When the 2020-21 NBA schedule was released, most Wizards fans probably first took notice of Washington's Jan. 26 meeting with the Houston Rockets, knowing that would be the first match-up against John Wall, who was traded just days after training camp began following 10 years with the franchise.
Though Bradley Beal was his teammate for most of Wall's time with the Wizards, he did his best to downplay their reunion when asked about it on Sunday night following the Wizards' loss to the Spurs. Beal likely knew the question was coming and didn't seem to want to add any hype or bulletin board material.
"I’m sure we’re gonna expect the energetic John Wall. I think we all know that," Beal said.
"I’ve never played against John before, so this is all new to me. He’s going to be energetic. But we’re not just playing John, we’re playing the Rockets. We do have that in the back of our mind, that he’s going to be in attack mode and aggressive. We’re playing Houston. He’s not the only guy we’ve gotta worry about."
Beal listed some of the Rockets' other key players like Victor Oladipo, Christian Wood and DeMarcus Cousins, who had a breakout performance on Saturday night against the Mavericks. Beal clearly doesn't want to make this game about him vs. Wall, which is understandable.
That intention was made clear when Beal was asked if he watches Wall's games on NBA League Pass. He paused for several seconds before essentially saying no, he doesn't.
"I always keep up with John, but that doesn’t mean I’m watching him every night. I do keep up with him. I do stay in contact with him," Beal said. "That doesn’t mean I’m spending every night worrying about John. I’m sure he doesn’t do that with me."
Overanalyzing the match-up between them is for the media and fans to do and the same goes for comparing Wall and Russell Westbrook, whom he was traded for in the December blockbuster deal. But surely Beal will feel some type of way on Tuesday night as he goes up against Wall for the first time in an NBA game.
Beal watched Wall come back from a ruptured Achilles tendon in a recovery process that took two full years. This will be his first up-close glimpse of Wall post-surgery and few know his game and who he was before the injury better than him.
Head coach Scott Brooks decided to focus on that aspect of Tuesday's game.
"It’s no question it’s going to be strange for myself and especially Brad. I have a lot of respect for John. I’ve seen him come back through all his injuries. Really, I coached him for four years, but I really only coached him for one. He was down for all three years, then he missed the last two. I’m proud of him, that he came back the way he came back," Brooks said.
"He’s had a great career already and he’s had some tough luck with his injuries. A lot of guys would have just shut it down [and thought] it wasn’t meant for him. That’s happened with a lot of guys in the league, but he’s fought and he’s fought and he’s fought and he’s come back. I’m looking forward to seeing him."
Wall had been out before Saturday's Rockets win with left knee soreness, but should be ready to go on Tuesday. It is certainly going to be interesting to see him play against the team that up until less than two months ago was the only franchise he had ever known.
The Wizards take on John Wall and the Rockets on Tuesday at 8 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington.