John Wall rolled past his oversized, smiling photo in a hallway at Capital One Arena on Tuesday night and parked his scooter in front of the players’ entrance of the Washington Wizards’ locker room. Behind those doors sat Bradley Beal, undoubtedly savoring his space in team lore.
At halftime during the last game of the regular season, which the Wizards lost, 116-110, to the Boston Celtics, the franchise cornerstones — one with his left knee supported on a scooter and his foot strapped inside a walking boot, the other with his fingerprints stamped all over the franchise record book — completed their final duties of the 2018-19 campaign.
For Wall, that meant meeting with reporters for an exit interview and sharing thoughts about the future of his healing Achilles’ tendon. Wall had surgery in February and is expected to miss at least 12 months following the procedure.
“Whenever my body feels like it’s back to where I feel ready to play, that’s when I’ll come back,” Wall said. “I think I’ve been through the process of plenty of injuries and just coming back before I was supposed to and injuring myself and making it a lot worse. So, this is one, just take my time and let my whole body heal and get back to being 100 percent.”
For Beal, the final touches on the season meant putting his feet up at last and enjoying his all-NBA-caliber résumé and one of the finest seasons ever played in a franchise uniform.
In his 82nd game of the season, Beal played only 17 minutes but in that time still amassed 16 points, four assists and, most significantly, five rebounds. With the quintet of boards, Beal secured season averages of at least 25 points, five assists and five rebounds — the first time a player has done so in franchise history, dating from its inaugural season as the Chicago Packers in 1961-62. Beal also became only the sixth NBA player since the 2010-11 season to achieve those season averages, joining superstars such as Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Kevin Durant and James Harden.
“It was fun. It was kind of a relief in a way. That’s another milestone accomplished,” Beal said. “Granted, we didn’t have the season we wanted, but it’s a lot of things we can build off of and a lot of positives we can take away from it. I’m definitely happy and proud of the way I played this year.”
Beal’s joy was reflected in his demeanor throughout the day. In the afternoon, Beal saw a group of reporters and shouted, “Four rebounds!” — the amount he needed to cement the 25-5-5 averages.
Before the game, he shimmied his shoulders as a bouncy hip-hop song blared over the speakers. Then, in the first quarter, he launched heat-check three-pointers with no hesitation. As the quarter closed, he leaned forward and screamed, displaying mock disgust at himself for not being in position to grab a rebound.
But at the 6:42 mark of the second quarter, Boston’s Semi Ojeleye blew a layup and there stood Beal, waiting underneath the rim. Beal secured his fourth rebound, causing teammates Jeff Green and Chasson Randle to leap from the bench and celebrate.
“It was exciting. It was a battle,” Beal said. “I feel like my teammates were trying to get me to be thirsty for rebounds all night.”
A few minutes before halftime, Beal returned to the bench for good. His season was complete, with averages of 25.7 points, 5.5 assists and 5.0 rebounds. And while the Wizards retreated to the locker room for halftime adjustments, Wall scooted to his news conference.
“Just getting the motion back in my foot, just being able to walk on two shoes,” Wall said, describing his summer goals. “That’s what I’m really waiting to get to. Then after that it’s just everything is taking my time and going with the process. That’s how long it takes.”
Wall will spend the summer in Miami with team physical therapists and outside help. Before jetting to South Florida, however, Wall expects to be involved in any capacity with the Wizards’ search for a new president of basketball operations. The team fired Ernie Grunfeld on April 2 and has been receiving advice from Mike Forde, a performance consultant.
“I think just with [majority owner Ted Leonsis], Ted is going to put us in a great position to pick the right person for us,” Wall said. “I think whoever we have and whoever we hire is going to be somebody who’s watching us from the outside, not inside, and understand what this team needs, what type of culture we need to be around here, type of veterans we need and type of people we need to make this team the right team. I think Ted’s going to do a great job of picking the right person for us.”
This new leader will be the one making the Wizards’ lottery pick. With the loss to Boston, the Wizards fell to 32-50. As of the end of their game, it represented the sixth-worst record in the league and could give Washington a better chance at securing a higher draft pick.
Wall was asked for his thoughts on the Wizards possibly drafting a point guard. His mobility may be limited, but his confidence remains undefeated.
“Me? I’d be fine. I don’t have no problem with that because it is what it is. You have to do what’s best for the team and make sure that we have pieces,” Wall said. “And when I come back, he can be a great backup to me.”