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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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A timeline of Tommy Sheppard's moves as interim Wizards GM

A timeline of Tommy Sheppard's moves as interim Wizards GM

The Wizards are naming Tommy Sheppard their permanent GM after he served in the role on an interim basis since April 2. 

Let's take a look back at the moves which earned Sheppard the long-term GM job:

April 2: The Wizards fire GM Ernie Grunfeld. Tommy Sheppard takes over the role on an interim basis. 

June 20: The Wizards select Gonzaga forward Rui Hachimura with the No. 9 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Later in the evening, Washington acquires Jonathan Simmons and the draft rights to Tennessee forward Admiral Schofield from the Philadelphia 76ers. Simmons was placed on waivers on July 7.

July 5: The Wizards acquire Moritz Wagner, Isaac Bonga, and Jemerrio Jones, and a 2022 second-round draft pick as part of the deal which sent Anthony Davis to the Lakers. 

July 6: The Wizards trade Dwight Howard to the Grizzlies in exchange for C.J. Miles and acquire Davis Bertans from the Spurs in a three-team deal with Brooklyn and San Antonio, sending the draft rights of Aaron White to the Nets. 

July 7: The Wizards re-sign center Thomas Bryant on a three-year deal and trade guard Tomas Satoransky to the Bulls for a 2020 second-round pick.

July 9: The Wizards sign guard Ish Smith to a two-year deal.

July 10: The Wizards sign guard Isaiah Thomas to a one-year deal. 

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Wizards to remove interim tag from Tommy Sheppard, making him permanent GM

Wizards to remove interim tag from Tommy Sheppard, making him permanent GM

The Wizards are naming Tommy Sheppard their permanent GM, NBC Sports Washington's Chase Hughes has confirmed. 

Sheppard had been serving as Washington's interim GM since the firing of Ernie Grunfeld on April 2. He oversaw the Wizards' 2019 NBA Draft selections of Rui Hachimura and Admiral Schofield, as well as their offseason transactions this summer. 

According to Hughes, the Wizards will announce the decision next week, with more changes to follow. 

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