Saturday’s game against the Atlanta Hawks marked the 2012-13 season debut of former number one overall draft pick John Wall, who’d been sidelined since the start of training camp with a stress fracture in his knee.
The Wizards have been mired by injuries throughout the season, but now it seems everyone is getting healthy at the same time.
Key contributors such as Trevor Booker, AJ Price, and Trevor Ariza have also returned from injuries. Jordan Crawford and Nene, the team’s leading scorer and most formidable post presence, respectively, continue to battle nagging injuries, and are usually forced to miss the second game of back to backs.
The All-Star break will give the team a much-needed chance to get completely healthy and turn their season around.
Following a few smooth weeks of practice, Wall was cleared by doctors to resume his career, returning to court to a standing ovation and picking up where he left off last season. During the first timeout following Wall’s entrance, the Verizon Center’s jumbo screen showed a video of his road to recovery.
Because the team has placed a limit on Wall’s time, he only played about seven first-half minutes and just over 20 total. He was effective in that short time, setting up teammates’ open shots and transition opportunities.
Wall’s value was on full display in the second half, as he took over the game down the stretch, maintaining the team’s lead and sealing the win. Though not in tip top shape by his own standards, even a lack of conditioning couldn’t slow Wall down. At half speed, he’s just as fast, if not faster, than most guards around the league.
Not much of a shooter, Wall’s pick-and-roll with Nene was almost unstoppable in the closing minutes. Wall’s speed and Nene’s savvy on the screen prevented defenders from going under and meeting Wall at the basket. The Wizards have sorely missed the ability to attack the basket and either convert field goals or get to the foul line.
Wall’s fearless mindset is a calming factor for his teammates at the end of games. They know they can rely on free throws instead of jump shots to preserve leads or close the gap without the clock running.
If everything goes the Wizards’ way, all players will return at full strength soon, enabling the team to finish the year strong, with signs of a foundation to build for the future.