Gafford looks good in return from injury


With how much pain Daniel Gafford was in last Wednesday when he fell to the floor holding his right knee in a win over the Boston Celtics, it did not seem like he would be back in the Wizards' starting lineup just five days later. He described the pain as a "seven or eight [out of 10]." He had to undergo an MRI. Yet, he ended up missing only two games.

Not only was Gafford back on Monday as the Wizards played at the Atlanta Hawks, he made an instant impact. He scored the team's first points on a contested layup, then blocked a shot on the very next play. He only spent 15 minutes on the floor due to foul trouble, but it was encouraging for the Wizards to get him back.

"He looked great. He just got winded, which was to be expected," head coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. "Obviously, he picked up the fouls which hurt his minutes a bit. But overall, he was moving great, he was active and bouncy. So, I liked what I saw."

The Wizards lost the game to snap a three-game win streak. They beat the Hawks without Gafford last Thursday, but Atlanta was much better this time around. They led by as many as 17 and were never really threatened in the second half by Washington.

Gafford finished with a modest stat-line of four points, five rebounds and three blocks. He shot 2-for-6 from the field, which was uncharacteristic for him.

But overall, he was pleased with the progress he showed.


"All in all, I felt good. Just finally being back out on the floor, I missed it," he said. "The movement was great. I was jumping, blocking shots. I mean, I felt natural out there. My wind is gonna be better throughout my process of getting back in the flow of the game. But all in all, I felt good."

Gafford said he had never experienced a quad injury anything close to as severe as this one, which he sustained on a collision with Celtics forward Jaylen Brown. That he only missed two games was fortunate for the Wizards, who are already without one of their other centers, Thomas Bryant, who continues to rehab from ACL surgery.

Gafford is back in time before the Wizards prepare for some tough frontcourt matchups. After playing the Raptors on Wednesday, they will see Jonas Valanciunas of the Grizzlies on Friday and then superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo on Sunday. Both are 7-footers and Gafford, at 6-foot-10, will give the Wizards' their best chance to counter their size. With Gafford out, their lone center was 6-foot-7 Montrezl Harrell.

Gafford now has one game under his belt. He looked like his normal self. Next time, he will hope to stay on the floor longer.