The Washington Wizards, one of the most snake-bitten franchises in all of sports, just can't catch a break. On Tuesday, they sent out a press release that shocked even those who have followed them through their lowest moments over the years.
That heel injury John Wall was recovering from? Now, it’s worse. He slipped in his home, ruptured his Achilles and now whether he will play next season is in question.
Wall’s surgery on Jan. 8 to remove bone spurs from his left heel was in part to prevent a future Achilles tear. Wall weighed that risk, knowing a torn Achilles is among the most dreaded injuries in sports.
The words ‘torn ACL’ aren’t as ominous as they used to be. But a torn Achilles offers serious unknowns.
Based on the recovery timeline explained by Dr. Wiemi Douoguih of the Wizards on a conference call, Wall is looking at an 11 to 15 month rehab. That means best-case scenario he comes back in January of 2020. Worst case is he returns in training camp for the 2020-21 season.
DeMarcus Cousins, Wall’s college teammate at the University of Kentucky, may offer a glimmer of hope. He ruptured his Achilles on Jan. 26 of 2018 and returned to game action on Jan. 18 of this year. He also weighs 60-70 pounds more than Wall.
Cousins, though, isn’t as reliant on speed and quickness. He also has the luxury of being slowly brought back into a rotation that includes four other All-NBA players. Even Douoguih noted there isn't much precedent for a player like Wall, "an elite point guard," with this injury.
Before we address the long-term ramifications for the Wizards, and there are plenty, consider the human element. Wall is supposed to be enjoying the best years of what has to this point been an accomplished NBA career. With what happened last year, this year and the expectations for next year, he will miss most of his Age 27, 28 and 29 seasons.
According to research done by Hoops Hype, the peak age in the NBA is about 27 years old. That is based on the fact the average age of All-NBA players throughout the league’s history is 27.7. Many of Wall’s prime years have been wiped away by injuries.
Wall now has to wait and persevere through what will be an arduous road back, all in hopes he can reclaim the glory of who he was from 2010 to 2017. The Wizards, meanwhile, will have to move on without him in their plans for the foreseeable future.
Given Wall was already in the middle of a long recovery, his injury doesn’t change much if anything about this season. But it changes everything about next season, and everything about the upcoming summer.
Re-signing point guard Tomas Satoransky was already atop their list of goals, as NBC Sports Washington reported last month. But now it is priority No. 1. They have to do whatever they can to lock him up beyond this season, or else they will be left with a huge vacancy at arguably the most important position in the sport.
Even if they re-sign Satoransky, Wall’s injury has to change the way they view their 2019 first round pick. If their selection falls in the top 10 or higher, point guards should still be seriously considered. That could mean Ja Morant of Murray State if they miss the playoffs and find luck in the lottery.
As for this season, the Wizards’ views will likely not be changed much at all. Owner Ted Leonsis made it clear they will not undergo a rebuild and trade Bradley Beal or Otto Porter Jr. and he said all of that knowing Wall wouldn't play this season. They want to make the playoffs and an extension of Wall's absence doesn't alter that.
The news on Wall won't make the Wizards go into a rebuild all of a sudden with the NBA trade deadline set for Thursday. But it probably should change the way they see the players they have on expiring deals.
Teams around the league have shown interest in forward Jeff Green, for example. He is having an excellent season, is a veteran with NBA Finals experience and is on a reasonable contract at $2.4 million. Maybe this news convinces the Wizards to more intently listen to offers if future assets can be acquired.
Trevor Ariza would also be in that category, though it is questionable whether the Wizards could make the playoffs without him and/or Green in the mix. It is also not a given they could bring back a piece that could significantly help them down the road.
But for next year, in particular, Wall’s injury is a complete game-changer. And that is not to mention the long-term effects financially, given in just a few months he will enter the first year of a supermax contract that will essentially double his annual salary next season.
MORE WIZARDS NEWS:
- Worst Gets Worse: John Wall's latest injury sets him back 12 months
- Injury Timeline: Wall's injury history
- Scary First Look: Wizards got first look at Giannis and the new-look Bucks
- By the Numbers: Why January worked for the Wiz