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How many games will John Wall need to reach midseason form before the playoffs?

How many games will John Wall need to reach midseason form before the playoffs?

All signs seem positive in John Wall's recovery from arthroscopic left knee surgery, as over the weekend he went through full 30-minute workout on the court before the Wizards took on the Miami Heat.

He took shots, he stretched and even ran. This Wednesday will mark six weeks since he had the procedure and the initial timeline was six-to-eight weeks. 

Wall still has several milestones to reach. He hasn't practiced, though that could happen very soon. He will need to work his way up to 5-on-5 scrimmages and along the way be cleared for contact.

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With light at the end of the tunnel, the question of how many games Wall will play by the end of the regular season is coming into focus. The Wizards are on track to make the playoffs and not only want Wall back, they want him at his best. That likely will not happen immediately when he returns.

Like any player coming back from an extended absence, Wall will need to play himself into game shape. All the calisthenics and time on the exercise bike can only get him to a certain point. The same goes for game simulation in practice. Nothing quite compares to live NBA action.

The problem is that the Wizards' regular season is nearing its close. There are only 15 games remaining. 

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The Wizards have three games this week and three games the next. If he comes back in two weeks, he will have nine games to work with.

There is an important factor to consider in all of this. Of the Wizards' final seven games, six are part of back-to-back sets. Head coach Scott Brooks said recently that it's likely Wall will be on a minutes restriction when he returns and could be limited in back-to-backs.

Given the recent history of how the team has handled injured players and specifcially Wall and knee issues, it's plausible he is only allowed to play in one out of two games in back-to-backs. In that case, Wall returning with nine games left would actually mean six or seven. And those first few games could include minutes restrictions. 

NBC Sports Washington analyst Tony Massenburg, who played 13 seasons in the NBA, said on the Wizards Extra podcast he thinks it usually takes about five-to-seven games for an NBA player to get his conditioning and rhythm back. If Wall misses two more weeks and has restrictions when he returns, he will bump right up against that threshold.

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Massenburg's timeline makes sense if you look back at how Wall played when he returned earlier this season from platelet-rich plasma (PRP) treatment on his left knee. He averaged just 14.2 points and 5.8 assists while shooting 35.5 percent from the field in his first five games. He then posted double-doubles in the next three.

The good news is that the Wizards have played relatively well without Wall. Though they have lost four of six, they are 12-7 since he went down. They don't need to rush him back and that is the most important aspect of all of this.

But it is getting close to the point where it's fair to wonder how much time Wall will have before the postseason begins. It's one thing to be playing catch-up in the regular season. It's a completely different task when done in the playoffs.

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Austin Rivers' connections to D.C. make him feel at home with Wizards

Austin Rivers' connections to D.C. make him feel at home with Wizards

The city of Washington, D.C. first made an impression on Austin Rivers when he was 14 years old, a little brother tagging along to watch his older brother, Jeremiah, play college basketball.

The older Rivers played two seasons at Georgetown in Northwest Washington before transferring to Indiana University. Austin would accompany their parents on trips up north from their home base of Winter Park, Florida. 

"I used to love coming up here. I used to love the street in Georgetown, the area is so cool. They have all the boutique shops and restaurants and stuff," Austin said, referring to the area near M St. and Wisconsin Ave.

Twelve years after Jeremiah became a Hoya, Austin has joined the Wizards. He was traded to Washington in a July deal that sent Marcin Gortat to the L.A. Clippers.

Rivers' perception of D.C. has changed over the years, as he has grown older and seen it from a different viewpoint. Judging D.C. as a road city when you're an NBA player takes on different elements than his first impression as a young high schooler traveling with his parents.

Rivers, though, has grown to like Washington even more after coming to town on NBA road trips. He said the Four Seasons hotel in Georgetown is one of his favorites in the NBA's landscape.

Rivers has also noticed an energetic crowd at Wizards games that is craving for an NBA contender. He thinks there is a lot of potential for the team to grow its fanbase.

"You look at the sports and you saw what the Capitals did [winning the Stanley Cup]. They've got the Redskins. It's a good sports town," Rivers said. "I think the city would have a lot of energy around if we were able to do something like that and go far in the playoffs and make things shake. I'm excited to be here."

Rivers said his fianceé is also looking forward to making Washington home. Though he has just one year left on his contract, they plan to make the most of their stay, however long it ends up being.

"My fianceé is huge into the museums, so I've already gotta check her and be like, 'We can only do so much,'" he said. "We've gotta find somewhere to live here first."

Regardless of how long Rivers stays in Washington, he and his family will have a lifelong connection to the city. The couple is expecting their first child, Kaden James Rivers, who will go by K.J. 

K.J. is going to spend at least the first few months of his life in D.C. Rivers certainly hopes for some positive on-court memories to pair with all of the off-court links already in place.

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Wizards got far fewer national TV games than the NBA's marquee teams

Wizards got far fewer national TV games than the NBA's marquee teams

After winning 43 games last season and losing in the first round of the playoffs, the Wizards are seeing the effects of what amounted to a down year.

The 2018-19 NBA regular season schedule release was on Friday and, as always, people took note of which teams are playing on national TV and how often. The Wizards are very far down the list.

That is despite the fact they added Dwight Howard this offseason and despite the fact their disappointing 2017-18 season was largely due to John Wall missing 41 games. Still, the Wizards have fallen quite a bit from their standing just a year ago.

Here is the entire NBA in order from most national TV games to the fewest:

Lakers - 32
Warriors - 29
Rockets - 28
Celtics - 27
Thunder - 27
Sixers - 27
Bucks - 18
Raptors - 15
Nuggets - 14
Spurs - 13
Blazers - 13
Pelicans - 13
Timberwolves - 13
Pacers - 12
Jazz - 11
Wizards - 8
Knicks - 5
Mavericks - 5
Heat - 5
Pistons - 4
Suns - 3
Bulls - 3
Clippers - 3
Cavaliers - 2
Kings - 1
Magic - 1
Grizzlies - 1
Hornets - 1
Hawks - 1
Nets - 1


(list compiled by @JADubin5 and does not include NBATV)

As you see, the Wizards have eight total games on ESPN, TNT or ABC. They are 16th in the NBA, exactly where they finished in terms of their regular season record last season.

This is a major drop from the year before when the Wizards had 18 national TV games. That was following a 2016-17 season when they won 49 games and reached Game 7 of the second round of the playoffs. Six fewer wins and one less round in the playoffs has made the difference of 10 national TV games.

Only two teams that made the playoffs last season have fewer national TV games than the Wizards. One is the Heat, who don't have a superstar player, and the other is the Cavaliers, who still have Kevin Love but lost LeBron James to the Lakers in free agency.

Meanwhile, several teams with either equal or less starpower than the Wizards got more national TV love. The Pacers, Jazz, Pelicans, Blazers and Timberwolves are all fun to watch and have All-Stars, but the Wizards are arguably on their level in terms of player Q-rating and intrigue.

There are no surprises at the top of the list. The Lakers getting more games than anyone after signing James was to be expected. The Warriors and Rockets being up there at the top is appropriate, given they were the NBA's two best teams last season.

Beyond them, the list shows how several teams are making significant leaps in terms of their place on the national stage. The Sixers are tied for the fourth-most national TV games with 27 after their breakout year. The Bucks have 18, a sign that more and more people want to see Giannis Antetokounmpo. Also, the Nuggets at 14 national TV games is an indication of their expected rise.

For the Wizards, they have to once again prove themselves to be a marquee team. Two years ago, being overlooked seemed to work in their favor. They used it as motivation and ended up changing the narrative very quickly.

Keep in mind that national TV games can be added on the fly during the season. The Wizards earned more during the 2016-17 season and then got a ton of them for 2017-18. Given they seem to operate better as underdogs, this might end up a positive.

The other silver lining is that there will be more games on NBC Sports Washington. That means more Steve Buckhantz and Kara Lawson and greater odds for "Dagger!" calls. Surely, no one will complain about that.

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