After the Wizards determined John Wall needed injections in his knee and would be out approximately two weeks, head coach Scott Brooks issued a message to his team he hoped they would take to heart.
"We're not going to be a better team without John, but we can be a better team when he comes back," Brooks said.
The Wizards may be without Wall for another week or longer, as he was prescribed the two-week recovery on Nov. 25 following platelet-rich plasma treatment and viscosupplementation injections in his left knee. So far through four games, the Wizards have gone 2-2, a decent mark all things considered. Add in the two games Wall missed prior to the two knee procedures and the Wizards are 3-3 without their point guard this season.
Brooks knows they aren't in the clear yet, but he's pleased with the way his team has responded to Wall's absence.
"Three-and-three without him is really good considering, I think, four of the games were on the road," Brooks said. "It gives us some confidence going on a five-game road trip. It's not going to be easy."
The three wins the Wizards have secured without Wall this season have all come against good teams. They beat the Raptors and Timberwolves on the road and the Pistons at home. All have winning records and hold top five playoff seeds at the moment.
The wins against Minnesota and Detroit in the past week were despite Bradley Beal having off scoring nights. He had eight points and 10 points, respectively, way down from his season average of 22.6 per game. WIth Wall out and Beal struggling, others have had to step up to fill the void.
The Wizards' offensive numbers like points per game and field goal percentage have dipped with Wall out, which is to be expected. Removing him from the lineup takes away his 20.3 points and 9.2 assists per game. They have, however, been able to limit turnovers with 10.0 per game without Wall, down from their 14.3 per game season average.
Their defense has also locked in quite nicely. They are allowing less points per game than they usually do, 101.5 compared to 103.8. And their opponent's field goal percentage (45.5) and defensive rating (103.7) are right around normal.
With Wall out and defenses keying in on Beal to a signficant degree, the Wizards have found other ways to compete for wins. Otto Porter and Markieff Morris have helped compensate on offense and their bench has put together arguably their best stretch of the season.
Porter has stepped up to lead the Wizards in scoring with 17.8 points in his last four games. Their second unit has made a major difference with Kelly Oubre, Jr. (14.8 ppg), Tomas Satoransky (10.0 ppg, 5.5 apg, zero turnovers) and Jodie Meeks (11.3 ppg, 50% FG) standing out above all. Ian Mahinmi has also come through after a slow start to the season with strong defensive efforts including against Karl-Anthony Towns and Joel Embiid.
Wall himself has been impressed with the team's performance.
"I think our bench has played a lot better the last couple of games. I hope the bench can keep playing the way they’ve been playing," he said. "It’s a lot different when I’m not there... It’s a lot different. I know nobody can be me, but they can be themselves and try to help the team win."
The Wizards are about to embark on a five-game road trip that begins Monday night at the Utah Jazz. Four of the five games are out west.
The schedule hasn't been ideal with Wall out, there are many road games and matchups against good teams. But if they can maintain a .500 record or better without him, they will be in good shape once he returns. They will also give Wall some breathing room to come back when he is absolutely ready to do so.
"Any win we can get without him is good for the team," forward Markieff Morris said. "If we can get some more wins before he comes back, it will be an easy transition."