John Wall angrily untucked his jersey, took one last look behind him and then headed to the locker room after receiving his second technical foul and an automatic ejection for a verbal altercation on Saturday with Golden State Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson.
The Washington Wizards still had about 19 minutes remaining on their four-game road trip, but an entertaining and uneven week — which tested their depth, strength and character — essentially came to a conclusion when Wall was escorted off the floor. The trip started with the Wizards losing in Charlotte to the NBA’s worst team, then winning consecutive road games for the first time this season with Emeka Okafor sitting out with the flu.
Before his emotional outburst after Thompson knocked him to the ground twice in a span of 11 seconds of the Wizards’ 101-92 loss, Wall had compiled some impressive stats for the second week in a row but was upset that his team didn’t head home for Monday’s game against Memphis at Verizon Center with better than a 2-2 split.
“I feel like we could have went 4-0, really,” Wall said. “We let the game slip away in Charlotte and then I let the team down for getting ejected. So it was an opportunity to go 4-0 or finish 3-1, but it was a pretty good trip.”
The Wizards (25-44) will host the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday night and attempt to extend their home winning streak to six games. The contest might feel like an extension of the trip, with the team set to hit the road again for games against Oklahoma City and Orlando.
Beal’s availability for any of those games remains in doubt after the rookie shooting guard took another ugly spill while trying to contest a layup in the fourth quarter of an 88-79 win over the Suns. Since suffering the original ankle injury on March 3 against Philadelphia, Beal has missed eight of the past 11 games. But Wizards Coach Randy Wittman said the team isn’t in a rush to alter the 15-man roster. Leandro Barbosa, who was acquired from Boston in the Jordan Crawford trade, is out for the season with a torn left anterior cruciate ligament and could be waived to create a spot.
“We thought he was close to coming back and we didn’t do anything and he came back,” Wittman said of Beal. “Now we’ve got to get a gauge of if this thing is progressing, like we did last time, with each day being an improvement and we’ll probably stay status quo.”
After Beal went down in Phoenix, Wall led the Wizards down the stretch. He made three huge jumpers and handed out two assists in the fourth quarter of a win that snapped a five-game road losing streak and gave the Wizards their first win at US Airways Center since Dec. 22, 2006.
Two nights later, Wall had his most complete game of the season, posting 24 points, a career-high 16 assists, six rebounds and three steals to lead the Wizards back from an 18-point deficit to defeat the Los Angeles Lakers, 103-100.
Wall also scored or assisted on 42 of the Wizards’ 49 final points in the win.
Wall only had 14 points and three assists in 24 minutes against Golden State, but he averaged 22.7 points, 9.7 assists and four rebounds through the first three games of the road trip.
“My confidence is probably the highest since I was 14, playing AAU. I think I’m growing before my eyes and maturing,” Wall said after claiming his first win at Staples Center after losing on four previous visits against the Clippers and Lakers. “I give a lot of [credit] to my teammates for believing in me, letting me run the show and helping my team out.”
Garrett Temple was the only healthy guard remaining after Wall was ejected for the third time in his career. Backup point guard A.J. Price has been out for the past seven games with a sore right groin. Ariza came down with the flu a day after hitting a career-high seven three-pointers, scoring 25 points and co-starring with Wall in the comeback win over the Lakers. The win was even more sweet since it came on the fifth birthday of his son, Tajh, who was in attendance.
“It’s how it is, man,” Nene said as he removed ice packs from both knees and his left shoulder and soaked his feet in an ice bucket after the loss to Golden State. “That’s why you need a strong bench, when you have a man down.”
Okafor was also hit with the flu bug on the trip and was forced to miss his first two games of the season after appearing in the first 66. His absence gave the seldom-used Jason Collins a chance to play significant minutes and score his first field goal for the team. Okafor returned against the Warriors, contributing seven points and five rebounds in 23 minutes, after regaining some of his strength. But he couldn’t believe that his season got interrupted because of something that happened off the court.
“I didn’t see that coming,” Okafor said. “My mind-set was even to play that night [in Phoenix]. I was trying to eat my pregame meal and I just couldn’t get it down. I couldn’t even get out of bed.”
As they prepared to board their flight back to Dulles International Airport, players weren’t exactly thrilled about the unusual circumstances of spending roughly 48 hours at home before heading out for another road game. “Overall, on the trip, I think we did a pretty good job,” reserve Trevor Booker said, “but whoever did the schedule, I’m going to need to have a little talk with him.”