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Wizards are on cusp of breaking longest division-winning drought in U.S. sports

Wizards are on cusp of breaking longest division-winning drought in U.S. sports

With one more win by the Wizards, or one more loss by the Atlanta Hawks, Washington will do something it hasn't done in nearly four decades time.

The Wizards will clinch the franchise's first division title since the 1978-79 season. At 38 years, not only is that the longest drought of all NBA teams, but it's the longest such streak of any team in U.S. professional sports. No one has waited longer in the NBA, NFL, NHL or MLB, and both the WNBA and MLS were not formed until the 1990s.

The L.A. Clippers previously held that distinction until they won the Pacific Division in the 2012-13 season after a 42-year wait. They repeated to win it the next year, as well. When the Warriors won the Pacific Division in 2014-15, that broke a 39-year drought. 

The Phoenix Coyotes of the NHL were recently just behind the Wizards in their quest. They began as a franchise in the 1979-80 season and didn't win one until they took the Pacific Division in 2011-12 after waiting 32 years. The longest current drought in the NHL is the Edmonton Oilers, who last won in 1986-87, 30 years ago. They are actually just two points out of first this season in the Pacific Division with seven games to go.

The longest division championship drought in the NFL is the Cleveland Browns, who won 28 years ago in 1989. In MLB, the longest division drought is held by the Pirates at 25 years.

So, here are the Wizards who now just need to eliminate the Hawks to win the Southeast Division and break through a decades-long wait. At 45-28 on the season, the Wizards need just one win or one loss for Atlanta to clinch, given Washington holds the tiebreaker with a 3-1 head-to-head record this season. The Wizards play at the Lakers at 10:30 p.m. on Tuesday night [CSN+], while the Hawks host the Suns at 7:30 p.m. in Atlanta.

The Hawks have lost seven straight, the Wizards have won three in a row and there are nine games left for both teams. It almost certainly will happen and happen soon.

The question is: when it does happen, how will it be celebrated? It will break the longest division-winning drought in U.S. sports, yet NBA division titles don't quite mean what they did just a few years ago.

When the NBA changed their playoff seeding procedure in September of 2015 they ensured that the top two teams in the conference by record could not meet in the second round. That was possible under the old format, when winning one's division meant an automatic top four seed. 

But that change has since made winning an NBA division less consequential. A division championship does technically equal a tiebreaker for the eighth and final playoff spot, but only in rare instances where that is necessary. Aside from a banner in the rafters of an arena, division titles just don't carry the same weight that they used to.

All that puts what the Wizards are poised to accomplish in a peculiar category. If, or when, the Wizards win the Southeast Division, what will it truly mean?

It should mean a lot. Thirty eight years is a long, long time.

[RELATED: Wizards' Markieff Morris fine with NBA players resting]

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5 things to know about new Wizards forward Okaro White

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5 things to know about new Wizards forward Okaro White

The Washington Wizards are set to add power forward, Okaro White to their NBA roster. Here are five things to know about the newest Wizards player.

1. White, 26, is a 6-foot-8, 205-pound power forward who played two seasons for the Miami Heat. In 41 total games, White averaged 2.9 points, 2.3 rebounds and shot 38.8 percent from the field. Though he never appeared in games with them, White also spent time with the Cavs, Hawks and Spurs. He also played Summer League for the Mavs and Grizzlies.

2. He has a decent outside shot for a big man. White has shot 35.6 percent from three in the NBA and made 37.5 percent from long range as a senior at Florida State. The fact he's an excellent free throw shooter is also a good sign. White made 79.9 percent from the line in college and has shot 86 percent in the G-League and 88 percent in the NBA.

3. White played with former Wizards first-round pick Chris Singleton in college. White was a freshman, while Singleton was a junior and the star of the team. White was also a starter on the 2011-12 team that won the Seminoles' first-ever ACC championship.

4. Though he's a bit undersized for a big man, White can block shots. He once had four in a game against the Nets on Jan. 25 of 2017 and three against the Sixers in March of that year. 

5. White's mom, Charmaine, was an Olympic athlete who represented Jamaica in track and field.

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Wizards likely to sign free agent Okaro White to fill 14th roster spot, per source

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Wizards likely to sign free agent Okaro White to fill 14th roster spot, per source

The Wizards are set to sign free agent power forward Okaro White to fill their 14th roster spot, NBC Sports Washington has learned.

Washington needs to add a 14th player to reach the league roster minimum after they waived guard Chasson Randle on Nov. 11. Technically, they have until Nov. 25, per league rules which allow teams to carry 13 players for 14 days.

White, 26, has played two NBA seasons, both with the Miami Heat. He was undrafted out of Florida State University and has also spent time with the Cavs, Hawks and Spurs despite not appearing in regular season games with them.

White has played 41 total NBA games. He has career averages of 2.9 points and 2.3 rebounds.

Though White will get an NBA roster spot, he could see time with the team's G-League affiliate, the Capital City Go-Go. At the NBA level, he gives the Wizards another big man, which could come in handy depending on how long Dwight Howard is affected by his piriformis muscle injury.

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