On Results; or, When Good Luck Goes Bad

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John Hollinger’s column today ties in nicely with the book I’m reading right now, Fooled By Randomness:

In three seasons with the trio of Arenas, Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler, the Wizards have won 43, 41 and 42 games and haven’t made it past the first round of the playoffs. The three players are 26, 28 and 32, respectively [sic], so it seems likely that we’ve seen about the best we’re going to get from them. They’re an average team, and without an infusion of vastly better players around them, they’ll keep being an average team.

Yet instead of blowing that trio up, the Wizards took a Bob-Beamonesque leap of faith this week. First they extended Jamison for four years and $50 million, and then they offered Arenas a monstrous six-year, $127 million package. … For better or for worse, the Wizards are stuck with these guys

Contrast this go-with-the-girl-who-brung-ya approach, which is predicated on four straight playoff appearances and a firm belief that a healthy Wizards team can make the Finals, to the chaos in Oakland. Out here, Baron has opted out because — besides going home to L.A. — he wants so badly to play in the Finals. And the Warriors refuse to break the bank for him precisely because they don’t think he can lead this current roster there.

Funny thing is, by every measure — win loss record, point differential, etc.– the Warriors were a better team. Especially since the Warriors were about even with the Wizards the year before, and with the improvement of G.S.’s young players and the (squandered) chance to add an impact role player in the draft, could’ve expected to get even better in 08-09. Given the similarities between the two teams and Washington’s injury problems, it’s easy to chalk up differences in past performance to, basically, luck, and consider them both not quite championship material.

In reality, the only surefire difference is that the Warriors were unlucky to be stuck in the Western Conference, where for the first time ever 48 wins weren’t enough to make the playoffs. But that one result, that one fact, has colored nearly everyone’s perception of 07-08 as a failure and the team as one that’s talented and exciting but not good enough.

(UPDATED FOR CLARITY:)Now, Golden State’s management did make that max offer to Arenas, so they the potential to swap out high-scoring point guards and keep building. But fans out here are despondent, Baron Davis took off, and Brand won’t come up here. Meanwhile, for the Wizards, the feeling from management and fans is that they’re right there. So that perfectly justifies committing to a half decade of decent but not great teams, when really you were just lucky enough to play out east.

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