Wizards' John Wall finally returns to practice

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Sports,NBA,Wizards,Craig Stouffer

Booker, Price and Ariza also all are on the mend

For the first time this season, the Wizards had a full complement of 15 players at practice.

Yes, that means John Wall participated fully after being sidelined since September with a stress injury to his left patella. On Thursday, he walked off the Verizon Center main court in a sweat-soaked No. 2 practice jersey.

"This is Christmas all over for him, I'm sure, to finally reach this point," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. "You could see the spark in his eyes -- finally. So we just gotta be patient. He's gotta be itching to push this as fast as he can. We gotta be careful with that."

Up next
Nets at Wizards
When » Friday, 7 p.m.
Where » Verizon Center
TV » CSN

Wall was cleared to ramp up his activity after a visit with orthopedic specialist David Altchek on Dec. 14, and he resumed noncontact work just before Christmas. His next task will be to get into shape, and Wittman was cautious about just when Wall might actually suit up in a game.

"We gotta make sure he's in good condition, he doesn't go out there and hurt himself from a calf muscle or a hamstring or something," Witt?man said. "We don't want to set ourselves up for that."

But Wall's teammates were impressed.

"He's still the same player," guard A.J. Price said. "Fast. Aggressive. He looked good. Looked like his old self."

The Wizards (4-26) usually don't practice the day after a pair of back-to-back games. But after losing three in a row and 11 of their last 12 games, Wittman said they needed the work, and the players said they were anxious and excited finally to be a complete unit.

"It felt good," forward Trevor Booker said. "Me and [Wall] on the court at the same time in practice, we just love talking junk to each other. Now I got somebody to talk junk to."

Booker, who has been out since Nov. 19 with a right knee strain, said he snuck into full contact work Thursday even though he wasn't allowed. It's an indication he still might need to learn some lessons from his latest setback, but he's aiming for a potential return as soon as the end of next week.

"I actually played with it for a few games, probably like nine games," Booker said. "It was a slight tear. I think I made it worse by playing on it, so I had to sit out and just let it heal."

Price, who has missed the last 13 games, was back on the court shooting the ball, a small pad on the top of his right hand the only sign of the fracture he suffered last month. He put his recovery at 80 percent and could be cleared to return fully in the next week or so.

Forward Trevor Ariza, who has missed the last 15 games with a left calf strain, has the best chance of returning to the court when the Wizards host the Brooklyn Nets (17-15) on Friday.

"Yeah, if I can," Ariza said. "If it's not sore tomorrow, if it's not fatigued or tight, definitely."

cstouffer@washingtonexaminer.com

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