John Wall’s presence at practice boosts Wizards’ spirits

January 6, 2013

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The morning after a deflating, double-overtime loss that they felt should’ve been a win, Bradley Beal and Garrett Temple admitted that it was a little tougher to get up for practice.

Beal, Jordan Crawford, Nene and Emeka Okafor were all given the day off after logging heavy minutes in the 115-113 loss to Brooklyn. But the Wizards still had one of their more energized practices on Saturday at Verizon Center thanks to the presence of John Wall, Trevor Booker, Trevor Ariza and A.J. Price, who all scrimmaged without restriction.

“Everybody got through it good,” Coach Randy Wittman said. “Winded, we’re not in shape, but that’s expected.”

A bouncing, spry Wall was perhaps the encouraging sight of all, as the former No. 1 pick was constantly running — and running his mouth.

Wall showed some burst, but not the usual explosiveness that many have grown accustomed to seeing from the notorious speedster. That will take some time — since Wittman said Wall just started contact practices on Thursday — but he was moving around without fear on his injured left knee.

Booker had an emphatic putback jam and Wall sought retaliation on the other end. He elevated off his right leg and attempted one of his patented lefty jams but got fouled. Later in the scrimmage, Wall jumped and playfully swung on the rim after one his teammates scored.

“It was great to see that,” Temple said of Wall. “He’s one of the more athletic guys in the game when he’s healthy. But when we get him back, it’s going to be a helluva boost for us.”

Price participated in full contact drills for the first time since breaking the fourth metatarsal in his right hand on Dec. 8 during a loss to Golden State and wore tape and padding on his hand. Wittman hinted that both Wall and Price are close to returning to action.

The Wizards (4-27) hope to have Ariza available when they take on the defending champion Miami Heat for the third time this season. Ariza hasn’t been available since strained his left calf on Dec. 4, when the Wizards upset Miami, 105-101 at Verizon Center.

“I always think Ariza is probably the closest one of them all. Last time he went this hard, the next morning there was still a little tightness in there,” Wittman said. “A.J. is probably going to come along pretty fast, I would think. Because it being his hand, he can do a lot more conditioning because his legs were fine. Everybody else it was a leg situation. I anticipate him being here pretty quick. I think we have to get a final approval from the doctor after going through some contact to get the OK.”

Beal observed Saturday’s scrimmage with President Ernie Grunfeld at the stairway above the practice court and is excited about possibly getting back some reinforcements.

“It’s a great feeling, because we know what kind of team we’re capable of being and we’re short now, but were still competing with teams with what we have,” Beal said. “And we’re going to be that much better when we get everybody back and the chemistry is still going to be there, because guys understand we know how to play off each other. So I’m really looking forward to it.”

Michael Lee is the national basketball writer for The Washington Post.
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Michael Lee · January 5, 2013