Coming out of an off-season that saw the Wizards make a variety of moves geared at playoff contention, Wall’s knee injury changed everything.
Washington currently sits at 4-26, the NBA’s worst record by far. Once again, a complete and utter sense of hopelessness has washed over the Wizards, who committed more than $65 million in payroll to chase a postseason berth, not another lottery selection.
As bleak as the outlook now is in Washington, though, there is some hope, some jubilance to be found in what has become a dismal season—John Wall is on his way back.
According to The Washington Examiner‘s Craig Stouffer, Wall returned to practice with the Wizards on Thursday, an occasion that is nothing short of monumental for a dying Washington franchise.
John Wall practiced today. #Wizards
— Craig Stouffer (@CraigStouffer) January 3, 2013
Now, this also serves as a good time to admit that Wall’s return isn’t exactly imminent.
Per Michael Lee of the Washington Post, the third year point guard participated in some contact drills, but isn’t yet fit for a return to the lineup.
John Wall participated in some contact drills during practice on Thursday. Inching closer to return but Wittman said conditioning an issue
— Michael Lee (@MrMichaelLee) January 3, 2013
And yet, Wall’s return to the floor, in any capacity, is huge. Without him, the Wizards lack a star, they lack a dominant two-way presence. They lack someone who can rekindle the fire that ignited over the offseason and subsequently tapered upon his injury.
In Wall, the Wizards have a top-notch scorer and underrated playmaker. While his jump shot is broken, his ability to get to the rim is exceeded by no one and he’s also an understated defender. I mean, let’s be clear, the 16.3 points, eight assists and 1.4 steals per game the point guard averaged last year are no joke.
Perhaps more important than Wall’s individual production is the impact he’ll have on rookie Bradley Beal. In Wall’s absence, Beal has been forced to shoulder the bulk of the playmaking responsibilities and as struggled to produce knowing he is the apple of every opposing defense’s eye.
Right now, Beal is averaging just 12.5 points on 35.9 percent shooting from the field. His 29.4 percent clip from downtown is nothing short of laughable as well.
Next to Wall, though, that stands to change.
The returning point man immediately becomes the primary focus of the defense, opening things up for the neophyte considerably. His penchant for drive-and-kicks also allows Beal to play off the ball more, which is where he excels. It gives the rookie a running mate in transition as well. Washington is 17th in the NBA with 12.8 fast break points per game, a number that should increase considerably upon Wall’s return.
Simply put, Wall is going to help ease Beal into a comfort zone, into a position where he can succeed.
Will he reverse the current narrative surrounding the Wizards entirely? Will he be the driving force behind a miraculous turnaround and subsequent playoff berth?
Absolutely not. Had he been healthy from the season’s onset it was seriously debatable as to whether or not the Wizards could make any real noise in the Eastern Conference.
But again, his impending return is a sign of hope for a franchise in flux. It’s a time for us to finally see what this Washington team is capable of as currently constructed.
It’s a chance for Wall to help actualize Beal’s potential.
As well as an opportunity for him to save the Wizards from both present embarrassment and future futility.
Dan Favale is a firm believer in the three-pointer as well as the notion that defense doesn’t always win championships. His musings can be found at Bleacherreport.com in addition to TheHoopDoctors.com. Follow @danfavale on Twitter for his latest posts and all things NBA.