Wizards have no time frame for Wall's return

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Sports,NBA,Wizards,Craig Stouffer

Point guard remains out with stress injury

When the Wizards announced three days before training camp that John Wall would be sidelined with a stress injury in his left patella, the team said the star third-year point guard would miss "approximately eight weeks."

By the time Washington (2-13) takes the court against the Atlanta Hawks (10-5) on Friday, Wall's absence will have reached 10 weeks, with one crucial difference from the original prognosis.

Now the timetable is unknown.

Up next
Wizards at Hawks
When » Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Where » Philips Arena, Atlanta
TV » CSN

"The only thing I can do is plan with what I've got," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. "That's what we're doing. Obviously, we need John. We want John. I want John yesterday, but you've got to keep moving forward. That's what we're doing here and trying to do here."

The uncertainty has been a regular refrain. Asked whether the team was planning as if Wall won't return at all this season, Wittman said, "I'm not looking at it like that."

It's far from an ominous tone, and Wall has been doing some shooting and individual skill exercises. But he has yet to practice. When he does, the Wizards likely will apply the same kind of patience they have had with Nene. Five games into the Brazilian's return after three months out, he remains limited to around 20 minutes per night off the bench, using the games to get back into shape.

For all that Wittman doesn't know about Wall's status, he said the two talk every day about expectations upon his return.

"He has to be John Wall. That's it," Wittman said. "Being John Wall will make us a better team. He can't feel the pressure of, 'I'm back. Now I have to turn this around.' I think he can help turn it around obviously because of his talents."

Meanwhile, the team's injury list has grown. Trevor Ariza, who started 13 of the first 15 games, will miss three weeks with a left calf strain suffered in the third quarter of Tuesday's victory over Miami. High-energy Martell Webster, who has averaged 12.3 points in the last six games, is one of several candidates to help fill in at small forward.

"I'll just continue to do what I do," Webster said. "I just might have to do it for longer period of time. It's playing the game smart, understanding that maybe I can't go as hard as I want, especially when I'm going to be clocking in more minutes."

Washington likes its chances in Atlanta after losing there by one point in overtime Nov. 21 and riding two wins in the last three games. Players credited the addition of a quicker offensive set for their season-high 31 assists on 38 field goals against the Heat.

"If we take a step back tomorrow, we've really thrown that game away," Wittman said. "My point: Don't throw the game away. Let's make it another step -- win or lose -- that we walk in the locker room and say, 'Hey, that was good.' We might have got beat, might win the game, but at least we feel good about how we're playing the game."

cstouffer@washingtonexaminer.com

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