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Wall Week: What Kobe Bryant and other famous NBA Achilles injuries can teach us about John Wall’s recovery

Wall Week: What Kobe Bryant and other famous NBA Achilles injuries can teach us about John Wall’s recovery

This week is Wall Week at NBC Sports Washington. We are rolling out content each day centering around the Wizards' five-time All-Star point guard. Today, we examine how other NBA players have recovered from a ruptured left Achilles...

Wizards guard John Wall is now roughly seven months into his recovery from a ruptured left Achilles, which by most historical measures means he is more than half-way through his rehab. The Wizards, though, have indicated he could miss all of next season. If that scenario plays out, he is only about a third of the way towards returning to action in an NBA game.

There has been a wide variance in recovery times for ruptured Achilles injuries in the past. Most players have taken about 10 to 11 months off. But the time of recovery hasn't necessarily correlated with how successful a player has been once they returned.

Some of the best success stories have involved players returning in 10 months or less. Some of the worst-case scenarios have involved players taking a year or longer.

Here is a breakdown of some of the more notable cases of NBA players tearing their Achilles, including the time they took to recover and how they played following their return...

Kobe Bryant

When: March 2013, Age 34
Recovery time: 240 days
Before: 25.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 4.8 apg, 45.4 FG%, 33.6 3PT%
After: 18.9 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 3.9 apg, 36.6 FG%, 28.5 3PT%

Given he was 34 at the time of the injury, it was predictable Bryant would not return as the same player. Most interesting as it pertains to Wall, though, may be the fact Bryant returned to play only six games the following season. He could have sat out the entire year, but chose to play a handful of games even though the Lakers were en route to a 27-55 finish. Wall and the Wizards may have to face a similar decision in the spring of 2020.

DeMarcus Cousins

When: Jan. 2018, Age 27
Recovery time: 357 days
Before: 21.5 ppg, 11.0 rpg, 3.2 apg, 46 FG%, 33.8 3PT%
After: 16.3 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 3.6 apg, 48 FG%, 27.4 3PT%

Cousins is a guy Wall will likely lean on throughout his recovery, as he just went through it. The two were college teammates and remain good friends. Cousins, though, is not exactly a success story. Though he returned to play well for the Warriors last season, he subsequently tore his quad and then his ACL. Whether those injuries are related to the Achilles tear is not clear, but the whole saga is something Wall would certainly hope to avoid.

Dominique Wilkins

When: Jan. 1992, Age 32
Recovery time: 283 days
Before: 26.2 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 2.6 apg, 46.9 FG%, 29.7 3PT%
After: 21.5 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 2.2 apg, 43.9 FG%, 33.9 3PT%

Wilkins may be the best testimonial for recovering from Achilles surgery. He suffered the injury in his 30s and 27 years ago when sports medicine wasn't as advanced, yet he came back to make two more All-Star and All-NBA teams. He also did so after taking fewer than 10 months off. Wilkins later said this of why he was able to return at such a high level:

“When I came back, people had their doubts, they said I was done and my career was over, but I came back and had my best all-around season of my career,” Wilkins said, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. “It just depends on the person and how driven they are.”

Wesley Matthews

When: March 2015, Age 28
Recovery time: 237
Before: 14.3 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.1 apg, 44.3 FG%, 39.3 3PT%
After: 12.7 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.4 apg, 39.6 FG%, 36.8 3PT%

Like Wall, Matthews is a guard and he tore his Achilles at the age of 28. He suffered the injury in March and returned in time for the start of the next season. Fewer than eight months had passed before he was back in an NBA game. Though that could offer optimism for Wall, Matthews hasn't quite been the same player, at least statistically. His efficiency numbers have dropped off.

Rudy Gay

When: Jan. 2017, Age 30
Recovery time: 273 days
Before: 18.4 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 2.3 apg, 45.2 FG%, 34.5 3PT%
After: 12.7 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 2.0 apg, 49 FG%, 36.8 3PT%

Gay offers one of the best examples of a player who has returned from an Achilles tear. Though he hasn't scored at the same volume that he once did, he is a more efficient player now and a key component of a good Spurs team. Gay has adjusted his game now that he isn't the high-flyer that he once was. Wall may have to evolve a bit himself, depending on how the injury affects his speed.

Chauncey Billups

When: Feb. 2012, Age 35
Recovery time: 296 days
Before: 15.5 ppg, 5.5 apg, 2.9 rpg, 41.6 FG%, 38.9 3PT%
After: 6.2 ppg, 2.2 apg, 1.5 rpg, 36.5 FG%, 34.1 3PT%

Billups' Achilles injury happened so late in his career that he could have retired, yet he decided to come back to play two more seasons. He only managed to play 41 total games those two years and didn't log nearly as many minutes. The hope with Wall, also a point guard, is that his relative youth will give him a better chance of returning to All-Star form.

Elton Brand

When: Aug. 2007, Age 28
Recovery time: 243 days
Before: 20.3 ppg, 10.2 rpg, 2.7 apg, 50.5 FG%, 15.4 3PT%
After: 10.0 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 1.2 apg, 48.9 FG%, 0.0 3PT%

Brand returned to play eight more seasons, but was nowhere near the same player. He was a bit undersized for a big man to begin with and losing a step didn't help. The ominous sign to take away from Brand's recovery is that he was 28, the same age as Wall. And he later explained exactly what was missing when he came back:

“I didn’t have the same explosiveness that I had. … I didn’t have it. I had to change my game a little bit where I jumped off two feet, and I was a little bit slower," he said, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Brandon Jennings

When: Jan. 2015, Age 26
Recovery time: 339 days
Before: 16.6 ppg, 6.2 apg, 3.2 rpg, 39.1 FG%, 35.1 3PT%
After: 6.9 ppg, 4.3 apg, 2.3 rpg, 36.3 FG%, 31.6 3PT%

Jennings was an exciting score-first point guard in his 20s when he suffered the injury, just like Wall. And Jennings ended up having a recovery that was on the longer side, as Wall expects to have himself. But unfortunately for Jennings, he was never the same player again. He appeared in only 143 more NBA games (23 with the Wizards in 2016-17) and most recently played in Russia. Jennings lost a step and couldn't adjust his game properly to compensate.

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John Wall and other NBA stars crash pickup game in the Bahamas

John Wall and other NBA stars crash pickup game in the Bahamas

While recovering from an Achilles injury on vacation in the Bahamas with Draymond Green, Boogie Cousins and Eric Bledsoe, John Wall couldn't stay away from the court for too long.

Per TMZ Sports, the crew is in the Bahamas to celebrate a marriage, but the NBA stars found time to play pickup with some of the locals. Wall stayed on the sidelines.

While Wall didn't fully participate, Cousins was draining threes in flip flops.

Wall spent time high-fiving the locals, and hopefully, he'll be back on the court soon.

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'Did I really earn it?' John Wall addresses contract criticisms

'Did I really earn it?' John Wall addresses contract criticisms

Scroll down and listen to Chris Miller's full sit down interview with Wizards' point gaurd, John Wall 

Being a starter in the NBA garners a lot of outside pressure and criticism. Having the fourth-largest contract in the NBA, but expected to miss the entire 2019-2020 season, is an entirely different animal.

John Wall sat down with NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller on the scene of the annual John Wall Family Foundation backpack giveaway.

The topic of discussion? Critics.

"The only thing I questioned was 'the worst contract in NBA history,'" Wall said.  "That was my lowest point because I was like do I really deserve this money? Did I really earn it?"

"I looked back at all the years and all the things I've been through and said yes, I did deserve this, I did earn this. It was never given to me."

Wall signed a three-year contract extension that's set to pay him $207 million through the 2023 season. He averaged career-highs in points (23.1), assists (10.7) and steals (2.0), made his fourth All-Star team and earned his first All-NBA selection the year of the signing.

"All the criticism I hear-everybody saying 'he doesn't deserve the contract-that's fine, that's your opinion," Wall said. "When I did get it, it was the best thing the Wizards ever did, now it's the worst thing they ever did."

One thing Wall has never lacked is motivation, but the outside noise is a complementary addition to his collection. 

"To say I have the worst contract in NBA history, that's all I needed," Wall said. "The ones that doubted me on the highest level I don't speak to because I know my game will do the talking when I get back to playing."

"To be honest, everybody that I care for and have love for are all still there and even more supporting," Wall said. "That's all I care about."

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