In a potentially crushing development to the Washington Wizards’ push for a high playoff seed, all-star point guard John Wall is expected to miss six to eight weeks because of ongoing issues with his left knee.
Wall, who will also miss the NBA All-Star Game, will undergo an arthroscopic debridement procedure Wednesday to clean up the bothersome area at the Cleveland Clinic’s Marymount Hospital in Ohio. The surgery will be performed by Richard D. Parker, the same orthopedic specialist who conducted Wall’s double knee surgery in May 2016. Parker is the head physician for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
“It’s obviously very bad news for us,” said Wizards guard Tomas Satoransky, who will replace Wall in the starting lineup, before the team’s shoot-around Tuesday. “It’s a big loss, obviously. Feeling kind of sad for him.”
The procedure will force Wall to finally and sufficiently rest his injured knee, which has ailed him since the 10th game of the season.
On Nov. 7, Wall collided knee-to-knee with a Dallas Mavericks player but continued to play. In late November, Wall consulted with Parker again and opted to receive platelet-rich plasma and viscosupplementation injections to reduce inflammation. Wall sat out nine games and returned to play at an all-star level — though he still experienced soreness at times because the injections only settled the soreness for “a good week or two,” Wall previously told The Washington Post.
In the 21 games since returning from the initial fix, Wall played 34.2 minutes per game while averaging 18.6 points, 9.3 assists and 1.5 steals. Wall’s shooting, however, hovered around 40 percent as he would often settle for jump shots because he felt limitations in his knee.
“It’s affecting me now, but I still go out there and still have good games,” Wall said Saturday before missing the Wizards’ game against the Atlanta Hawks. “But one game you might be feeling great, then the next game you might feel, like, terrible.”
Behind the scenes, teammates noticed how Wall struggled with the injury.
“We spent a lot of time together. We sit next to each other on the plane,” forward Markieff Morris said. “He was dealing with being uncomfortable, but he was pushing through it. He’s a true warrior. I’m just glad we figured this thing out so he can get healthy, and by the time he comes back we’ll be in a playoff push and ready for the postseason.”
The knee cleanup will force Wall to miss his fifth consecutive All-Star Game next month. He was voted into the game as a reserve along with teammate Bradley Beal by NBA coaches last week, giving Washington its first pair of all-stars in the same season in 10 years. Wall decided to have the knee scope immediately and miss the All-Star Game so that he can potentially return in advance of the playoffs, according to a person with direct knowledge of Wall’s thinking.
By undergoing the procedure this week, Wall will miss eight more games over the two weeks leading into the all-star break, which will then afford an additional seven days off before the Wizards’ Feb. 22 matchup with the Cavaliers. After the break, the hope is to have Wall back on the court for rehabilitation exercises, the source said.
Even so, the Wizards, sitting tied for fifth in the Eastern Conference with a 27-22 record, will face a long road while their franchise player sits for potentially 20-plus games. According to ESPN, the Wizards’ remaining schedule has the highest opponents’ win percentage of any team in the NBA. On Tuesday, Washington faced the hottest team in the NBA, the Oklahoma City Thunder, which entered having won eight straight.
Although the Wizards still have a capable leader in Beal — he anchored the team’s offense during the nine games Wall missed in November and December — the team still functions better with both all-stars on the floor.
“[Wall] puts it on a platter for most of us, and without him everybody has to take their game up another level,” Morris said. “You need guys to be better play-makers. You need guys to be scoring the ball more. You need everybody to bring their game up.”
After news of Wall’s injury broke, ESPN also noted the depth of Washington’s reliance on Wall: When he plays, the team’s net efficiency is the equivalent of the Boston Celtics (fourth best in NBA). Without Wall, Washington would rank in the lower third of the 30 teams.
“It’s a challenge, obviously,” Satoransky said about stepping up in Wall’s absence. “John is the main guy, so it’s always tough to cover your main guy when he goes down and it’s very challenging. Obviously I like challenges, but it will be a lot of responsibility. Playing for me as a starter against other starters, it’s another challenge and step up in my game, so we’ll see how it goes. But I think we have great teammates here and great players who also can embrace the moment and make the best out of it.”
Though Wall will be on the shelf for the premiere game, he is expected to attend the All-Star Weekend festivities in Los Angeles, including the team practice on Feb. 17. Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond was named as Wall’s replacement. Drummond received the next highest voting points by NBA head coaches among Eastern Conferece players who were not originally picked, according to the league.
Jacob Bogage contributed to this report.
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