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John Wall looks great in full-court scrimmage at Wizards practice

John Wall looks great in full-court scrimmage at Wizards practice

WASHINGTON -- Eleven months into his recovery from Achilles surgery, Wizards point guard John Wall is making rapid progress in his rehab.

Last week he began playing in three-on-three scrimmages. Now, this week he has ramped up to four-on-four contact games with members of the Wizards player development staff, plus teammate Johnathan Williams.

That's a notable step, as he is technically facing off with some NBA competition. And, as you can see in videos of the games, he is looking quite good.

Wall appears to still have his trademark straight-line speed on the fastbreak. On several occasions, he blew past defenders to score at the rim.

His three-point shot looked particularly good. He sank a series of threes in the halfcourt offense.

Though his mobility was the most interesting thing to watch, given the nature of his injury, it was Wall's passing that stood out above all. It is, of course, his best skill and some of the assists he had were the types of plays only a few people in the league can make.

A few of his passes provided some cool moments with Wizards assistant coach and Washington Mystics star Kristi Toliver. They are two of the best guards in D.C. basketball history and this is the first time the public has been able to see them operate as teammates.

It was easy to see how much Wall was enjoying this step in his recovery. Keep in mind he hasn't played in a real game since Dec. 26 of 2018. He clearly misses the game and seemed thrilled to back in his element.

After one buzzer-beater, he threw a big fist pump to celebrate. And on a series of plays, he stared at the cameras afterward. He was creating basketball highlights for the first time in over a year.

Wall did most of his best work on offense. On defense, you could see the areas of his rehab that still need to be filled out. Achilles injuries are notorious for affecting lateral quickness. It's usually the last direction of movement that comes back. Wall was limited staying in front of his man at times as he was clearly keeping that in mind and playing it safe.

Wall, though, did have a chase-down block on one play. That is his signature move on the defensive end.

Wall had his surgery on Feb. 12 of 2019. The recovery timeline is 11-to-15 months. Now that he is in the 12th month, Wall is already able to put on a show and have a lot of fun doing it. That's a great sign.

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Many Wizards players plan to wear social justice messages on back of jerseys

Many Wizards players plan to wear social justice messages on back of jerseys

The NBA's initiative allowing players to wear social justice messages on the backs of their jerseys, instead of their last names, in Orlando is being fully embraced by members of the Washington Wizards.

Ian Mahinmi and Moe Wagner have said they will wear 'vote.' Troy Brown Jr. and Jerome Robinson will wear 'Black Lives Matter.' Shabazz Napier says he has chosen 'equality' as his message.

RELATED: WAGNER TO WEAR 'VOTE' ON JERSEY

Every Wizards player who has been asked during media availability from Disney World so far has committed to participating. Their reasons are specific to the person, but they are in unity when it comes to the overall message.

"I play 82 games with my name on the back of my jersey," Brown said. "To have an opportunity to put something that I truly believe in and that needs to be addressed on the back of my jersey, I took that opportunity and am definitely going to make the most of it."

"I think for me, I will put 'Black Lives Matter' on the back of my jersey just because that is the biggest symbol of representation of what we have going on right now," Robinson said. "Through the whole quarantine, with the George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and the amount of people that were murdered for no reason at all, or for terrible reasoning; I think it's the biggest symbol on one of the biggest platforms."

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In asking the players, it's clear they thought deeply about which message to choose. The NBA gave them options that also include 'justice' and 'I can't breathe.' 

For Napier, there were many layers to his decision to wear 'equality.'

"I think in this world, in this moment right now, we're fighting amongst each other, whether it's black or white or women or men. I think for us to understand that everybody should be held at an equal standard, no matter the race and no matter the gender. That speaks loudly to me. I was raised by my mother only, so I understand the trials and tribulations that women go through on a daily basis to a certain extent," he said.

"I think that it's very important that as much as the [racial issues] we are dealing with at the moment, it's the same for gays and their equal rights. I think equality means a lot. I think if we get that down, sooner or later things will come to fruition and we will live in a positive world."

There has been some debate about whether the NBA returning will be a negative distraction to the social justice matters percolating around the country. But the Wizards plan to make the most of their platform in Orlando, hoping to raise more awareness for the causes they believe in.

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Wizards players react to teammates contracting coronavirus

Wizards players react to teammates contracting coronavirus

Though the percentages may be lower for young, well-conditioned athletes, coronavirus remains a real threat to NBA players and the Washington Wizards were served a reminder of that this week with the reported positive tests for Thomas Bryant and Gary Payton II.

Forward Troy Brown Jr., who is close with Bryant, said he has talked to his friend and teammate since he came down with Covid-19. He believes Bryant will be able to join the team in Orlando before too long.

"I talked to him a little bit. It's just more so day by day," Brown said. "I don't think it was anything other than just him doing normal stuff [when he contracted it]."

Guard Jerome Robinson is with the Wizards at Disney World, taking their team flight down on July 7. But he says the decision to play was not a simple one.

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Robinson felt uneasy about the risk of being around people and playing basketball during the worldwide pandemic.

"There was some thought [of not going]. For the most part, for me my concerns were just the safety of it all. It's a deadly virus and we don't have a vaccine," he explained.

"It was kind of scary being around my family and things like that. I don't want to get put in a circumstance where we all get it our I get it or things of that nature, [especially] any elder. The biggest thing is how can we be safe during this whole thing."

Robinson is 23 years old and an NBA player in tip-top shape. But he has read enough of the news to realize, though the odds are lower, the possibility remains for someone of his age and health to be affected by the virus.

"Even us, being young people, you don't want to be that one because it can happen. It's a deadly virus and it's something that we have to take seriously," he said.

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