Wizards' Patience With John Wall’s Injury Could Pay Off
John Wall injured his left knee in the Mavericks game on November 7th. He played on after that for seven more games but on Saturday, the Wizards announced he’s taking two weeks off to receive treatment and to take some rest. Yes, John Wall is the heart of the Wizards. Yes, his absence will certainly affect the team and make it much harder for them to get wins. But no, I don’t think this means the Wizards are in trouble long term.
John Wall has been dealing with knee injuries since the 2012-2013 season, his third season in the league. He had double knee surgery last summer. So the November 7th injury is almost certainly a reaggravation of his previous knee problems.
Deciding to rest Wall after an injury despite the fact that the injury hasn’t strongly affected his performance shows a patience and humility that we haven't always seen from Wall or the Wizards. Wall has a history of playing through injuries and the Wizards have not always stopped him.
We saw this during the Wizard’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. At the end of the third quarter, Wall slammed into the 6’11’’ 255 pound Channing Frye at top (John Wall) speed. Wall fell to the ground and could barely move his left arm. That didn’t stop him from returning during the fourth quarter to play isolation defense against the best player in the world: LeBron James. After the game Wall was diagnosed with a strained left shoulder. Shaking his head in a post-game interview, Wall said that he “shouldn’t have been out there but I was trying to compete.”
Wall is tough and seems fearless in the face of extreme pain. In the 2015 conference Semi-Finals against the Hawks, Wall played in two games just days after receiving five fractures in his wrist and hand. Wall’s and the Wizards decision to play him so soon after such an intense injury made sense when their whole season was on the line. But the Wizards whole season isn’t on the line right now. It’s November.
The Wizards and Wall are becoming more humble and patient. They are realizing that Wall isn’t Superman. Wall can’t run through a brick wall. Wall can’t take the entire team on his shoulders. For example, when the team decided to play him 44 minutes in game 7 of the Celtics series last year, the Wizards lost and the exhausted Wall shot a dismal percentage from the field.
It’s no secret that the Wizards need other players to step up more if they want to compete with the upper echelon teams. So what will happen in Wall’s absence? Beal, who’s having a career year averaging 24.2 a game, will have more practice being a playmaker and a leader. Though the Wizards lost late to Portland on Saturday in Wall’s absence, Beal had seven assists. Tim Frazier and Tomas Satoransky, the team’s backup point guards, will definitely get more minutes. More time running the offense will likely immensely help these players with a lot of potential but not much experience.
Allowing Wall to rest now will help the Wizards long term. If he played now, it’s possible he could make the injury worse than it is. And his absence creates space for other players to improve. The Wizards will likely take some Ls in the next two weeks that they might not otherwise have gotten, but this seems like the right move long term. It’s possible Wall could come back stronger than ever.