After two straight days of hard practices and more than a week of full contact action, there's little reason to doubt John Wall will make his long-awaited season debut for the Wizards against the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday.
While it may be too much to expect his return to transform the fortunes of the franchise immediately, there won't be a single player on the court unaffected by his presence.
"He's a great defender, a great, athletic player, and he pushes the ball as a point guard," rookie guard Bradley Beal said. "He runs the team. He knows everything. He sees. His IQ is tremendously high. He knows what he's doing, and I'm looking forward to it."
Beal has crossed over in the last two weeks from quiet, contributing rookie to breakout star. He has improved and diversified his game enough to garner more attention than ever, but that will be siphoned off in order to protect against Wall's playmaking potential.
Nene's ability to orchestrate and communicate immediately improved the Wizards' offense when he returned to the court in November. It also made him an easy target because Washington was so reliant on his decisions with the ball. The Brazilian big man is always going to get pounded in the paint, but he should find more space when the sets don't always have to run through him.
"It's easy for me because I just know where shooters are," Wall said. "I know where people want the ball, just sitting and watching for a long time and watching film. I'm somebody who's easy to play with because I like to get my teammates involved. I just try to make the game easy."
That will be the case for Jan Vesely and Trevor Ariza, who both stand to get plenty of buckets in transition. But Martell Webster and Trevor Booker also can run and jump, and there isn't likely to be abundant playing time for all of them.
As for Wall, heavy minutes also aren't likely right away. Still, it could be difficult to keep him out of the lineup, and that makes coach Randy Wittman the biggest beneficiary of all, especially if the Wizards can find a way finally to win some games.
- Craig Stouffer