Wizards' biggest stories of 2020: Invitation to the bubble originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
The process of forming the NBA restart bubble was drawn out over several months and during a time when everyone became accustomed to the world changing, so it may not seem as unusual or strange in hindsight as it should. But let's not lose sight in retrospect of exactly how unexpected it was for the league to convene, and crown a champion, at Disney World.
The NBA played out its regular season and entire (expanded) playoff tournament at the place Goofy and Donald Duck call home. And, perhaps the strangest part is, it didn't really feel that odd at all, at least for those of us who watched from afar. The league did a good job spotlighting the court and not the fans-less stands, and the game itself was able to shine through.
The Wizards were there, you may remember, if only for a brief time. After months of not knowing when they would play basketball again, Washington secured the final invite of the 22 teams that went. They didn't bring Bradley Beal or Davis Bertans, their two best players for most of the season, but they embraced the experience, seeing the 11 total games -- three preseason, eight that counted -- as a unique opportunity for player development.
The Wizards ended up losing all but one of those games, as they saved face in the finale with a narrow win over the Boston Celtics, who sat half their roster to rest for the playoffs. But it wasn't about the game results for Washington, they wanted more experience and more game tape for their young players, particularly guys like Rui Hachimura, Troy Brown Jr. and Thomas Bryant.
All three had their moments in Orlando. Hachimura posted three 20-point games in an up-and-down stretch as the team's primary scoring option. Brown looked improved overall, though he struggled once elevated to the starting point guard spot. Bryant was the team's most consistent player and played some of the best defense of his NBA career.
The Wizards' stay was short, though. They arrived in late July and were gone by mid-August, spending just a few weeks in the bubble. The league would go on to complete the NBA Finals in the middle of October with the Lakers toppling the Miami Heat in six games.
How much the Wizards got out of the bubble experience is hard to tell, as they weren't there long and there were no obvious, big-picture revelations to cite. They were able to place their young players into more important roles than they had served in previously, with more pressure and responsibility, and what they took away from that will show in how they perform in the future.
What might be worth noting more than anything is just how much changed with the Wizards from the time they left the bubble to now. At the time, the thought was they were developing a supporting cast for John Wall, but then he got traded for Russell Westbrook. Many of the conclusions drawn about the team before that trade became moot.
The Wizards have since embarked on a new era. Going into the bubble was certainly a unique experience. Time will tell what impression it left on them.
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