Wizards' John Wall ready for his return

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Sports,NBA,Wizards,Craig Stouffer

Guard eyes Saturday to make season debut

A steal and fast break, finished with a soaring left-handed dunk. A whirling 360-degree spin and dish inside. A behind-the-back attempt at finishing a drive in the lane.

John Wall showed just how good it feels to be back on the court -- and just how badly he wants to suit up for the Wizards (5-28) on Saturday -- with a full highlight reel during a short scrimmage to 11.

"That was my New Year's resolution and my Christmas present, just to play basketball again," Wall said after a practice session Wednesday that was upbeat thanks to Washington's latest victory, Monday's 101-99 upset of Oklahoma City, and his expected season debut. "Hopefully, my dream comes true soon."

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

Wall, who has been out with a stress injury in his knee, said the only thing that would keep him from playing against the Atlanta Hawks would be the inability to practice each day leading to the weekend. He hasn't experienced any setbacks since returning to full contact Jan. ?3. But Wednesday was the first time that players who hadn't been with the Wizards last season really got a true taste of Wall's speed and ability.

"You hear the Bradley Beals, the A.J. Prices say, 'Holy [cow], is he fast,'?" Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. "The first time you see it, it's an eye-opener."

During the scrimmage, Wall set up Beal and Martell Webster for jump shots on back-to-back plays, then spun in the air before finding Jan Vesely. The Czech 7-footer was fouled and predictably missed two free throws. He hasn't pinned his season-long struggles on Wall, but his transition-heavy game is expected to improve immediately with Wall back on the court.

"It affects a little bit, but it was all my fault," Vesely said. "I wasn't ready. I wasn't focused on the games. I try to focus on the game from the first minute on the court. I will keep doing that."

Beal, who also put down his own two-handed jam during the session, knows there was a silver lining to Wall's absence. It allowed him to develop into a player capable of delivering a game-winning shot, as he did Monday.

"I think it was kind of big because I didn't want it to seem like I was coming here to rely on John," Beal said.

The Wizards aren't entirely healthy. Nene (right knee tendinitis), Jordan Crawford (sore left ankle) and Cartier Martin (hyperextended right knee) remain injured. But Beal had visions of the open shots he and Wall hope to create for one another.

"It's going to be an opportunity for us to show that we're going to be one of the best backcourts, from this year and years to come as well," Beal said. "It's going to be great playing with him. Just playing with him a few times in practice, I have a great feel for him."

As for the doubts about Wall's ability that have grown the longer he has been sidelined, he said he has felt that way since he was drafted.

"I hope everybody understands the situation I had to go through and make sure everything was right because knees are something serious," said Wall, who won the scrimmage with a pair of free throws. "I just took my time and made sure everything is right. Hopefully everything will keep going well so I can be back out there with my team on Saturday."

cstouffer@washingtonexaminer.com

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