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Paul Pierce ready to take over if Wall, Beal can't


Paul Pierce ready to take over if Wall, Beal can't

ATLANTA -- With Bradley Beal and John Wall not being anywhere close to 100% because of injuries, Paul Pierce may have to be even more assertive than usual for the Wizards. But the example that is being set by the team's young, star backcourt could have a positive impact beyond Game 2 that's being played tonight at Phillips Arena.

"Every game is different. You don't know what to expect. I'm going to continue to be aggressive when the opportunity presents itself," said Pierce, who scored seven of the Wizards' first nine in a Game 1 victory when he finished with 19. "If that's what my team needs."

Wall had his left wrist, injured in the first half Sunday, checked by two doctors. Both determined that there was no breaks in the same wrist he'd previously broken as a high school sophomore. Beal sprained his right ankle so badly it brought him to tears but he was certain 24 hours ago that he'd be on the court again because the swelling was under control.

Even though it's not his shooting hand, Wall insists it won't change the way he plays with sticking his arm in harm's way to deflect passes, grab rebounds or block shots.

"I feel like when I step out there to help the team win, I got to do it," said Wall, with adhesive bandaging covering a badly swollen hand that he couldn't open and close on Monday. "When I had ankle injuries (during the regular season) I was scared I wouldn't be able to push off certain ways on defense. When you step between those lines and suit up, you got to ... do what you got to do to win the game."

In a first-round series sweep of the Toronto Raptors, Wall injured his right shoulder after he was crunched by Greivis Vasquez during a fall. His shoulder required an MRI the next day though results proved negative. Wall played through the pain and scrambled to the floor again and again on hustle plays.

"When I'm out there, I'm out there for a reason," Wall said. "The swelling has gone down. The pain is decreasing, not increasing."

Pierce, Nene and Marcin Gortat, all much older than the 24-year-old Wall, have dealt with ailments all season. If Wall is willing to give it all, everyone must. Beal is just 21.

"He's been leading by example, showing his mental toughness," Pierce said of Wall. "The guy looks like he got a broken hand and still going out there finishing the games, still going to be out there tonight. I think a lot of the other players see that and say if he can do it, we can do it also."

Another win tonight, and that would make for a 9-1 road playoff record in the last two seasons and four in a row away from Verizon Center to begin this postseason. Other road teams are doing well in the second round, too, as the L.A. Clippers and Chicago Bulls won Game 1 road openers last night.

"We're not satisfied. Even though we won Game 1, we feel like we still haven't played our best game," Pierce said. "Those teams that don't have home-court advantage are showing a great sense of urgency, understanding the moment, the playoffs. You go in somebody else's building and down 0-2 its a tough task getting back in the series. We're trying to get Game 2 also. ... We haven't proven anything yet."

RELATED: [Wizards make decision on Beal, Wall for Game 2]

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Ted Leonsis maintains optimism amid harsh reality of John Wall injury

Ted Leonsis maintains optimism amid harsh reality of John Wall injury

CAPITAL ONE ARENA -- It might be quite a while before we see John Wall on the court playing for the Wizards again.

It was already well-known Wall will miss extended time as he recovers from a ruptured Achilles tendon, a rehab that usually takes at least 11 months. But it is starting to sound more and more like he won't play in the 2019-20 season at all.

Wizards managing partner Ted Leonsis shared that harsh reality on Monday during a press conference at Capital One Arena.

"Our highest-paid player, our five-time All-Star, may not play at all next year. He probably won't play at all next year," Leonsis said.

If Wall follows the general timeline for the surgery, he could come back sometime early in 2020. A 12-month recovery would have him return in early February.

If Wall missed all of next season, he would return to start the 2020-21 campaign after a 20-month recovery. That would be nearly double the rehab time many players have taken for the same injury over the years. He would be 30 years old by then.

But Wall and the Wizards have reason to be extra patient. He is entering the first season of a four-year, $170 million supermax contract. Punting the first year, even if he is making $38 million, could be worth it in the long run if it means he returns to his All-Star form.

The Wizards are also likely to have a gap year of sorts anyways. They retooled their roster with young, inexperienced players. The odds they make the playoffs this season are lower than they have been in years. The Wizards are taking the long view and they know getting Wall's rehab right is paramount.

Leonsis and team officials currently get daily reports on Wall's progress. After making the supermax investment, they are taking extra measures to ensure he is holding up his end of the bargain. The Wizards closely monitor his weight and have a rotation of physical therapists working with him every day.

If it were up to Wall, he would be more likely to return next season. The team is the side taking extra caution.

"Trust me, nobody wants to get back to the court more than John Wall," GM Tommy Sheppard told NBC Sports Washington. 

"But I've tried to manage this with him and say there is no calendar or clock that is going to tell you to come back. You're going to come back when you're 100 percent healthy. Anybody who has watched him in the playoffs play with broken hands and all of the aches and pains he's had over the years and he still showed up and played at a high, high level. You know you need to monitor him a little more than most. That's the kind of player that is going to try to sneak back on the court any time he can."

What Leonsis said publicly has been the belief behind the scenes in the Wizards organization for quite some time. They are preparing for next season as if he won't play, 

"We have to see if John Wall comes back and how he looks and how he plays," Leonsis told NBC Sports Washington. "If John Wall can come back at 80 percent the year after [in 2020-21], I would be really happy because then we would have a great, great backcourt."


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SPOILER ALERT! Wizards make appearance in New York Times crossword on Sunday

SPOILER ALERT! Wizards make appearance in New York Times crossword on Sunday

Fans of both crossword puzzles and the Washington Wizards had a leg-up when completing the New York Times crossword puzzle on Sunday. 

The clue: "Wizards, but not witches."

The answer: 7 letters, "NBATEAM." 

This isn't the first time famous crosswords have included sports-related clues. The Washington Post and LA Times have used Bobby Orr as an answer many of times (trust me, we always have a half-finished crossword puzzle hiding somewhere in our living room). 

But athletes aren't the only answers to clues. Remember when the Post's Isabelle Khurshudyan revealed the Washington Capitals' "cult of crossword men" back in 2016?

The New York Times even published a list of the top-10 sports names to know for crossword fanatics everywhere. 

Just further proof that sports continue to permeate every aspect of life.