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Wizards break longest division title streak in North American pro sports by winning Southeast

Wizards break longest division title streak in North American pro sports by winning Southeast

With their win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night, the Washington Wizards accomplished something they hadn't since the days of disco. For the first time in 38 years, since the 1978-79 season, the Wizards can call themselves division champions.

The Wizards edged out the Hawks to win the Southeast Division and in doing so broke through the longest division title streak in all of North American professional sports. No team had gone longer without one in the NBA, MLB, NFL, NHL, WNBA or MLS.

The closest to their streak was the NHL's Edmonton Oilers, who now own the distinction at 30 years, having not won one since the 1986-87 season. The New York Islanders are just one year behind them with their last division title coming in 1987-88.

For the NFL, it's the Cleveland Browns who have waited the longest, 28 years since 1989. And in Major League Baseball it's the Pittsburgh Pirates, who haven't won since 1992, a span of 25 years.

The Wizards are not just having their best season since the 1970s in terms of division standings. Right now they are on pace to eclipse 50 wins. They have not done won more than 46 games since 1978-79.

In fact, the Wizards have the longest drought of 50 win seasons in the NBA. Here is the list, courtesy of Elias Sports:

Washington Wizards      1978-1979
Charlotte Hornets           1997-1998
Milwaukee Bucks           2000-2001
Philadelphia 76ers          2000-2001
Brooklyn Nets                2001-2002

The 1978-79 season was also the last time the Wizards advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals. This year they have a chance to get there after losing in the second round twice in the last three years.

No D.C. major sports team (Wizards, Capitals, Redskins, Nationals) has made it to the semifinals of their league since the Capitals were swept in the Stanley Cup Finals following the 1997-98 season.

Could this be the year those other streaks fall? The Wizards already have major one down.

[RELATED: Wizards make uniform change for playoffs]

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How drawing up a play in the interview process helped sell the Wizards on Troy Brown

How drawing up a play in the interview process helped sell the Wizards on Troy Brown

While meeting with Oregon's Troy Brown during the pre-draft interview process, evaluators from the Washington Wizards issued him an on-the-spot challenge. Head coach Scott Brooks pulled out a dry-erase clipboard and a pen. He wanted to see Brown draw up a play.

This is a test Brooks has administered before to other players. Some have failed miserably.

"It sounds easy to throw a board at somebody in front of a big group and say 'okay draw a play' and I have seen many plays drawn, and I have seen it where there are not five players on the floor," Brooks said.

That wasn't the case with Brown. He didn't just draw up one play, he drew up several. One in particular came to mind when asked by reporters on Thursday night soon after the Wizards took him 15th overall in the first round of the NBA Draft.

“I think it was a situation where we were down by two or something like that," he said. "It was like a back screen into a slip, and then the fade three and they gave you a lot of various options to cause mismatches on the court for a last minute shot to either go ahead, or even attack the basket for a layup to go into overtime.”

NBC Sports Washington analyst Cory Alexander, a veteran of seven NBA seasons, demonstrated what Brown's play looked like on a whiteboard:

The Xs and Os of basketball flow effortlessly for Brown and Wizards' brass couldn't help but be impressed.

"He really understands the game. I think for a kid that is 18 years old, that is rare but he just has a good feel," Brooks said. 

"We were impressed with his character and the type of person he is and his basketball knowledge," team president Ernie Grunfeld said. "Obviously, like any young player, he has a lot of work to do but he has a lot of the intangibles that I think you need in today's game."

Smarts are a big part of what makes Brown a good basketball player. He isn't a particularly explosive athlete, with a modest 33-inch max vertical leap, but he boasts a 6-foot-10 wingspan and solid agility. Being in the right place at the right time and knowing how to operate an offense helps him make the most of his natural abilities.

Passing is where his basketball IQ comes in handy. Brown is unusually good at distributing for a 6-foot-7 small forward. He averaged 3.2 assists as a freshman at Oregon and nine times had five assists or more in a game.

He can pass like a point guard and the Wizards are excited to implement that skill into their offense.

"Passing is contagious. We’ve been pretty good the last two years and with talking about that how we even want to take another step," Brooks said. "He has the ability to make a lot of quick plays and his ball handling is pretty good for a guy his size. That is one thing I was impressed in his workout last week or when we had him. He is able to take the contact and use his strong frame to get inside the key and make plays.”


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Wizards Tipoff podcast: Breaking down the Wizards' 2018 draft class


Wizards Tipoff podcast: Breaking down the Wizards' 2018 draft class

On the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast presented by Greenberg and Bederman, Chase Hughes and Chris Miller analyze the Wizards' two picks the night of the draft.

They went in-depth on first round pick Troy Brown, Jr. and why the Wizards took him when some big names were still on the board. They also broke down why the Wizards chose to pick a draft-and-stash guy in the second round.

You can listen to the episode right here:

You can download the podcast on Apple Podcasts right here and on Google Play. If you like the show please tell your friends!