That won’t happen.
Despite the late-season break, don’t count on Wall appearing on the court during the 2019-20 campaign. The original plan remains unchanged: He will stay on the sideline during his 10th NBA season to fully recover from a ruptured left Achilles’ tendon suffered in January 2019.
“We’ve said all along that we can’t wait until John plays next season, and I think that will still be our attitude and our stance,” Wizards General Manager Tommy Sheppard said in a recent interview. “We’re very anxious to see John Wall in uniform next year. I don’t think any of this changes that.”
In fact, this unpredictable break in the schedule may do more to hinder the 29-year-old’s rehabilitation than help it.
As Wall staggered during the 2018-19 season, bothered by bone spurs in his left heel, he opted for surgery under the advice that the injury could lead to something worse. But a month after the season-ending heel surgery, Wall ruptured his Achilles’ at his home, the team said.
It takes 11 to 15 months for Achilles’ injuries to heal, but the Wizards began dropping hints as early as last summer that Wall would miss the entire 2019-20 season, which would extend his recovery to more than a year and eight months.
Over time, Wall appeared to make huge strides in regaining his strength, and he tantalized a small audience of reporters (or anyone holding up a phone) by showing his baseline-to-baseline bursts of speed, roping passes to player development staffers during full-court four-on-four pickup games or elevating for one-handed dunks. He looked good, and in those controlled environments, Wall performed as if he hadn’t lost a step.
However, the coronavirus pandemic forced the Wizards, the NBA and all of sports to shut down. By following social distancing guidelines, Wall no longer can simulate the intensity of the workouts with Wizards staffers, his teammates and Capital City Go-Go players.
Even if Wall works out every day at home — he has a basketball court and gym at his Potomac residence — it will be impossible to replicate the day-to-day routine he had at the Wizards’ practice facility. It is a challenge for any NBA player to stay in shape while basketball is away, and the struggle is magnified for injured and rehabilitating players.
The Wizards are being extra cautious with Wall, who is in the first season of a four-year, supermax contract, and thinking only of his long-term health and future with the organization. They won’t trot him out at the end of this season and risk another soft-tissue injury that could lead to another year of rehabilitation. That decision would be the right one, regardless of how good Wall had looked recently.
Without access to round-the-clock athletic trainers and medical staff or even the presence of people to scrimmage against, Wall will have to hit the pause button on his recovery. Until he’s able to return to on-court work, he will not be ready to play, even if the NBA returns this summer.
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