“I knew after the first couple of games I could play in the league,” said Wall, who had a triple-double in his sixth game. “I think I did good for my year. I wasn’t fully healthy and being myself, but I can’t hold nobody accountable for that. Things just happened. I just fought through it and helped my team out as much as possible.”
Even though he wasn’t at his best, Wall said the right things to persuade the team to let him come back from his foot injury and learned a valuable lesson about being more patient.
He came off the bench in his first game back against the Philadelphia 76ers on Nov. 23 and led the Wizards to an overtime win, but it came at a cost. Wall tried to get into the lane, but his sore foot kept him from making the move that his mind wanted him to make, so he wound up colliding with another player. Sixers reserve Marreese Speights fell on him, contributing to a deep bone bruise in his right knee that Wall said limited him to being no better than “85 percent” the rest of the season.
There was some concern within the Wizards organization in early December that Wall’s Reebok Zig Slash shoes could’ve been the source of his initial foot problems. After meeting with Wall, Wizards officials and their training staff, Reebok made some adjustments a few months later to make the shoe firmer, but Clifton said the changes were “cosmetic more than anything functional.”
Wall, who has a five-year, $25 million deal with Reebok, also dismissed the speculation. “I don’t think nothing was wrong with my shoe. Udonis Haslem sprained his foot the same way. Brandon Jennings hurt his. Are you going to blame Reebok, Converse or Under Armour? I don’t know,” Wall said. “A sprained foot you can’t really control if you land on somebody’s foot. My shoe wasn’t the problem at all.”
‘Willing to work’
Wall accepted early on that he wasn’t going to follow Rose and Tyreke Evans and become the third consecutive player to play one season under John Calipari and claim rookie of the year honors. While Wall sat out, Griffin exploded and became the runaway favorite for rookie of the year, turning Wall into an afterthought by the time he returned in late December.
“I think that’s what happened. But certain things happen, you can’t really control them. It was tough trying to get back, and seeing every time you turned on the TV, it was a highlight reel,” Wall said of Griffin. “I think more than likely, he’s going to win it. It’s well deserved. When I was out with injuries, he came up in big games. I wanted to win it, but if you come up short, that’s just another motivation next year to do something better.”