The problem with John Wall on Saturday night in the Wizards' blowout loss to the Cavs depended somewhat on whom was asked. Either that, or it was all of the above.
Head coach Scott Brooks indicated to reporters in Cleveland that Wall was sick. Bradley Beal referenced personal issues the team would prefer to keep in-house. Wall suggested he was hampered by a nagging left heel injury.
Wall's explanation certainly passed the eye test. He clearly didn't have his trademark burst up and down the floor. Plus, he has been icing his left foot after recent games.
Add it all up and it was enough to produce the worst stat line of Wall's nine-year NBA career. Never before had he been held without a field goal and not once had he scored just one point in a game.
Wall runs the Wizards' offense, so naturally, his lethargic play set a sleepy tone. The Wizards dragged their feet, got shoved around by Tristan Thompson and went down by as many as 29. A reminder that this was against the Cavs, a 6-20 team with the worst defensive rating in the league.
Wall went on to tell the Washington Post that the pain in his heel is bad enough that he can't yet commit to playing on Monday in the Wizards' next game.
When Wall is playing through injuries, he will often go out of his way to downplay them. His admission of the heel injury and how much it has hurt him is unusual and indicates the severity.
Wall has been dealing with several minor leg injuries this season. On top of the heel issue, he played through a thigh bruise earlier this year. But it had yet to be this bad and there may be a reason for that.
Wall returned for this game after being away for a few days to deal with a personal matter. Perhaps that time off made it tough for him to get loose or manage the injury like he usually does when under the watch of team doctors.
That would make sense, given the last time he played, he played well. Wall had 18 points and 15 assists against the Knicks on Monday.
Many factors may have been at play. The result was a hobbled version of Wall, one who couldn't force enough separation to even get his shots off. Wall attempted only five field goals, the second-fewest of his career. Usually, even on his worst shooting nights, Wall can at least put up shots.
The pain and how it affected his game was clearly wearing on Wall. With just under two minutes to go in the first half, he drove into contact in the lane. After missing the layup, and not getting a foul call, he slapped the stanchion under the hoop before slowly turning to head back on defense.
When Wall is at peak powers, he plays with an unrelenting chip on his shoulder, flying to the rim like he's drawn by a magnetic force. He glides down the court, finishing with left-handed dunks and darts to open teammates on the perimeter.
On Saturday, the swagger wasn't there. He hung his head, trotted timidly up and down the court and watched helplessly as rookie Collin Sexton and others drove past him.
Wall was far removed from his usual self against the Cavs. It would be hard to envision a scenario in which the Wizards could win with how he played.
At this point, it wouldn't be surprising if he missed Monday's game against the Pacers. The Wizards need him at or near 100 percent and he wasn't close enough against the Cavs.
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