CHARLOTTE -- For the first time since 2013, Wizards guard John Wall is not at the NBA All-Star game, representing his franchise in the league’s annual showcase. He was an All-Star five straight years before a pair of surgeries ended his 2018-19 season too early for real consideration.
Now, as he recovers from a ruptured left Achilles tendon, there are no guarantees he will be an All-Star again. Though he is only 28, it is a serious injury with little precedent for point guards of his caliber.
As Wall begins the long road back, he has a lot of people around the NBA rooting for him, including a host of All-Stars.
“I know John would probably want to be playing,” Thunder guard Russell Westbrook said. “But I know he’s going to take it one day at a time and find a way to get back to himself. Me knowing John, that’s all I know [he will do].”
“I’m sad. It’s unfortunate,” Raptors guard Kyle Lowry said. “I texted him and wished him luck. I know he’s got a lot going on. But a trooper and a soldier like him, he will be back in no time at his All-Star level.”
Wall has some All-Stars supporting him that can relate to what he’s going through, guys who have been through long injury recoveries themselves. Sixers big man Joel Embiid missed the first two seasons of his career due to various injuries.
He reached out to Wall when he heard the news to offer him some advice.
“I texted him. I feel sorry for him. I’ve been in that situation and I know it’s going to be a long time. I’ve had to miss a long time, too,” Embiid said.
“The least I can do is just text him and show him my support. I went through it. It’s not easy. It’s hard. He’s gotta trust the process.”
Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard played only nine games last season due to a quadriceps injury. He says Wall needs to think about the big picture.
“You’ve just gotta attack each day and focus on the long run and not just this year,” Leonard said. “It’s where you want to be in three years. Are you going to run like you run in three years?”
Pistons forward Blake Griffin sat out a year after getting drafted in 2009 due to a knee injury. He ironically came back the same year Wall debuted, in 2010-11, and beat him out for the Rookie of the Year award.
Griffin, who is enjoying one of his best seasons at 29 (he turns 30 next month), preached patience.
“It’s unfortunate. You hate to see to something like that. I’m sure he will use this time to advance his game however he can,” Griffin said.
“Having gone through several injuries, you’ve just gotta keep your head up. There’s going to be good days and bad days in rehab. You have to kind of keep your eyes set on that goal of coming back and being dominant again.”
Bucks forward Khris Middleton took on a more personal tone. He is friends with Wall and his teammate, Eric Bledsoe, played with Wall in college at the University of Kentucky.
Middleton and Bledsoe have discussed Wall’s injury together privately. Middleton also made reference to the fact Wall’s mother is battling cancer.
“It’s tough. First, he’s one of my guys. I’ve known him for a long time. He’s a great guy, a great competitor, a great teammate, a great player and a great point guard. To see what he’s going through right now on and off the court, there’s nothing you can do but pray for him,” Middleton said.
“Eric Bledsoe was one of his teammates and one of his good friends. He said he’s going through a rough time and he’s just trying to be there for him. We’re all brothers around here in this league. You just want to be there for a guy when he’s going through something. I hope he makes it through this. I hope everything goes well. I hope to see him back on the court playing at the usual level we’re all used to seeing him play.”
With an 11 to 15-month recovery timeline, Wall won’t be back in time next season to aim for his sixth All-Star appearance. But perhaps in the 2020-21 season, he can be back right where many of his peers feel he belongs.
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