LOS ANGELES — John Wall, with beads of sweat falling from his thick beard, plopped on a folding chair on the sideline. He leaned forward to unlace his sneakers and take a drink. As the last Washington Wizards player off the court at UCLA’s Student Activities Center, Wall deserved the respite. Besides, Wall had just completed something that he had not done in two weeks.
On Friday afternoon, Wall participated in his first full practice since he received injections to reduce inflammation in his left knee.
Over the past few days, Wall had incrementally upped his activity level. In Phoenix, he went through two on-court workouts with coaches and team staffers. But the practice at UCLA represented a big step for the point guard, who has missed the past seven games.
“It feels great. I had no problems,” Wall said of his knee. “I had no problems yesterday. I had no problems today getting through practice, and I’ll just take it day-by-day to see how it reacts doing something like this.”
Though Wall’s progress is encouraging, he is expected to miss Saturday’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers, Coach Scott Brooks said.
“This is my first time having contact,” Wall said about the practice, “so we’ll see how it reacts tomorrow.”
A source with a connection to the situation suggested earlier this week that Wall could return by the middle of next week. That could put Wall in line to play when the Wizards conclude their five-game trip at Brooklyn on Tuesday. The following night, the team returns to Capital One Arena for the second half of a back-to-back against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Brooks watched Wall complete practice and go through individual shooting drills but did not offer a timeline for the all-star’s return.
“It’s going in that direction, but I still don’t know when,” Brooks said. “Definitely we have some opportunities to practice this next week.”
The Wizards went through an abbreviated on-court session Friday, one day after defeating the Phoenix Suns. The session, while not open to media, sounded spirited from outside the gym doors. And Wall was right in the mix.
Wall took contact when Washington practiced three-on-two and stayed on the floor when the action turned to five-on-five. He drilled through the team’s offensive script, Brooks revealed, and showed no limitations during the approximately 35-minute practice.
“All of practice,” Brooks reiterated about the depth of Wall’s participation.
For someone as ceaselessly active as Wall — during his summer workouts he wouldn’t stop training even while on vacation in the Bahamas — the weeks of rehabilitation tested his patience.
“It was frustrating at first because, like, the first week and a half, I couldn’t do no basketball,” Wall said. “Doing a lot of treatments, trying to get the swelling down.”
Also, he put in a lot of work on an antigravity treadmill, which allowed Wall to run at 65 percent of his body weight. Though Wall described the activity as akin to “floating,” he would have preferred to be racing down a basketball court.
“That was no fun,” Wall said.
Although Wall will be inactive again Saturday, he will be a bit more clean shaven — his barber is in town, so the beard will be tamed.
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