On Monday afternoon, Wizards Coach Scott Brooks got word from team president Ernie Grunfeld that John Wall, who was already out for the season after undergoing surgery on his left heel, had ruptured his left Achilles' tendon and is expected to miss at least an additional 12 months. A few hours later, the Wizards gave up 137 points in a home loss to the woeful Hawks.
“It was a bad day all the way around,” Brooks said Wednesday during an interview with the Sports Junkies on 106.7 the Fan. “I talked to Ernie in the afternoon. They told me the news, and it was definitely a punch in the gut. It was a surprise. [Wall] was on his way. He had the surgery and was on his way to recovery. . . . It was just a freak deal.”
Brooks said he didn’t ask Grunfeld how his all-star point guard suffered his latest injury, but the Wizards announced Tuesday that it occurred when Wall slipped and fell in his home on Jan. 29. Three weeks earlier, Wall had undergone surgery to remove bone spurs in his left heel in hopes of preventing a more serious injury down the road.
“I feel bad for John,” Brooks said. “That guy loves the game. He competes, plays through everything, and this one he can’t play through. It hurts him. I did exchange a bunch of text messages and I felt bad. He actually apologized. He said, ‘I’m sorry, Coach,’ and that hurt me. He knows he wants to be out there. He knows it’s hard on all of us. You talk about one of the best players in the league, and he can’t play.”
Brooks addressed the prevailing thought that the 28-year-old Wall, whose speed and quickness were the main attributes that separated him from his NBA peers during the first nine years of his career, won’t be the same player when he returns to the court. It’s one thing for a big man such as Wall’s former University of Kentucky teammate DeMarcus Cousins to come back from an Achilles' injury and quite another for a point guard who makes his living attacking the basket.
“That’s one opinion,” Brooks said. “The other side, the other opinion, is that he’s still young. Most of these injuries happen [to players] in their mid-30s, and I agree with you on that, very rarely can you come back. . . . One thing about John is, he’s going to give the effort. He’s going to be diligent. Unfortunately for John, he’s had a couple of these knee surgeries, so he knows how to rehab. He knows how to come back from injuries. It’s going to be a long process and he needs a lot of support from myself, our staff, the organization, the fans, his friends, everything. But John, he’s tough. He’s built for this. He’s built to be able to handle this obstacle that’s in front of him, and once he gets through it — he’s going to have some tough days and he’s going to have some good days — and he’s going to just have to keep piling up those good days.”
The Wizards are 9-7 since Wall last played in late December and enter Wednesday’s game at Eastern Conference-leading Milwaukee 3½ games out of a playoff spot. While Wizards owner Ted Leonsis made it clear in a couple of recent interviews that his team had no intention of tanking this season or trading Wall, Bradley Beal or Otto Porter Jr., Brooks was asked if Wall’s latest setback prompted Washington to reconsider its strategy ahead of Thursday’s trade deadline. Have there been discussions about possibly trading Trevor Ariza, Jeff Green or Porter?
“I’ll just put it this way: Nothing’s really been not talked about,” Brooks said. “We always talk, and if there’s something that is going to help our team going forward, we have to look at that. It only makes sense, but right now I’m just worried about tonight. We’ve got to focus on trying to put ourselves together and get ourselves to compete against one of the best teams in basketball.”
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