The NBA currently has plans to open its 2020-21 regular season in December. If that holds true, John Wall will take the floor for the first time in nearly two full years.
He had surgery to repair a ruptured Achilles in February 2019, but had been out since the previous December due to bone spurs. Two years is a long time to sit out, especially when it coincides with what should be a player's prime.
Bradley Beal, meanwhile, has continued to lead the Wizards in Wall's absence. And now that his 2019-20 season has been shut down, he too is looking towards next year and he can't wait to reunite with his partner in the backcourt.
"Oh man, I'm beyond excited. I'm not going to lie," Beal said Sundy afternoon on NBC Sports Washington.
But beyond his own anticipation, Beal has grown close enough to Wall over the years to understand how much returning to the court will mean to him. Wall has not only been out of the game for a while, much has changed during that time. He has spoken sentimentally about what his first game will mean to him.
It will be the first game since his mother's death due to cancer. And it will be the first time he will play in front of his son.
Wall has lived a tumultous life. Beal knows full well what the game of basketball has meant to him throughout all of it.
"I'm more happy for him than anything because he gets to get back on the floor. He hasn't been on the floor in a long time," Beal said. "For him to be able to get his place of peace, his muse back and his love and joy back, I think that will be great. I'm definitely looking forward to just us together."
When Wall does play again, there will be plenty of focus on how he looks when he returns after so much time off and after a very serious injury. There have been encouraging reports and video footage of him playing in practice situations, but the true test will be in an NBA game situation.
In that time, Beal's game has transformed significantly. He has blossomed into a two-time All-Star who now counts an expanded repertoire of play-making skills. He was forced to add elements to his game with Wall out of the mix.
Though they have played seven NBA seasons together, there is some intrigue and mystery about how they will look when they reunite. Both should be different players and people than they were when they last shared the court.
The Wizards' roster has also been overhauled around them. They have young players on the rise like Rui Hachimura, Troy Brown Jr. and Thomas Bryant.
"With where I've taken my game to him being a five-time All-Star, we can really grow our team and our young stars that we have in the making," Beal said. "I'm excited and I know the fans are too. It can't come any faster."
Stay connected to the Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.
MORE WIZARDS NEWS:
There are a lot of unknowns heading into the 2020 postseason, but one of the biggest unknowns has been how the goalies will play. A pause of several months in which no one could get on the ice was hardest on the goalies who could essentially do nothing to simulate their play on the ice or keep their bodies ready for game action when they returned. According to Braden Holtby, however, it’s so far, so good.
Holtby turned aside 12 out of 13 shots in Wednesday’s exhibition game against the Carolina Hurricanes. He looked more poised and confident than when the season was paused.
For him, the long layoff wasn’t an issue. He had plenty of time to prepare during optional workouts.
“I think it's been long enough that [goalies have] been able to be on the ice,” Holtby said. “I mean, it's coming up on two months. That's plenty of time. Obviously it was a little different getting back into just the game routine from practice. That's always one of the challenges when you have a long layoff. But I felt pretty comfortable out there.”
The only adjustment for goalies, however, is not just about getting onto the ice, it’s also about adjusting to a new setting.
RELATED: WHAT TO KNOW FOR CAPS VS. LIGHTNING
For the first time in the NHL, these players will be playing in front of no fans. That will affect some players more than others and...well...let’s just say the lack of fans will not be an issue for Holtby.
“Actually, I didn't feel different at all,” Holtby said referring to playing in front of an empty arena. “Felt pretty normal. A few of the guys were saying on the bench it's kind of a hard time which obviously as a goalie you don't have to deal with. I was quite surprised, it seemed like a normal game.”
In addition to the crowd noise -- added to the broadcast but not heard by the players in the arenas -- the seats in the arena were covered with banners to give a more decorative background as opposed to empty seats.
While this was done to make the arena more aesthetically pleasing to the fans watching at home, Holtby described an unintended benefit to the covered seats.
“The sightlines are nice,” Holtby said. “At least they backdropped it, they put up this grey. That helps a lot. A lot of the buildings you go into with the black seats so if it's the start of the period or something and no one's sitting down yet, you lose a lot of pucks in those seats. You don't have to deal with that here which is nice.”
Holtby struggled in the regular season, but the Caps’ championship hopes lie very much on his shoulders considering Ilya Samsonov is out with an injury suffered prior to training camp. Any advantage he can get for the playoffs will be welcome for the team. It's a good sign that he seems very cool and relaxed about the NHL's new setting.
Stay connected to the Capitals with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.
MORE CAPITALS NEWS: