A few hours after finding out that his left knee had improved enough that he could finally increase his level of basketball activity, John Wall was back in his element, holding court in the Washington Wizards’ locker room.
Sidelined for the past three months, Wall has mostly been sullen or silent, but he was especially upbeat and talkative before his teammates got ready to face the Los Angeles Lakers at Verizon Center. Between bites of pasta, Wall appeared as relaxed and content as he has been all season. Everyone in the room listened intently to his every word.
Wall received the encouraging news about his ailing left knee from orthopedic specialist David Altchek in New York on Friday morning. Wall also received a third and final Synvisc injection to treat irritation that has occurred since Altchek discovered a non-traumatic stress injury in his left knee last September.
“John’s examination today showed improvement in his stress injury that will allow him to begin ramping up his activity level,” Altchek said in a statement released by the Wizards. “He will continue to be evaluated on an ongoing basis.”
Wall has been sidelined for 11 weeks because of the injury and the team no longer has a timetable for his return after initially announcing that the former No. 1 overall pick would miss “approximately” eight weeks. The delayed return led to speculation and concern about the severity of the injury, but Wall has had an agonizing time trying to be patient through it all. Especially since he hadn’t been cleared to practice, scrimmage or shoot jumpers.
“He’s frustrated and he wants to play and he doesn’t care what it is,” Wall’s longtime adviser and mentor, Brian Clifton, said in a recent telephone interview. “The only thing that interests him is, being told when to get back on the court. We have to try to respect that.”
Coach Randy Wittman was unable to provide a return date for Wall, but acknowledged that he is able to run laterally at full speed.
“No, not practice,” Wittman said. “I mean he’s got to get back out and get on the floor, not practice, not contact yet. We have to see how he responds to his activity as it’s ramped up.”
When asked what would be the best-case scenario, Wittman said: “In terms if I’m going to give you a date? I have no idea. I mean, the doctor knows that. He didn’t give any kind of time frame. I can’t. God, I wish I could give you that. It would help my mind.”
Wall has career averages of 16.3 points, 8.2 assists and 4.6 rebounds in his first two seasons with the Wizards. After not making any significant progress in his second campaign, Wall used his first normal offseason to focus on his weaknesses and enhancing his strengths.
He worked on his shooting form with former Wizards and current New York Knicks assistant Dave Hopla, helped the U.S. Olympic team prepare for a week in Las Vegas as a member of the Team USA select team, and hired famed trainer Rob McClanaghan, who had assisted Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love on their ascensions to all-star status.
“I just felt it was a great chance to try something different,” Wall said back in September and was hopeful that he would “see if it will all pay off.”
After finishing his meal on Friday, Wall spoke with his injured backup A.J. Price, then walked onto the main court at Verizon Center, where he signed autographs and took pictures with fans.
Forward Trevor Booker also visited with Altchek after missing the past 10 games with a strained right knee. Booker is scheduled for a platelet-rich plasma injection on Monday and will remain out indefinitely.
Gene Wang contributed to this report.