With 2:17 left in the game with the Portland Trail Blazers, and the Wizards trailing by 17, John Wall finally exited. He'd played 36 minutes two days after a season-high 44.
Not a big deal to many, but considering that the game had long been lost and that Wall has been playing with multiple ailments since the fourth game of the season and is the one player they can't afford to lose, what do the Wizards gain?
Wall had shot 4 of 17 and missed four consecutive mid-range jumpers early in the third quarter. He didn't have the touch. His legs didn't have the same spring. He had nine points, his first game failing to reach double-digits since. Dec. 14.
"I was frustrated. I had the looks that I had ... I wasn't making them. I felt like I was letting my team down," Wall said. "I wouldn't put it on my legs. I had a day off to rest (on Sunday). I just didn't make shots."
A player, especially a proud one like Wall who always feels he has something to prove, isn't going to sit himself down early. But the Wizards (19-21) probably should be more diligent in saving him, focusing on the long game and throwing in the white flag sooner.
They need Wall as fresh as possible with winnable games left in this homestand vs. the Miami Heat tonight, Utah Jazz and Boston Celtics. Win all three, after losing the first two, and they'll be over .500 for the first time in two months.
But coach Randy Wittman is a bit old school. There's always a chance that a team can come back and win if they find a spark but it wasn't happening with Wall in that game Monday. The Blazers led by 24. Such a deficit isn't insurmountable but the Wizards trailed 94-76 entering the fourth quarter.
"He's played 40 before," Wittman said when asked about Wall's minutes. "We had an off day."
While that's true, the more rest Wall can be given it'll only help. Bradley Beal, coming off a stress reaction in his lower right leg, played six of his 24 minutes in the fourth. Marcin Gortat, recently returned from a left knee infection, logged 11 minutes in the fourth.
It can be argued that Beal, who may or may not have been joking when he said Wittman would "forget" that he's on a minutes restriction and overuse him, and Gortat needed the work to be fine-tune their conditioning after their layoffs. Wall, however, has had no off-time. He has carried the load on both ends without Beal for 16 games so when routs like this happen -- and they will happen to all 30 NBA teams -- this is where the Wizards can be more clever in manufacturing more down time for him.
Rookie Kelly Oubre only played three minutes in the fourth. Jarell Eddie and DeJuan Blair were on the floor two minutes. All three could've used more burn just because time will be hard for them to come by when the roster replenishes with the returns of Drew Gooden, Otto Porter, Alan Anderson and Kris Humphries -- none of whom will be available when the Wizards play the Heat tonight.
Maybe they all would be sharper for Miami as a result. And what if, by a long shot, that unit actually found magic in a bottle and cut into the lead with Portland? It happens. Plus it sends a subtle message to the starters who didn't get the job done.
The Blazers wouldn't have had much information about those little-used reserves on the scouting report and may have been unprepared for the change-up. If the score gets the Wizards back in striking distance, then maybe it's worthwhile going back to Wall to steal one.
Wall was given off from practice Tuesday. He won't do much of anything at morning shootaround before the game with Miami. Saving him six or seven minutes here or there won't seem like much, but over an 82-game season it adds up. The nature of coaching is to be concerned about the moment and not what-ifs down the road.
The franchise player -- or players if Beal is re-signs this summer -- no matter how much he may object like a fighter who is being told by the chief second that he's stopping the fight, must be protected. And oftentimes, it's from himself.