Monday, April 29, 2013

Wizards Center Comes Out As Gay

NBA veteran Jason Collins made headlines this morning, coming out as the first openly gay active player in the NBA. The seven footer has played twelve seasons in the NBA, and hopes to continue playing. Former teammates and coaches alike have been thoroughly supportive of his decision. NBA commissioner David Stern stated today through NBA.COM:
       "Jason has been a widely respected player and teammate throughout his career and we are proud he has assumed the leadership mantle on this very important issue."

Jason Collins is the first openly gay active player in any of the four major U.S. Sports (Photo by Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Wizards Fall To Bulls In Season Finale

The Washington Wizards had been victorious in two out of three meetings with the Bulls coming into their final game of the season in Chicago on Wednesday night.

It had been a tale of two seasons for the Wizards, who started the season an abysmal 5-28, but rebounded to finish 12th overall in the Eastern Conference.

Washington fell behind early by the score of 29-8, but only trailed 52-47 at halftime.

Wizards forward Jan Vesely shoots a layup over Bulls forward Taj Gibson (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Though Washington never led, they did manage to tie the game at 85 with 3:19 left in the 4th quarter. John Wall had another chance to tie the game at the buzzer, but missed a three-point attempt, and the Bulls held on for a 95-92 victory. Carlos Boozer led Chicago with 19 points and 15 rebounds. Kirk Hinrich added 18 points for the playoff-bound Bulls.

The Wizards were led by A.J. Price with 24 points. John Wall added 23 points in a losing effort.

Washington's season is now over. Meanwhile, the Bulls will advance to the playoffs to take on the Brooklyn Nets in the first round.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Barclays Center Experience

Located in Brooklyn's historic Flatbush neighborhood, the brand new Barclays Center is Brooklyn's new jewel, and is the new home of the Nets. After spending years across the river in New Jersey's Meadowlands Sports Complex, the Nets are in their first season in N.Y.C.'s most populace borough.

Barclays Center before the Nets game against the Wizards
The Nets logo at center court
Nets mascot The BrooklyKnight
Nets logo illuminated during introductions
Nets huddle after player introductions
Already, the arena has made a name itself from its looks. The exterior redefines what an NBA arena should look like. It almost looks like a giant spaceship has landed in the heart of Brooklyn.  The sleek inside matches the Nets' new sharp color scheme of all black, a move no doubt inspired by rapper and entertainment mogul Jay-Z. Coupled with Jay-Z's creative inspiration, and majority billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov's generous monetary support, the Nets have recreated their organization, and branded themselves as one of the hippest teams in basketball.

Wizards center Emeka Okafor defends Nets center Andray Blatche
Nets center Kris Humphries goes up for the slam
Emeka Okafor takes the hook shot over Kris Humphries
The Nets dance team: The Brooklynettes
Nets and Wizards players dive for the loose ball
Nets forward Mirz Teletovic goes for the layup
Nets forward Tornike Shengelia goes for the layup
Wizards guard Garrett Temple tries to intercept a pass on its way to Nets guard Tyshawn Taylor
Wizards guard John Wall runs past Nets forward Mirza Teletovic
Nets center Andray Blatche and Wizards forward Jan Vesely fight for the rebound
Wizards forward Kevin Seraphin flies in for the rebound
Nets forward Gerald Wallace spins on Wizards forward Cartier Martin
Kevin Seraphin shoots over Andray Blatche
John Wall drives on Nets forward Kris Joseph
Trevor Booker shoots over Kris Humphries
Garrett Temple drives on Kris Joseph
Jan Vesely deflects the ball out to the perimeter
The actual game didn't have much bearing on the rest of the season, strongly resembling an exhibition contest. Brooklyn had already clinched the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Meanwhile, the Wizards had already been mathematically eliminated from post-season contention, and were playing for mere pride.

Despite trailing by four at the end of the third quarter, the home team held on for a 106-101 victory behind 20 points from both Kris Humphries and Andray Blatche. Both Deron Williams and Brook Lopez sat out to rest up for the playoffs, which begin on Saturday.

Washington was led by John Wall with 18 points and 12 assists. Kevin Seraphin added 17 points and 7 rebounds off the bench.

The Wizards will finish off their 2012-13 season against the Bulls on Wednesday night in Chicago.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Last (Home) Game

The last time the Philadelphia 76ers visited the Verizon Center on March 3rd, the Washington Wizards escaped with a 90-87 victory. The two teams had split the season series up until tonight, in what was the final home game of the season for the Wizards.

John Wall signs an autograph for an admirer
Kevin Seraphin signs an autograph for some young fans
It was a festive evening at the Verizon Center, as the Wizards celebrated the last game of the season on their home floor with fan appreciation night. There were plenty of free giveaways, including game-worn jerseys at the end of the game. Most of the merchandise at the team stores was marked down anywhere from 40 to 60% off. It was bittersweet watching the arena shut down for the season, though there was a sense of optimism that next year's Wizards team will be much better than this one if they can stay healthy.

Sixers center Spencer Hawes boxes out Wizards forward Kevin Seraphin
Wizards forward Trevor Booker drives the lane
Booker finishes with the one-handed slam dunk
Kevin Seraphin posts up on Spencer Hawes
Kevin Seraphin takes it up against Spencer Hawes
Seraphin finishes with the hook shot
John Wall in transition
Trevor Booker glides towards the basket for the rebound
Wizards guard A.J. Price drives on Sixers guard Justin Holiday
John Wall drives the lane
Justin Holiday reaches in against Kevin Seraphin
Wizards forward Jan Vesely and Sixers center Spencer Hawes anticipate the rebound
John Wall drives against Spencer Hawes
Wall goes up for the layup against Hawes
The Sixers won the game by a score of 97-86 behind 22 points from Jrue Holiday, but the night belonged to Wizards fans. This was their last opportunity to see this team, one which showed great resilience, bouncing back from an abysmal 5-28 start, to be one of the more competitive teams in the league, and holding down 11th place in the Eastern Conference. Much of the credit for the resurgence of the team was due to the return of John Wall in January. Wall scored 24 points and 7 assists tonight.

As fans filed out of the Verizon Center for the final time this season, they were handed a poster that features all of the players on this year's team. Less than a week ago, the Wizards organization had honored the 1978 champion Washington Bullets. Given the performance of this year's squad in the second half of the season, it doesn't seem too far fetched to think that another title could be on the horizon. Hopefully, as fan photographer, I'll be there to capture every moment, and every memory along the way.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Bring In The Heat

After winning the NBA title last year, the Miami Heat were putting together another stellar season, highlighted by a 27 game winning streak spanning from February through March. As they made their way into the Verizon Center for the last of four meetings with the Washington Wizards, Miami had already won 61 games, good enough to clinch home court throughout the playoffs. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh had already planned to sit the game out. At the last minute, LeBron decided to take the night off as well.

Heat point guard Mario Chalmers is averaging 8.6 points and 3.5 assists per game this season
Fairfax, VA native, and Heat forward Jarvis Varnado has only played in 11 games for Miami this season
Needless to say, there were a lot of disappointed fans in attendance for tonight's game. Many had payed big money to see LeBron, Wade, and Bosh in action. At least half of the arena must have been Miami fans, or more specifically LeBron fans.

Heat forward Chris Andersen, nicknamed "Birdman", has averaged 4.6 points and 3.9 rebounds in 38 games with Miami
Many thought Heat sharpshooter Ray Allen would finish his career in Boston, so signing with Miami over the off-season came as somewhat of a surprise.
Heat forward Shane Battier has averaged 6.6 points in 24.9 minutes per game for Miami in 2012-13
Now in his second year out of Cleveland State, Heat guard Norris Cole has averaged 5.3 points and 1.9 assists in 2012-13
Heat players lineup before the game for the national anthem
Washington had already beaten Miami once this season. That was on December 4th, before John Wall made his comeback. Jordan Crawford led the Wizards on that night with 22 points. Since then, Crawford had been shipped to Boston, and the Wizards had lost twice to the Heat in South Beach. Tonight, the Wizards were intent on evening the season series with the defending NBA champs.

Wizards forward Jan Vesely jumps for the rebound
Chris Andersen, Norris Cole, James Jones, and Rashard Lewis discuss strategy late in the game
Wizards forward Kevin Seraphin tries to pass out of a double team
Without the stars in the lineup, Miami held on for a 103-98 victory behind 23 points from Ray Allen. Former Wizards Rashard Lewis chipped in 17.

A.J. Price led the Wizards with 23 points off the bench. John Wall added 17 points and 11 assists.

The Wizards will wrap up their home schedule on Friday night, as the take on the Sixers at the Verizon Center.