There’s nothing left to do but figure out how many minutes John Wall will play.
After three consecutive days of intense practice, the Wizards star point guard’s third season in the NBA can finally begin on Saturday against the Atlanta Hawks. [UPDATE: The Wizards announced on Twitter that Wall received full clearance and will play.]
“It’s the biggest feeling,” Wall said after practice on Friday. “You know I haven’t played in so long, so I’m going to be anxious and super-excited, so I’ll probably get tired in probably 30 seconds, because I haven’t played in so long. But it’s exciting to be out there with my teammates, have fun and play with the team I wanted to play with all season.”
To be sure, Wall was asked if he’s had any setbacks.
Does he have any discomfort in his left knee?
There just needs to be a firm plan for playing time, and Wall and Wizards coach Randy Wittman planned to hash that out with medical and training staff on Friday. Wittman knows that no matter how much Wall plays, it will be the way he always has. In practice Wall has gone hard, attacked the rim, been fouled hard and hit the ground.
“The thing he has to temper a little bit is he’s going to be going a 100 miles per hour, knowing John,” Wittman said. “He’s got to temper that, but you also want him to play the way he plays. I don’t want to pull back on any of that. But hey, it’s a good problem to have. His conditioning is going to be a thing that I make sure I keep a good eye on. That when I see the point of exhaustion, I got to get him in and out. I’m sure after talking to the doctor from a minutes standpoint I think we’ll probably have something there initially and as he moves forward.”
Even though the Wizards (5-28) remain firmly stationed at the bottom of the NBA standings, there’s a sense that the Oklahoma City victory already had the makings of something more. Add in Wall and Trevor Booker, along with Trevor Ariza and A.J. Price, and even Nene, who also returned to practice on Friday, and Washington is beginning to look like the team that had potential to challenge for a playoff spot back in September. That may be a step too far, but spirits are good enough now that Wall doesn’t want to disrupt things.
“All I want to do is let the guys play the way they’ve been playing,” Wall said. “Don’t take no aggression away from nobody, especially Brad [Beal], and Martell [Webster], those guys. How they’ve been playing lately. I just want to come in, fit in, be like the missing piece and just make things flow a little bit easier.”
It will take some time to tighten the chemistry, but Wall’s teammates are as excited as anyone else to see what he can do.
“That dude fast,” Nene said. “He look like a little bull. He is fast. I’m excited. I’m excited to see his run, to jump and I hope the big men watch out because if they don’t help on him, he going to dunk.”
Off the court, the 22-year-old Wall isn’t the same person he was as a rookie, when he launched into the Dougie when he was introduced for the first time. Spending the last four months seated next to the coaches on the bench has been a humbling experience and one that he’s used to understand his teammates better. He’s not dancing his way onto the court on Saturday.
“Nope,” Wall said. “Just chilling. Coming out cool.”
It’s likely to energize the Wizards just the same.
“I think it’s got to,” Wittman said. “I think these guys, in the three days here, these really are the first three days we’ve had as a group where we’ve really gotten after it. I think they see what he gives the team in terms of helping guys get open shots, pushing the pace of the game. I know, reminiscing back to my playing days, I would have a smile on my face.”
*Jordan Crawford (sore left ankle) didn’t practice on Friday, and Cartier Martin (hyperextended left knee) appears likely to miss a few games.