Tom Szczerbowski-US PRESSWIRE
If not now, when?
This was supposed to be the year. We were finally supposed to see what John Wall could do with a real supporting cast. Since the Washington Wizards made Wall the first overall pick in 2010, he's suffered through two lackluster seasons, consistently lacking support from teammates. But this was supposed to be the year we finally got to see what John Wall could do.
The Wizards acquired Nene from the Denver Nuggets in exchange for the talented but perpetually flawed JaVale McGee. McGee represented everything the Wizards had been. Nene represented the new direction the Wizards were going. The Wizards followed that up by acquiring Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza from the New Orleans Hornets in exchange for Rashard Lewis. Lewis had been a disappointment since being acquired from Orlando, and had a horrendous contract to boot. Okafor is still a solid big man even if he's never lived up to the expectations around him when he entered the league. Ariza isn't a guy you build a team around, but he's a perfect fit as a role player on a team with other good pieces.
The Wizards also landed an impact player in the draft in Bradley Beal. Beal is widely considered one of the most NBA-ready prospects from this draft, and should immediately step into the starting shooting guard role. With the addition of Beal, the Wizards improved four starting positions in the span of just a few months. While the names may not be particularly flashy, there is no question that the Wizards improved their roster.
Beal is definitely the most exciting thing about this Wizards season. It's still early, but there are indications that Beal could be a very special player. He's a very well-rounded player, and has already demonstrated a willingness to help the team in a variety of ways. Oddly enough, the biggest question is how well Beal, drafted as a scorer, can score in the NBA.
With all of that, the Wizards finally had put a roster around Wall that could allow him to thrive. We would finally see what Wall could do with some help. But now John Wall is out 8 weeks with a "stress injury" in his knee, which will keep Wall out until sometime in December at the earliest. I emphasize "at the earliest". A stress injury is an injury that comes from putting too much strain on your body. It doesn't come from a particular tweak or an identifiable event. It's an injury that comes from working hard, as a professional athlete does on a constant basis. For him to have a stress injury in his knee at the age of 22 is terrifying. Aside from the disappointment of Wall missing time at the start of this year, Wizards fans cannot be excited about the potential long term implications of this injury. The injury could be nothing. He could come back in early December and be great and never have another issue, but it is disconcerting until that happens.
If Wall returns as currently scheduled and is back to being 100% healthy, the Wizards will have plenty of time left in the season. The most likely scenario, in my mind, would be for Wall to return on schedule, but not be 100% healthy. He'll still be good, but not as good as we expect him to be capable of playing. The questions surrounding how good Wall actually is, those will remain. If Wall struggles, it will be impossible to know if he's struggling because he's hurting, or if he's struggling because he just isn't as good as we all thought he'd be.
Nene is also dealing with injuries entering the season. Struggling with nagging plantar fasciitis, Nene is questionable for the start of the season. As we've seen many times in the NBA, even once Nene returns to action, plantar fasciitis is the type of injury that can linger and hinder a player for months. The Wizards will have a formidable tandem in Okafor and Nene when both are on the floor, but the Wizards need Nene healthy.
The Wizards have a lot of potential this season. If injuries don't derail the season, Washington could easily be a candidate to sneak into the playoffs in the East. There's bound to be one or two teams that surprise and miss the playoffs. The Wizards should be one of the teams waiting for just such an opportunity. If injuries hadn't already struck, I'd probably be predicting this squad to sneak into the playoffs. Injuries can hit any team, and when all is said and done the Wizards might end up losing relatively few games to injury, but when the injuries hit early it makes it that much harder to confidently predict how the season will play out.
I hope the injuries don't ruin this season. The NBA would be a more interesting place if Wall is healthy and has support. The fans of the Wizards have suffered a lot, and deserve to see something fun again.