Avdija makes return for Wizards after long injury recovery


After six months of patiently working his way back from a fractured right ankle, Wizards' 2020 first round pick Deni Avdija made his return to live game action on Saturday night against the New York Knicks.

It was only 16 minutes. He scored four points, grabbed three rebounds and recorded one assist. The box score may not say much about the experience, but for Avdija it was a long-awaited moment to get back to what he does best.

"I missed basketball. I missed being on the court, on the NBA court," Avdija said. "I don't take anything for granted. I enjoy every moment, I enjoy being there with my teammates, fans, coaches and hopefully we're going to have fun this season."

Avdija, 20, got both of his buckets in transition. Raul Neto found him for an easy layup on a two-on-one fastbreak. Not long after, Bradley Beal led Avdija up the court with a backspin pass that Avdija took and slammed home for a breakaway dunk.

There were also some errors Avdija will want to account for moving forward. He turned the ball over passing to Montrezl Harrell in the post and got fooled on a pump fake by Evan Fournier that led to an open three.

But just being out there was enough for Avdija to consider it a successful night.

"It's a good first step, to get it going and feel it out a little bit," Avdija said.

Wizards head coach Wes Unseld Jr. thought Avdija's performance was mixed, but came away encouraged by what he saw.


"It was good, it was really good. He didn't make shots. We got him off the ball playing second side pick-and-roll, which I thought was great. He made the right reads," Unseld Jr. said.

Avdija said his main objectives on Saturday were adjusting the pace and physical contact of the NBA level. He added that getting up to speed against some of the best athletes on the planet is not easy after six months off.

But Avdija did notice a difference in himself between last year, his rookie season, and now. He felt much more comfortable with one year of experience under his belt.

"A hundred percent. I wasn't as like, I think the right word was shocked my first year," Avdija said.

"Second year, you already know where you are. You know the arena, you've seen it all. You've seen all the teams, you've faced all the defenses in the league."

The Wizards have high hopes for Avdija, the No. 9 pick in the 2020 draft. He is expected to play an increased role in the offense, ideally with more play-making responsibilities.

We only saw brief glimpses of that against the Knicks, but that can come later. Saturday was just about getting him back out there.