Wizards talk about the return of John Wall
At the 4:56 mark of the first quarter the Wizards got back their franchise player. After missing the first 33 games due to a left kneecap injury, John Wall made his much anticipated season debut to a standing ovation at Verizon Center.
Wall’s rust showed early on. He had the explosion to get into the paint but was unable to finish at the basket. After the game Wall described his legs as feeling “giggly” in the first half but by late in the fourth quarter he’d found his rhythm.
With the Wizards clinging to a six-point lead and Atlanta making a push, Wall simply took over down the stretch. He scored six of the Wizards next eight points including an acrobatic reverse layup leaving Jeff Teague in his dust. To top it off, Wall found Trevor Ariza for an easy slam and yelled to the crowd of 15, 311 “I’m back" as the Wizards beat the Hawks 93-83.
“Everybody is waiting to see what you are going to do when you come back,” said Wall. “I was nervous at first, everybody is nervous any game they have until they touch the ball. The first couple of shots were rusty, and some at the end. As long as we got the win, and did the right thing. I just wanted to make sure I did a good job defensively against their guards. Their guards lived in the paint against us and we held them down tonight. That’s why we got the win.”
The return of Wall not only helped the Wizards physically but getting back their star player really lifted the team emotionally. There hasn’t been much to smile about up to this point of the season but after winning back-to-back games for the first time since last April the Wizards finally feel like they’re playing with a full deck of cards.
“A total team effort tonight,” said AJ Price after scoring 16 points in his second outing back after missing 15 games with a broken hand. “A great job and it has to go to the past couple days of practice we’ve been having. Just getting our continuity back with John (Wall) being back in the lineup, (Trevor) Booker, a lot of guys that we had injured. Trevor (Ariza). So it feels good to have the team full strength.”
Bradley Beal is one of the few Wizards who hasn’t missed significant time with injury. But the absence of Wall clearly had an effect on the rookie. Defenses were able to key on the 19-year old because the Wizards lacked a true offensive scoring threat.
When Beal was selected with the No. 3 overall pick June’s NBA draft it was thought that he and Wall would combine to give the Wizards one of the most dynamic young backcourts in the entire league.
We got a brief glimpse in the first half when Wall found Beal on the fast break for a tomahawk slam. Later in the 2nd half Wall found Beal in the corner for an open three-pointer. With Wall back in the lineup the Wizards 19-year-old rookie is looking forward to a lot more open shots.
“It’s his IQ for the game,” said Beal who tied a team high with 16 points. “It’s me reading his eyes, and him reading me. The chemistry is already there; it’s been there since I’ve been here. It’s just going to continue to grow.”
Wizards head coach Randy Wittman said that Wall’s minutes will be limited until he’s told otherwise by the team's doctors. Wall logged just under 21 minutes in his debut and finished with 14 points, 4 assists and 2 rebounds.
During the final five minutes of the game there was no doubt who the best player on the floor was and Wall’s effectiveness even caught his head coach a bit off guard.
“I was surprised. It’s been a long time, since September 27th, of not playing a competitive game. I’m a little bit surprised, but he’s been looking forward to this since the end of last year. We’ve got to continue to monitor him, and take it easy. We’ve got to be slow in this process to make sure we’re giving John every opportunity to get back to the level that we think he’s capable of playing at.”