John Wall continued with the "dummy" drills during Monday's practice - 5 on 0 plays, if you prefer. This time fellow injured Wizard Trevor Ariza joined the fray.
Out since straining his left calf against Miami on Dec. 4, Ariza joined Wall, Jordan Crawford and other players on the Verizon Center main court as the team prepared for the New Year's Day tilt against Dallas. No, the veteran small forward won't be ready for the Mavericks, but he is hoping for a return later this week.
"I hope so, man," said Ariza, who averaged 8.1 points and 4.9 rebounds in 15 games before missing the last 13. The noted defender still leads the Wizards in steals with 28.
"It's all dependant on the threshold of pain that I can take or the soreness I can play with where I can go out there and be safe, not reinjure myself. That's all depending on how I feel I guess."
Wizards coach Randy Wittman said he had hoped Ariza would be ready for some contact work on Monday, but Ariza said his calf still "gets a little tight, a little fatigued sometimes when I'm running. But for the most part it feels pretty good."
As for Wall, Wittman described his point guard's Monday workout as "probably as hard as John’s went up to this point."
Wall, who recently said he expects to return to the lineup sometime in January, began working out with the team on Thursday. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft has missed the entire season with a stress injury to his left knee.
"So tomorrow, they evaluate, measure, make sure no swelling is going on, talk to the doctor and the doctor gives them a recommendation of how to amp it," Wittman said. "So, to sit here and tell, maybe, a week from now, he’s practicing, I don’t know...It’s getting close. Obviously, they are letting him do more and more."
Ariza said he's noticing the team doing more and more with Wall on the practice court.
"It's real good, it gives the whole team a confidence booster," Ariza said. "When he was out there going through dummy [drills] I see everybody doing stuff harder. With him being the face of the franchise, it just gives you a little bit more something to play for because he's getting ready to come back - or hopefully come back - and everybody wants to win."
The Wizards (4-24) have a better chance at beating the skidding Mavericks (12-19) with Crawford back on the court. Washington's leading scorer tallied 27 points in Friday's 105-97 win over Orlando, but Crawford sat out the 2012 finale at Chicago with what Wittman termed a "lingering" sore left ankle.
"Three weeks ago, he turned it...didn’t come out that game, but he’s kind of played through it and it’s been one of those, it’s just never gone away," Wittman said. "And he warmed up in Chicago, prior to the game and it was so stiff. He couldn’t get it loose. That was the first time. He’s pretty resilient in terms of playing through things, so it must’ve really been bothering. Didn’t do anything [Sunday], a day off, so it felt better."
Asked if he had any New Year's resolutions, Wittman initially passed on staking claim to any, but eventually the coach found one area in his world he'd like to see improvement.
"I’m not a big resolution guy. Never have been. Because it never works, I found out," Wittman said. "Whether it’s a diet, or kick a habit. I always just hope for good clean health moving forward and we need it, good clean health. We could use that. We’re actually seeing a foray of people on the practice floor now, which is good to see. But we’re getting closer and hopefully, in the new year, we can get everybody back at one time. That’s my resolution."
Despite the recent return of a still rusty Dirk Nowitzki from a knee injury, the Mavericks cannot find the win column, having dropped six straight and nine of 10 including Sunday's 111-86 home loss to San Antonio. It's gotten to the point in Dallas that coach Rick Carlisle has threatened players with suspensions if effort does not improve.
Having a fully healthy Nowitzki would help the cause, but clearly that's the not the case. In four games since rejoining the Mavericks on Dec. 23, the perennial All-Star is averaging 7.5 and shooting 32.4 percent from the field. O.J. Mayo leads Dallas with 18.3 points per game.