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Wall Week: What Kobe Bryant and other famous NBA Achilles injuries can teach us about John Wall’s recovery

Wall Week: What Kobe Bryant and other famous NBA Achilles injuries can teach us about John Wall’s recovery

This week is Wall Week at NBC Sports Washington. We are rolling out content each day centering around the Wizards' five-time All-Star point guard. Today, we examine how other NBA players have recovered from a ruptured left Achilles...

Wizards guard John Wall is now roughly seven months into his recovery from a ruptured left Achilles, which by most historical measures means he is more than half-way through his rehab. The Wizards, though, have indicated he could miss all of next season. If that scenario plays out, he is only about a third of the way towards returning to action in an NBA game.

There has been a wide variance in recovery times for ruptured Achilles injuries in the past. Most players have taken about 10 to 11 months off. But the time of recovery hasn't necessarily correlated with how successful a player has been once they returned.

Some of the best success stories have involved players returning in 10 months or less. Some of the worst-case scenarios have involved players taking a year or longer.

Here is a breakdown of some of the more notable cases of NBA players tearing their Achilles, including the time they took to recover and how they played following their return...

Kobe Bryant

When: March 2013, Age 34
Recovery time: 240 days
Before: 25.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 4.8 apg, 45.4 FG%, 33.6 3PT%
After: 18.9 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 3.9 apg, 36.6 FG%, 28.5 3PT%

Given he was 34 at the time of the injury, it was predictable Bryant would not return as the same player. Most interesting as it pertains to Wall, though, may be the fact Bryant returned to play only six games the following season. He could have sat out the entire year, but chose to play a handful of games even though the Lakers were en route to a 27-55 finish. Wall and the Wizards may have to face a similar decision in the spring of 2020.

DeMarcus Cousins

When: Jan. 2018, Age 27
Recovery time: 357 days
Before: 21.5 ppg, 11.0 rpg, 3.2 apg, 46 FG%, 33.8 3PT%
After: 16.3 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 3.6 apg, 48 FG%, 27.4 3PT%

Cousins is a guy Wall will likely lean on throughout his recovery, as he just went through it. The two were college teammates and remain good friends. Cousins, though, is not exactly a success story. Though he returned to play well for the Warriors last season, he subsequently tore his quad and then his ACL. Whether those injuries are related to the Achilles tear is not clear, but the whole saga is something Wall would certainly hope to avoid.

Dominique Wilkins

When: Jan. 1992, Age 32
Recovery time: 283 days
Before: 26.2 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 2.6 apg, 46.9 FG%, 29.7 3PT%
After: 21.5 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 2.2 apg, 43.9 FG%, 33.9 3PT%

Wilkins may be the best testimonial for recovering from Achilles surgery. He suffered the injury in his 30s and 27 years ago when sports medicine wasn't as advanced, yet he came back to make two more All-Star and All-NBA teams. He also did so after taking fewer than 10 months off. Wilkins later said this of why he was able to return at such a high level:

“When I came back, people had their doubts, they said I was done and my career was over, but I came back and had my best all-around season of my career,” Wilkins said, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. “It just depends on the person and how driven they are.”

Wesley Matthews

When: March 2015, Age 28
Recovery time: 237
Before: 14.3 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.1 apg, 44.3 FG%, 39.3 3PT%
After: 12.7 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.4 apg, 39.6 FG%, 36.8 3PT%

Like Wall, Matthews is a guard and he tore his Achilles at the age of 28. He suffered the injury in March and returned in time for the start of the next season. Fewer than eight months had passed before he was back in an NBA game. Though that could offer optimism for Wall, Matthews hasn't quite been the same player, at least statistically. His efficiency numbers have dropped off.

Rudy Gay

When: Jan. 2017, Age 30
Recovery time: 273 days
Before: 18.4 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 2.3 apg, 45.2 FG%, 34.5 3PT%
After: 12.7 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 2.0 apg, 49 FG%, 36.8 3PT%

Gay offers one of the best examples of a player who has returned from an Achilles tear. Though he hasn't scored at the same volume that he once did, he is a more efficient player now and a key component of a good Spurs team. Gay has adjusted his game now that he isn't the high-flyer that he once was. Wall may have to evolve a bit himself, depending on how the injury affects his speed.

Chauncey Billups

When: Feb. 2012, Age 35
Recovery time: 296 days
Before: 15.5 ppg, 5.5 apg, 2.9 rpg, 41.6 FG%, 38.9 3PT%
After: 6.2 ppg, 2.2 apg, 1.5 rpg, 36.5 FG%, 34.1 3PT%

Billups' Achilles injury happened so late in his career that he could have retired, yet he decided to come back to play two more seasons. He only managed to play 41 total games those two years and didn't log nearly as many minutes. The hope with Wall, also a point guard, is that his relative youth will give him a better chance of returning to All-Star form.

Elton Brand

When: Aug. 2007, Age 28
Recovery time: 243 days
Before: 20.3 ppg, 10.2 rpg, 2.7 apg, 50.5 FG%, 15.4 3PT%
After: 10.0 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 1.2 apg, 48.9 FG%, 0.0 3PT%

Brand returned to play eight more seasons, but was nowhere near the same player. He was a bit undersized for a big man to begin with and losing a step didn't help. The ominous sign to take away from Brand's recovery is that he was 28, the same age as Wall. And he later explained exactly what was missing when he came back:

“I didn’t have the same explosiveness that I had. … I didn’t have it. I had to change my game a little bit where I jumped off two feet, and I was a little bit slower," he said, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Brandon Jennings

When: Jan. 2015, Age 26
Recovery time: 339 days
Before: 16.6 ppg, 6.2 apg, 3.2 rpg, 39.1 FG%, 35.1 3PT%
After: 6.9 ppg, 4.3 apg, 2.3 rpg, 36.3 FG%, 31.6 3PT%

Jennings was an exciting score-first point guard in his 20s when he suffered the injury, just like Wall. And Jennings ended up having a recovery that was on the longer side, as Wall expects to have himself. But unfortunately for Jennings, he was never the same player again. He appeared in only 143 more NBA games (23 with the Wizards in 2016-17) and most recently played in Russia. Jennings lost a step and couldn't adjust his game properly to compensate.

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How to Watch Wizards vs. Pacers NBA 2K20 simulation and Bradley Beal's 55-point game vs. Bucks

How to Watch Wizards vs. Pacers NBA 2K20 simulation and Bradley Beal's 55-point game vs. Bucks

Sunday night was supposed to feature another exciting Wizard’s game against the Indiana Pacers. However, because the NBA season remains suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, games are not being played as planned. 

Although fans can’t tune into Wizards games in a traditional sense, just like everything else in the world right now, there is a virtual alternative. The Wizards vs. Pacers game will still go on as planned but will be an NBA 2K20 video game simulation. 

This format allows fans to watch a broadcast of the video game where the computer has control. Additionally, the game will feature commentary from NBC Sports Washington’s Wizards experts.

The Wizards fun continues after the game ends, as there is a replay of a game against the Bucks from earlier this season when Bradley Beal hit 55 points in his second of back-to-back 50-points games.

Here's everything you need to join the Wizards action on Sunday night. 

When: 

Sunday, April 5 at 7 PM ET

Where:

  • NBC Sports Washington (channel finder
  • Any of our 24/7 authenticated streaming platforms
  • Monumental Sports Network via its website www.monumentalsportsnetwork.com or via any of its available apps on iOS, Android, Roku, Apple TV, Fire TV, and Xbox.

Broadcast schedule

07:00 PM: NBA 2K20 Simulation: Wizards @ Indiana Pacers (P)

08:00 PM: NBA Classics: Milwaukee Bucks @ Wizards (R)

10:30 PM: NBA 2K20 Simulation: Wizards @ Indiana Pacers (R)

11:30 PM: NBA Classics: Brooklyn Nets @ Wizards (R)

Starting lineups

Wizards: TBD
Pacers: TBD

If you miss the NBA basketball season like all do, tune into NBC Sports Washington on Sunday night to experience the best alternative to a live game. 

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Wizards use strong finish against 76ers to pull out another 2K simulation win

Wizards use strong finish against 76ers to pull out another 2K simulation win

In yet another close finish, the Wizards won their fifth game in seven tries in Friday night's NBA 2K simulation. They managed to take down the visiting Philadelphia 76ers 74-69, who were no doubt hindered by the absence of young star Ben Simmons. 

Bradley Beal starred with 28 points in the game, including 10 in the first quarter, but it was Shabazz Napier who sealed the deal with eight points in the decisive fourth quarter. With 30 seconds left in the game, Napier rebounded his own miss and found Thomas Bryant for a short jumper to seal the victory.

Napier finished with 14 points and 6 assists, and he and Beal combined to go a perfect 8-8 at the free throw line in the game.

The young guard also dished it out, including one of the game's biggest highlights when he found a flying Rui Hachimura above the rim.

Here are some key takeaways from the Wizards' latest win.

Strong runs bookend the game

The Wizards struggled in the middle of the game, but they both started and finished strong.

Buoyed by their strong defense, the Wizards took advantage of Ben Simmons' injury to completely stifle the 76ers early. After the first quarter, Washington led 19-10 and looked like they might run away with the game. 

After allowing the 76ers to chip away in the second and third quarters, the Wizards found themselves trailing midway through the fourth quarter. Then, Napier and Beal took over once more, combining for 14 points in the quarter during a key 18-4 Wizards run.

Strong paint performance

The Wizards allowed Philadelphia to record seven blocks in the game, but otherwise dominated in the paint. Even without Ben Simmons on the floor, 76ers center Joel Embiid couldn't get going, finishing the first half with zero points.

On the other side of the court, the Wizards saw great production from their frontcourt. Thomas Bryant has been consistently pulling in rebounds in recent games, and that remained true with nine more boards Friday night.

Moe Wagner was all over the place for the Wizards as well, just missing a double-double. He finished with 9 points and 11 rebounds, to go along with 3 blocks.

Overall, the Wizards outscored the 76ers 46-32 in the paint in the game. 

Wizards overcome lack of 3-point shooting

In the era of pace-and-space, it's rare to see a team win without shooting the ball well. But that's exactly what happened Friday night. While the Wizards enjoyed a big advantage in the paint, they struggled to find their shots from beyond the arc.

Washington made just two 3-point shots in the game, attempting only six. Bradley Beal missed his only attempt from long range, and notorious marksman Davis Bertans finished the game with zero total shot attempts.

The 76ers' shooting night wasn't much better. Philadelphia finished 6-of-18 on three-point shots, with Tobias Harris making half of those thanks to a 3-for-5 night.

Other parting thoughts

Beal may not have had the game's biggest highlights, but even in the virtual world he cannot be stopped from scoring.

Scoring 28 points in 26 minutes is the definition of a video game statline. His 12 points in the third quarter were crucial in keeping the Wizards in the lead.

Rui Hachimura may not have had his best statistical performance, but one of the top rookies in the league managed to impress with his court vision.

There are few things more beautiful in (virtual) basketball than great defense turning into easy transition offense.

Having won five of their last seven games, the 2K Wizards will head to Indiana Sunday to take on a quality virtual Pacers team. 

Stay connected to the Capitals and Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

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