There were three key reasons why president Ernie Grunfeld immediately locked in on Scott Brooks as his next coach, giving him a fully guaranteed five-year deal worth $35 million.
One of those reasons were he wanted to establish a team that actually had a home-court advantage, and that played in a way that inspired the fan base to support them in ways they didn't the previous season.
That was a difficult task. Before the 2016-17 season began, the energy was missing likely because of the disappointment that accompanied whiffing on Kevin Durant in free agency, a 2-8 start and then the highest-priced free-agent acquistion, Ian Mahinmi, being absent for all but one game. The next highest-paid free agent, Andrew Nicholson, has devolved into a spot-minute player who has had his share of DNP-CD (Meaning, he was available but Did Not Play-Coach's Decision).
December, however, represented a major turnaround. Three consecutive quality wins, vs. the Charlotte Hornets, Detroit Pistons and L.A. Clippers, started the momentum. After a 27-point road loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, the Wizards responded by coming back to beat them 107-102 on Dec. 26 at home.
The atmosphere has livened, and it doesn't take until free sandwich promos until the fourth quarter for the crowd to get hyper. The chants of fans for the visiting team can no longer compete.
Wall, a three-time All-Star, had his issues defending to start the season but he has gotten better and already has 20 double-doubles. Bradley Beal, who signed a $128 million max contract this summer, is playing like he's worth every penny. Otto Porter and Marcin Gortat are playing their best basketball since coming to D.C. and Kelly Oubre looks like a first-round pick. Even among the other lesser-known names, they're playing with a heart and committment under Brook who never wavered.
"It's tremendous," said Beal after a pracitce following that win over Milwaukee. "It's amazing. Just having that support behind us, we need that energy. We need that sixth man behind us. When we go on the road it's everybody against us. We want that same feeling against these other teams."
Wall, who has led them to a 10-5 month, was one assist short of a triple-double a few days later in a win over the Indiana Pacers. He heard "M-V-P" chants repeatedly. It felt like old times, such as two years ago when his broken left hand/wrist likely kept them out of the conference finals.
"This is what I've seen in the past, the two years I made it to the playoffs," Wall said of 2013-14 and 2014-15 when the Wizards advanced to the conference semifinals before missing out last season. "Without these guys we don't find a way to get that sense of urgency when we're down or when we're up and teams come back. ... They got to understand we enjoy that. We enjoy coming home. We don't want to feel like it's a road game. We got 41 games on the road."
And the Wizards are just 16-16. By no means have they fully turned the corner but they're progressing and have gotten themselves out of an early-season hole. They have an eight-game home win streak and are 13-6 overall.
They're just 3-10 on the road and have a two-game trip that starts tonight, at the Houston Rockets and Tuesday at the Dallas Mavericks. Come back 2-0, and Friday's home game vs. the Minnesota Timberwolves likely will be taken to another level.
MORE WIZARDS: Film study: What has gotten into Burke and Smith?