Wizards

Quick Links

Brooks: John Wall sets career pace despite knee surgeries holding him back

Brooks: John Wall sets career pace despite knee surgeries holding him back

The streaks are piling up for the Wizards, nine wins in a row at Verizon Center and eight of their wins this season coming back from double-digit deficits. It's not ideal and a lot of the latter has to do with slow starts defensively when opponents score 30 or more points in the first quarter. 

But coach Scott Brooks pointed to one key area for their revival going into Tuesday night's game vs. the Chicago Bulls: John Wall. 

Although most of the country doesn't recognize not only what he's doing from a statistical standpoint, evident by Wall being just seventh among East guards in All-Star voting, but the context in which he's doing it. Wall had surgeries to both knees May 5 after he averaged 19.9 points and 10 rebounds in a 41-41 2015-16 season. Now he's at a career high 23.1 points per game, 10.1 assists (0.1 off a career-high), 4.4 rebounds and a career-high 2.3 steals. He's also shooting 46.6% from the field (also a career-high) and has 22 double-doubles which far outdistances any guard in his conference.

RELATED: Wade may miss matchup vs. Wizards

"I always give a lot of praise to players that put  (themselves) out there when they’re not NBA ready 100 percent. He had the two knee surgeries over the summer. His first practice was October 7th. He was working himself into shape while we were playing games for real. A lot of players don’t do it," Brooks said after Monday's afternoon practice session. "You hear it a lot, 'I’m not coming back until I’m 1,000 percent ready.’ We’re not going to put anybody out there if they’re not physically ready but you still have to get past being game ready, being in shape and playing through the conditioning that you need. He has done that."

Given what has happened with Derrick Rose as of Monday night, Brooks' perspective could be even more appropriate (Note: He was not referring to Rose or any other player other than Wall so the timing here was pure coincidence). Rose, who had a checkered history when with the Chicago Bulls of holding himself out of games after knee surgery, didn't report to Madison Square Garden for a game with the New York Knicks. The reasons remain unclear. If this turns out to be a voluntary decision and that he didn't clear it with the team first, it would be nothing short of stunning.

Rose, too, is among the six East guards ahead of Wall in All-Star voting. Wall had 10 double-doubles in December. That's nine more than Rose has had all season, and Wall was on an early-season minutes restriction and held out from both games of back-to-backs. 

"He hit is stride in early December. Now he lost some weight that he gained when he wasn’t able to do anything and he’s down to his fighting weight and he’s playing well," Brooks said. "He’s moving well. He’s making shots. He’s locking up defensively. When John has good games for us, he’s one of the best defending point guards in the league. It’s a hard position to defend with so many great point guards offensive minded and every team is built on 70 or 80 pick-and-rolls each game."

The Wizards began 2-8. Wall has led them back to 18-18 and they have a chance to be over .500 for the second time this season. It would be the first time they get over that hump since they were 6-5 on Nov. 24, 2015. They had four chances only to fail last season at 14-14, 19-19, 30-30 and 35-35.

MORE NBA: NBA Insiders Notebook: Paul Millsap to Toronto?

Quick Links

Five observations from Wizards' 119-109 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, including Dwight Howard's injury

Five observations from Wizards' 119-109 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, including Dwight Howard's injury

The Washington Wizards lost to the Portland Trail Blazers 119-109 on Sunday night. Here are five observations from the game...

Not good: It just keeps getting worse. The Wizards have been playing a sleepy, uninspired brand of basketball in recent games and on Sunday they met a Blazers team that does just the opposite.

The result was probably predictable. Though the Wizards edged the Blazers last month in Portland, this time they lost a game that was nowhere near as close as the final score suggested. 

Portland led by as many as 29 points and the Wizards only cut that down late when head coach Scott Brooks emptied his bench. He brought in a host of young guys who were hungry and just happy to be playing like Troy Brown Jr. and Thomas Bryant. Hopefully the starters, who have been missing those qualities, were paying attention.

These teams are currently on two entirely different trajectories. The Blazers are trending up, while the Wizards, who have lost two straight, are sliding quickly.

Washington is now 5-11 on the season. That's worse than their mark at this point two years ago when they mounted the famous comeback.

Howard hurt again: Things were already going terribly for the Wizards when they got much worse. Dwight Howard, who was coming off a huge game against the Nets, left in the second quarter after aggravating his strained piriformis muscle injury. 

Howard, of course, missed the first seven games of the year with the injury, which has also been referred to as gluteal soreness. We knew he was still dealing with discomfort when he came back and it has never really gone away.

The injury affects his ability to run and jump. He can't even sit on the bench because of the pain. The fact it's bothering him enough to leave a game is a really bad sign.

Too many fouls: Just like last game, Howard found himself entangled in foul trouble and this time he got started earlier. By the midway point of the first quarter, he had two. By the 5:30 mark of the second quarter, he had three.

At least against the Nets on Friday, Howard was effective when he was on the floor. This time, he couldn't find a rhythm. His time on the court was basically a wash.

These two games show just how easy it is for Howard to rack up fouls and how much it hurts the Wizards when he gets in foul trouble. 

Horrid start: The Wizards have had some lifeless stretches this season, far too often for the talent they have on the roster. The way they began this game was them at their absolute worst.

They just couldn't keep up with the Blazers, who were zipping the ball around the court to find open shooters. Portland built a 20-point lead in the first quarter, 32-12, as they shot 7-for-9 from three. The seventh was a wide open look by C.J. McCollum.

That's C.J. McCollum, as in one of the best shooting guards in basketball. Somehow the Wizards completely lost him and paid for it. Those are the types of plays that are hard to excuse.

Bright spots: If there were any positives to draw from this game, it was the play of Kelly Oubre Jr. and Tomas Satoransky. Neither shot the ball well, but their energy and effort were noticeable on a night when most of their teammates just didn't have it.

They were among the few Wizards players active on defense and closing out on the three-point line. They helped key a 13-0 run to end the first quarter and helped the team show some life in the second half when the game was already out of hand.

Oubre finished with 19 points, four assists, four rebounds, and three blocks. He was +14. Satoransky had 10 points, seven assists and was +22. If Brooks wants some more energy from his team, those two could provide it.

MORE WIZARDS NEWS: 

Quick Links

Dwight Howard leaves Wizards-Blazers game after aggravating lower muscle injury

Dwight Howard leaves Wizards-Blazers game after aggravating lower muscle injury

While down big against the Blazers on Sunday night, matters got even worse for the Washington Wizards as starting center Dwight Howard exited the game after aggravating his piriformis muscle injury.

Howard initially left the game midway through the second quarter due to foul trouble. Soon after, he went to the locker room with a trainer to get treatment. Howard was clearly frustrated as he walked through the tunnel.

Howard, 32, missed the first seven games of the season due to the injury, a strained piriformis muscle. He was sidelined for all of training camp and the preseason.

The piriformis muscle is located just below the back. Howard has battled discomfort while running, jumping and even sitting while dealing with the injury.

Even when he returned, he told reporters the pain had not completely subsided.

Howard left Sunday's game with two points and three rebounds in seven minutes.

More on this story as it develops...

MORE WIZARDS NEWS: