“If anybody knows an exorcist that can come into this building . . . ,” Coach Randy Wittman said, half-jokingly, when asked about the recent spell of injuries.
But the Wizards’ primary concern is for Wall, the centerpiece of the rebuilding efforts whose health will have a great influence on the success of the franchise going forward. Wall has averaged 16.3 points and 8.2 assists in his first two seasons and was hoping to have a true breakout campaign after working on his shooting, training with Rob McClanaghan and practicing with the U.S. Olympic team as a member of the select team in Las Vegas.
“I did everything the same way,” Wall said of his offseason regimen. “I switched to different people, but it wasn’t a different type of workout: just playing basketball on the court and lifting weights, not really too much lower body. I think it just came from wear and tear.”
The Wizards are down to just one healthy point guard on the roster in Shaun Livingston, and have forced shooting guard Jordan Crawford to take on the primary playmaking duties. They scored a season-low 72 points on Saturday in Miami and are the only team in the NBA that doesn’t average at least 90 points.
“We’re going to keep our options open, looking at different scenarios, keep observing how we feel this is going and in what direction and make our decision based on that,” Wittman said. “Nobody really thought at the time that, even when [Wall] had a little discomfort in there, that it was going to be middle of December and he still hasn’t been able to do anything.”
Wall missed 13 games as a rookie, dealing with a bone bruise his right knee and sore left foot, but he played all 66 games during the lockout-shortened campaign last season. Though he believes the Wizards wouldn’t be at the bottom of the standings if he were healthy, Wall tempered expectations for his return with the understanding that he would likely be limited.
“I don’t think I have to be heroic,” Wall said. “I think just being out there and lifting the spirits of my teammates, having one of their leaders out there playing and just having another point guard there, makes the job a lot easier.”
Seeing his teammates struggle has made the time away more frustrating for Wall. “Nothing’s been going the right way for us this year,” Wall said. “It’s very disappointing. I just feel like God is challenging me mentally, giving me a course like this to see if I can get through it. I have to sit back and wait.”