John Wall trotted by a fresh box of new sneakers that was waiting in front of his locker room stall on Saturday before the Wizards took on the Atlanta Hawks at Verizon Center. For the first time since he was diagnosed with a stress injury in his left knee, Wall was going to slide on some high tops to play a game.
Wall will not start in his season debut, but Coach Randy Wittman expects the former No. 1 overall pick to provide a spark in the limited minutes that he plans to give him.
“I think it’s got to,” Wittman said. “I think these guys, 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.”
Wittman will go with his 14th different starting lineup and give A.J. Price his first start at point guard since breaking his hand on Dec. 8 in the first quarter of a loss to the Golden State Warriors. Garrett Temple will return to the bench after starting the previous six games.
In addition to Wall, the Wizards will also welcome back Nene, who returns to the starting lineup after missing the previous game with tendinitis in his right knee and Trevor Booker, who missed the previous 23 games with a sprained right knee. Jordan Crawford (left ankle) and Cartier Martin (left knee) will not be available.
The Wizards (5-28) have lost six consecutive games against the Hawks, but Wittman believes that his team has played them too closely this season to get swept this season. They have lost in overtime twice, including a 100-95 loss on Dec. 18, when Crawford had a triple double with 27 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists.
“We’ve played three games with them, and have had an opportunity that we let go,” Wittman said. “Challenge our guys, this is the last one, the last chance to play Atlanta, let’s go out and get this one.”
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Tipoff: 7 p.m.
TV: Comcast SportsNet
Radio: 106.7 (WJFK FM)