If the Wizards are granted the exception, it doesn’t mean Wall will definitely miss the entire season. Even if he is ruled eligible to play late in the 82-game campaign, the Wizards can still keep the player signed with the exception. If the Wizards don’t apply and Wall does not play, however, the team would have squandered an opportunity to help its roster.
Although the Wizards and Wall’s camp have long considered that sitting out the season could be a possibility — and it has not been determined that he will be inactive for the entire 82-game schedule — by setting into motion a response for the worst-case scenario, Washington appears to be bracing for a year without Wall.
The move indicates the Wizards are remaining business-minded even as Wall progresses in his rehabilitation. Through island vacations and stays at his home in Miami, Wall has consistently worked this offseason with Jesse Phillips, the team’s director of rehabilitation. People close to Wall describe the 28-year-old point guard as being in shape and motivated to return to his old form. Wall even recently worked out with Tommy Sheppard, the Wizards’ interim president of basketball operations, in Miami.
Wall showed glimpses of his aggressive playing style last season, his ninth as the team’s franchise player. He was on pace to post his second-best season scoring average at 20.4 points per game, but Wall also sputtered through a game in which he scored a career-low one point, and at times he looked a beat slower while guarding in man-on-man defense.
A quarter into the season, Wall revealed he had been playing with painful bone spurs in his left heel. Eventually, the issue became so worrisome that he opted to have surgery. In January, the Wizards petitioned for and received the disabled player exception after Wall underwent the season-ending procedure. A month later, however, his recovery turned into a nightmare scenario.
The surgery to remove the bone spurs had loosened ligaments in his foot, and while walking in his residence, Wall slipped, according to the team. Although Wall was not aware of it at the time, the fall was significant enough to injure his left Achilles’ tendon.
Wall underwent a second major surgery Feb. 12, and the timeline to return to full basketball activity stretched as long as 15 months, according to orthopedist Wiemi Douoguih, who serves as the Wizards’ director of medical services.
Although Wall’s Achilles’ injury has been described as not as severe as the one Kevin Durant suffered in the NBA Finals, according to a person with knowledge of the details, the two may share the same season-ending fate even though Wall was hurt five months earlier.
The process for granting a disabled player exception can last several weeks. Once a request is made, a doctor hired by the NBA will determine if it’s necessary to examine the player in person or if the test results from the injury are satisfactory. If the exception is granted, the player still counts on the 15-man roster, but the team would receive some financial flexibility to acquire replacement talent.
Over the past week, the Wizards have addressed their vacancy at point guard. On Monday, the team agreed to terms with two-time all-star Isaiah Thomas as well as veteran backup Ish Smith. Washington had also expressed interest in Cory Joseph, according to a person with knowledge of the team’s free agency inquiries, but because of limited money and salary cap space, the Wizards lost out on him. He committed to a three-year, $37 million contract with the Sacramento Kings.
Restricted free agent Tomas Satoransky, who started 54 games for the Wizards last season, also proved to be too costly. Washington agreed to execute a sign-and-trade with the Chicago Bulls so that it would receive two future second-round picks while Satoransky departs for a three-year, $30 million contract.
With cost-effective veterans now plugged in at the lead guard spot, the Wizards also have rookie Justin Robinson on the depth chart.