WASHINGTON -- Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard can sense John Wall's frustration just by looking at him. While most of the team has reported early for training camp to scrimmage at the team's practice facility, all Wall can do is watch through the large glass window of their training room as he works out on the elliptical machine or jogs on a treadmill.
Wall is nearing the eight-month mark of his Achilles surgery rehab and he has at least four or so months still to go. If he misses all of next season, as the Wizards have indicated is possible, he is still more than a year away from returning to the court in an NBA game.
For a five-time All-Star for whom basketball has been a central piece of his life, that isn't easy to accept. Wall already missed 91 games over the past two seasons. He is far more used to sitting out than he would prefer to be. And the wait isn't going to end anytime soon.
"It reminds of me of a kid that can't go out and play," Sheppard said at his preseason press conference on Thursday.
Wall, 29, doesn't have many options at this point other than to remain patient and trust his doctors. But while he is out, Sheppard believes he can still play an important role for the Wizards.
Wall will be at practices and on the bench for each game doing more than wearing shiny tailored suits. He will serve as a sort of adjunct assistant coach for the Wizards this season.
Wall, in fact, will have a more detailed role than the average star player recovering from injury.
"You'll see him a lot more active with our players, with our coaches. Scotty has kind of made him an assistant coach in effect in practice," Sheppard explained.
"He's got some people he's going to be responsible for. I think anybody who's ever sat with John knows that he's a basketball savant. He knows where all 13 people are on the court at all times, including the refs. He's got a lot of knowledge and we're challenging him to share that knowledge with our young guys."
Wall has nine NBA seasons under his belt. He was a high school sensation, a star at Kentucky and the No. 1 pick in the 2010 draft before that. He has now been around long enough that when rookies come into the league, many of them grew up watching him play.
Sheppard can see how much they admire Wall for what he's accomplished in the NBA.
"It's been fun watching the young guys coming in and I've heard one or two rookies say 'he's so nice, I used to play him on Playstation.' I said to John 'hey, you're getting old just like all of us,'" Sheppard said.
That respect could come in handy when Wall decides to speak up in the locker room. And his personality suggests he won't hold back. Sheppard spoke of Wall's ability to deliver messages the coaches can't and how his lack of a filter will be beneficial when honesty is needed.
At this point, it's the most Wall can do. Eventually, he will want to get back on the court and do what he does best. Until then, he's Coach Wall.
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