WASHINGTON -- Sometimes when teams or individual players make history, they are well-aware. Sometimes, it catches them completely by surprise.
The latter occurred when Wizards head coach Wes Unseld Jr. sat down at the podium on Saturday night following his team's thrilling double-overtime victory over the Boston Celtics. The win pushed the WIzards to 5-1 on the season, marking their best start in 16 years.
Not since 2005-06 have they been 5-1 after six games and, amazingly, that was the first year Unseld Jr. served as an assistant coach for the Wizards. He began his coaching career in earnest that season and now here he is, back as the head coach of the same team and taking them to where they haven't been since he was part of the organization.
"That's actually a stat I didn't know," Unseld Jr. said. "It's great. There's hopefully a lot of firsts this year. There's certainly a lot of firsts for me. But once again, it just shows our resilience. I keep using that word, but it's who we are and who we have to be."
It did indeed require some resilience. The Wizards were playing their second straight game without starting center Daniel Gafford. Starting power forward Rui Hachimura remains out due to personal reasons and key backup Thomas Bryant is still on the mend following ACL surgery in January.
The only loss the Wizards have is against the Kevin Durant-led Brooklyn Nets, which came on the road. They have beaten Boston now twice, along with the Hawks who were in the conference finals just months ago.
At 5-1, the Wizards have the best record in the Eastern Conference. All of this is very unfamiliar for Wizards fans and also star guard Bradley Beal, who has perservered through some ups and downs in his 10-year NBA career. When told of the 16-year history, he was beaming at the podium.
"It feels amazing, man. I tell these guys all the time, they can be a part of a lot of history over here. Just from the way we've been doing things to the opportunity we have to create and mold our culture. We always talk about what a culture is and I always emphasize at the beginning of the year, it's what we make it," Beal said.
That comment, about being part of history, is a new spin on a sentiment he's shared many times over the years. He wants to win in Washington and has signed up for two max contract extensions along the way, all while rebuffing trade rumors and recruitment from other NBA stars.
Interestingly enough, Beal has another contract offer on the proverbial negotiating table. He has said he's in "no rush" to sign it because he can both wait if he wants to and earn a lot more money if he gives it until next summer.
But clearly what is going on with the Wizards is good for him and tracks with what he's long hoped would take place.
"I always say I want to win. I want to be productive and I want to win in D.C. We've done that, obviously, so far. Granted, we're only scratching the surface," Beal said.
Beal mentioned the Wizards are playing "like crap" on offense and how their defense is carrying the way. He is confident the former will catch up to the latter and once it does, the Wizards will be even better.
Beal has made some bold claims in the past about his team, sometimes having comments come back to bite him. But now the team is walking the walk and it's only natural to think about what they could be capable of at full-strength and once they can build chemistry over time.
"Just imagine when everything starts clicking, when everybody's gelling, when everybody's healthy. It's going to be scary," Beal said.