John Wall does not look forward to having yet another surgery. Wall insisted he’s not ducking a season in which the Washington Wizards will have to claw for a playoff spot nor is he tapping out because he might not make the Eastern Conference all-star team for the sixth consecutive year, as a television nemesis suggested.
The way Wall sees it, he’s opting to undergo season-ending surgery to remove bone spurs from his heel because the procedure is a lot less traumatic than Plan B.
“If I don’t want to deal with the pain or make it any worse and have an opportunity to maybe rupture my whole Achilles' later down the road, you get the surgery and take it out,” Wall said Monday after the Wizards' first practice since it was announced he would miss the remainder of this season. “Some days it would be terrible where you couldn’t play or could barely walk. So it’s not really a hard decision for me to make. It was an easy decision. It was just also making sure that everybody on my team and everybody from the Wizards organization was on the same page.”
During the week of Jan. 7, possibly next Tuesday, Wall will have a procedure to repair what’s known as “Haglund’s deformity,” a bump in the back of that heel that is covered by the bottom of the Achilles' tendon. Although Wall, 28, has dealt with pain in his left heel for “four to five years,” he only recently learned through discussions with specialists that the deformity could lead to the degeneration of the tendon.
A ruptured Achilles' tendon can be a year-long rehabilitation for NBA players — it led to the career decline of future Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant and has sidelined Golden State Warriors all-star center DeMarcus Cousins for the past 11 months.
Wall wants to avoid the more significant injury, so he decided on having a third surgery in less than three years.
"This is something that’s been there for years,” Wall said, noting the bone spurs have grown. “I’ve played through it, and now it’s to the point where you can’t play through it no more unless you want to tear your whole Achilles'. That’s not what I’m trying to do. I’m taking the shorter process of taking six to eight months instead of taking 15 to 20 months.”
During the season, Wall does not typically talk about the amount of pain he may be experiencing. After a home game in late November, when Wall was asked why he was soaking his left foot in a tub of ice, he only smiled and responded “nope” each time a reporter threw out guesses as to which body part was hurting.
But over time, Wall revealed the extent of the bothersome bone spurs in his left heel after he scored just one point, a career low, in a Dec. 8 game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. By Dec. 19, Wall had returned to being a steel trap of injury information. After Wall committed seven turnovers alongside 18 points and 12 assists in a loss to the Houston Rockets, he didn’t look up from his cellphone when asked how his heel felt.
“Great,” Wall replied succinctly.
On Monday, Wall offered a peek behind the curtain as far as how he has tried to manage the injury, revealing that Adidas had to modify his customized sneakers so the back would not rub against his heel. Some mornings, he said, he had to walk on his “tippy toes” to get to his master bathroom because the pain was so intense.
Wall’s motivation in revealing the information was to shut down his critics — or at least one of the loudest voices on the airwaves and social media, ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith. On Sunday evening, after news of Wall’s surgery spread, Smith shared his take on the matter in five consecutive tweets.
“Oh Hell No! I do not want to hear this about John Wall. Look, I’m not about to question the legitimacy of his left heel injury. Hell, I won’t even question that it might be best he have season-ending surgery. But where was this when he dropped 40 on the Lakers? Why now....” Smith tweeted in his opening salvo.
Smith went on to question if Wall couldn’t take the pressure of the Wizards' 14-23 season and if “he’s calling it a season because he ain’t about to make an all-star team.”
Wall, who seemingly misses nothing said or tweeted about him, did not call Smith by name. But he clearly designed a message for his longtime critic.
“Last year, I had it but it wasn’t bad. It wasn’t hot. It wasn’t bad but this year, it just got to the point where it was hot a lot of times. You see the Cleveland game, it’d be terrible. I could barely run. And one game it would be good, like the Lakers and those games,” Wall said. “So when people say you just shutting down because you’re not going to be an all-star and stuff like that, that has nothing to do with it for me at all. My point was going to see if I can give everything I can for the team. And I tried as much as I could and to the point where it was getting hotter and hotter. And then if I miss two games and be back a game, then miss two more games, that’s not beneficial to those guys, and it’s not giving my teammates everything I have.”
Wall later concluded with his own hot take.
“It don’t bother me,” Wall said about Smith’s tweets. “It’s like this: If you have a personal problem with me, come talk to me like a man. If you want to talk about me as a basketball player, that’s fine. I’m cool with that. I can take that criticism; that’s what comes when you’re that guy. But when you want to take things to a personal level, you can have a conversation with me one-on-one as a man. If you don’t like me, you just don’t like me, I’m fine with that. I might not like you neither. That’s cool.”