookends to his young career in Washington. Just turning 23 years old in October, fans can feel good about his future and think that this is just the beginning. Now, just to get everything else going and keep Harper in town for the rest of his playing career.
A Real GM
Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will the rebuild of the Redskins, but the best move in quite some time was made before this season. The Redskins hired GM Scot McCloughan over the offseason to take care of their roster and help build the franchise back into a winner. McCloughan comes with over 20 years of executive or scout experience and is a well respected evaluator of talent. He has been credited with putting together the recent NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers and Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks rosters. Before taking the job with the Redskins, McCloughan had been in talks with the New York Jets and Oakland Raiders. Having someone capable of making draft day decisions like his may not have been in Washington since the days of Charley Casserly.
As long as he is able to do his job, and avoid some past personal issues, fans should be very pleased with decisions from the front office for the Skins. The days of drafting bust after bust and signing over the hill free agents to ridiculous contracts will seem like very bad dreams. McCloughan will look for tough football players that want to play physical and will compete for their jobs, not want things handed to them because of their names. His first selection of Brandon Scherff had people talking, but it was a position and type of player that the team couldn’t afford to pass up. A good change took place for the Redskins and fans will soon see the difference.
Who would have ever thought the Washington Wizards would be the most stable franchise in the area? Gone are the days of Andray Blatche, JaVale McGee and Nick Young. I don’t want to discredit what Gilbert Arenas did for the team in his time on the court and in the community, but the locker room situation was ugly to say the least. GM Ernie Grunfeld is currently in his 13th season for the Wiz and head coach Randy Wittman is the sixth longest tenured coach in the NBA after the Houston Rockets fired Kevin McHale. Only Gregg Popovich (Spurs), Erik Spoelstra (Heat), Rick Carlisle (Mavs), Frank Vogel (Pacers) and Dwane Casey (Raptors) have been at their positions longer. Having a coach that the front office supports and the players believe in is huge. The Wizards have made the playoffs for the last two seasons and are no longer pushovers in the league. Point guard John Wall is a star and has lived up to the hype of being the number one overall draft pick in 2010. Add shooting guard Bradley Beal and small forward Otto Porter, and the future looks bright in Washington. The Wizards have continued to build through the draft and sign key pieces when needed. The work is paying off and more success should follow.
There is much excitement and speculation for this summer’s free agency with Kevin Durant, but fans should sit back and appreciate what has been going on with their NBA team. Tickets to home games can now be sold because of the product the Wizards put out on the court, not just because of the names that come to town to play against them.
Being a fan can be tough at times and your loyalty can be tested. D.C. area fans have somethings to be thankful for. And just remember, at least you aren’t a Dallas Cowboy fan. Well, hopefully not.
You can follow me @WaringPatrick.
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(Above Photo Courtesy of Getty Images)