wizards get a look at what comes with a title
BY TODD DYBAS | FEB. 28, 2018
CAPITAL ONE ARENA — When the Traveling Road Show was done for the night, its members walked out of the locker room to applause. Waiting outside of the constricted visitor’s quarters in Capital One Arena was House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, the representative for California’s 12th Congressional district, and friends. They clapped even when Golden State bench rotation players came out.
Everything changes when the Traveling Road Show comes to town. Fans and media emerge, gracing the arena they otherwise rarely or never show up in. Seats and suites are packed. Chinatown bustles on a Thursday instead of emptying. When the Warriors come to town with four All-Stars, a bevy of players known by initials or singe names, the vibe comes with them. That looseness created by winning, depth of talent and Steve Kerr is apparent. They want to be amused while blowing people off the court.
That situation has almost become unfathomable in the District. A world where a bench player could be the MVP of the Finals. Or a fill-in linebacker announces his post-Super Bowl Disney World plans. The parade, the recognition, the relief. It’s all so far away.
The franchise is creeping toward 40 years since its lone title. They have plans for a celebration of that 1978 team in late March. The multiple events were touted on the video board Thursday night while the Warriors rotated All-Stars in for All-Stars. The players on that Bullets team could be the grandfathers of players on this Wizards team. Bobby Dandridge is 70. Bradley Beal is 24. He was born 15 years after the parade.
“People in your town, your citizens tend to recognize guys who played on championship teams,” Dandridge told The Sports Capitol on Thursday night. “Especially with the Bullets winning that first championship and even in Milwaukee, being a young team when we won it. People gravitate toward the winners. Everybody, people that weren’t basketball fans, all of a sudden are now supportive of the team.”
That gravitational pull was apparent with the likable, aspirational Warriors. Kevin Durant was introduced first, and quietly. His name was almost slipped in by the public address announcer. Delayed applause followed the computation in the crowd that allowed them to realize he had been introduced. When the Warriors scored their first basket, a roar went up.
This is how it goes when you reign. Your team can fly 3,000 miles and fill half the gym with its fans. Not in every city, but most. When you arrive, everyone wants to talk. Everyone wants to beat you. Everything matters a little more, from a flood of media to one of the season’s most expensive tickets on the secondary market.
This same rock-and-roll dream exists in each locker room. It’s just that the Warriors have defined it in such free-wheeling fashion, it’s simpler for them to avoid the enemy label. Durant infuriated many with his move from Oklahoma City. Draymond Green can crawl under the skin. But, who is mad at Steph Curry? Who thinks ill of Klay Thompson? Andre Iguodala, A former All-Star and Olympian who comes off the bench? That’s a hard sell as a villain. Shaun Livingston? Who came back from knee surgeries to play his particular brand of over-the-top point guard basketball? Nick Young? David West? Easing into animosity toward this team is difficult. Kobe. Jordan. The Pistons. Even Bird and Magic. That was easy. These guys, not so much.
Dandridge remembers how it was after the parade. The flood of attention came for him, his fellow starters, and even the bench players of a group he said really ran 10 deep. The season after the elation becomes a non-stop pushback against it. New town, same issue. Here come the champs.
“Actually, it’s flattering,” Dandridge said. “That after you win the championship and you’re like the top team in the league and you are like a wanted person on the FBI 10 most-wanted list.”
Bradley Beal, shackled by fatigue and Thompson on Wednesday, has dreamed about it. When he was getting dressed, his fellow dreamer sat next to him in a suit. John Wall, who has a framed photo of the Larry O’Brien Trophy in his locker — it was just around when he was drafted, so he grabbed it and kept it — could still be a month away from returning to the floor. A few feet away, Beal wondered what it would be like to be the Traveling Road Show.
“I think that’s a goal of everybody,” Beal told The Sports Capitol. “I do dream of it. Imagine how the atmosphere would be. How the fans would be. How interacting with people on the street would be. Going on the road, how it would be. Having D.C. fans everywhere. I don’t think it’s going to happen until we win one. We’ve got to get one here.”
Dandridge, who is still slim, still suave and still around, could tell him. The guys Pelosi clapped for could let him know. Maybe he’ll find out for himself one day.
Photo by Todd Dybas for The Sports Capitol