The Tenure Trials: Wizards

By: Joe Pohoryles

As I continue to come up with content ideas amidst the sports-less COVID-19 pandemic, a question appeared in my mind:

For each Washington team, who has played the most games/minutes/innings for the team?

With just a handful of guesses, I figured I could name the correct player for all four major DC sports team. These are the players we celebrate most; the more years they play for the franchise, the more recognizable they become.

Then a follow-up question came to mind:

Which players have played the fewest games/minutes/innings for these teams?

This question is harder to guess the correct answer to. Sure, there have been countless players that spent the majority of their career in the minor leagues or the practice squad, and the only time they were on the main roster was to provide depth of some kind. The team is ravaged by injuries, so the player is sent up just to be a body on the bench, getting zero action, and then is sent back down to where they came from. You hardly notice they were ever there.

They may spend one game sitting on the bench, or maybe they stay there for a full season, and while every player in the locker room brings at least some level of importance to the team, from a fan’s perspective these players did not make any tangible impact when looking back at team history.

That’s not to shame these players. Only the best of the best crack into the highest level of sports, and to even get close is a testament to the player’s talent and hard work, but for the purposes of answering the two questions that came to my mind, they mean nothing.

I wanted to find out the players who had the shortest active playing time in franchise history. For example, JamesOn Curry is notorious for having the shortest career in NBA history, appearing for just 3.9 seconds on Jan. 25, 2010 with the Los Angeles Clippers. Who holds that record for the Wizards franchise? Who has the fewest plate appearances/innings pitched in Nationals history? Who played the fewest snaps for the Redskins? Who skated the fewest minutes for the Capitals?

All these questions will be answered in the coming days, starting first with the Wizards in The Wildcard’s newest series: The Tenure Trials.

The longest-tenured player is Wizards/Bullets history is…

Wes Unseld (35,832 minutes in 984 games from 1968-1981)

Photo Credit: NBA.com

No surprise here. Unseld has been involved with the franchise at every level: star player, head coach and front office executive. He is the only player in franchise to win MVP, and he did so as a rookie. He helped the team to its only championship, and his jersey is still sold in the Wizards’ team shop at Capital One Arena. The only current players within shouting distance are John Wall, who at 20,545 minutes played is still over 15,000 minutes behind, and Bradley Beal, who is exactly 17,000 minutes behind with 18,832. One or both may surpass him one day, but for the foreseeable future Unseld — who spent all 13 of his NBA seasons with the franchise — holds the title of “Mr. Wizard,” (although I guess “Mr. Bullet” would be more fitting).

Now less predictably, the shortest-tenured player in franchise history is…

Danuel House (50 seconds in one game in 2016)

The picture comes from the pre-season before his rookie campaign. After all, playing just 50 seconds of true game time doesn’t leave much of a window for photo ops. (Photo Credit: Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports)

House is probably most notable for his starring role with Texas A&M from 2014-2016, where he helped the Aggies reach the Sweet 16 in the 2016 NCAA Tournament after they won a share of the SEC regular season title. House was undrafted before joining the Wizards’ Summer League team, which earned him a contract with the parent club. His only regular season action in Washington came on Nov. 11, 2016 against the Cleveland Cavaliers. In 50 seconds of game time, he recorded one rebound, and that was it for House in Washington.

House fractured his wrist nearly three weeks after his debut, forcing him to miss any potential playing opportunities for over six weeks. After a brief rehab stint in the D-League (now the G-League), House was waived on Mar. 1, 2017.

That did not signal the end of House’s NBA career, however, as he joined the Phoenix Suns the next season, appearing in 23 games and starting three. He found an even bigger role on an even better team in 2018-19 with the Houston Rockets. Carving out a key place in the Rockets’ rotation, House earned a three-year/$11.1 million extension after his first season in Houston, and by the time the 2019-20 season was suspended, House’s stat line looked like this:

GPGSMPFG%3PFG%FT%RPGAPGSPGBPGPPG
584730.0.427.363.8004.21.31.10.610.2
All statistics from Pro-Basketball-Reference

With the exception of the three shooting percentages, House set a career-high in every category. Perhaps House, a Houston native, benefitted from playing so close to home. Either way, while House reaches new heights in his NBA career, it’ll be tough to beat him for the title of least tenured player in franchise history.

(Cover Photo Credit: NBA.com)

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