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Wizards are pleased with how well they've fared without John Wall so far

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Wizards are pleased with how well they've fared without John Wall so far

After the Wizards determined John Wall needed injections in his knee and would be out approximately two weeks, head coach Scott Brooks issued a message to his team he hoped they would take to heart.

"We're not going to be a better team without John, but we can be a better team when he comes back," Brooks said.

The Wizards may be without Wall for another week or longer, as he was prescribed the two-week recovery on Nov. 25 following platelet-rich plasma treatment and viscosupplementation injections in his left knee. So far through four games, the Wizards have gone 2-2, a decent mark all things considered. Add in the two games Wall missed prior to the two knee procedures and the Wizards are 3-3 without their point guard this season.

Brooks knows they aren't in the clear yet, but he's pleased with the way his team has responded to Wall's absence.

"Three-and-three without him is really good considering, I think, four of the games were on the road," Brooks said. "It gives us some confidence going on a five-game road trip. It's not going to be easy." 

[RELATED: WALL SPEAKS FOR FIRST TIME SINCE KNEE PROCEDURES]

The three wins the Wizards have secured without Wall this season have all come against good teams. They beat the Raptors and Timberwolves on the road and the Pistons at home. All have winning records and hold top five playoff seeds at the moment.

The wins against Minnesota and Detroit in the past week were despite Bradley Beal having off scoring nights. He had eight points and 10 points, respectively, way down from his season average of 22.6 per game. WIth Wall out and Beal struggling, others have had to step up to fill the void. 

The Wizards' offensive numbers like points per game and field goal percentage have dipped with Wall out, which is to be expected. Removing him from the lineup takes away his 20.3 points and 9.2 assists per game. They have, however, been able to limit turnovers with 10.0 per game without Wall, down from their 14.3 per game season average.

Their defense has also locked in quite nicely. They are allowing less points per game than they usually do, 101.5 compared to 103.8. And their opponent's field goal percentage (45.5) and defensive rating (103.7) are right around normal.

With Wall out and defenses keying in on Beal to a signficant degree, the Wizards have found other ways to compete for wins. Otto Porter and Markieff Morris have helped compensate on offense and their bench has put together arguably their best stretch of the season.

[RELATED: HOW THE WIZARDS CHOSE THE NAME FOR THEIR G-LEAGUE AFFILIATE]

Porter has stepped up to lead the Wizards in scoring with 17.8 points in his last four games. Their second unit has made a major difference with Kelly Oubre, Jr. (14.8 ppg), Tomas Satoransky (10.0 ppg, 5.5 apg, zero turnovers) and Jodie Meeks (11.3 ppg, 50% FG) standing out above all. Ian Mahinmi has also come through after a slow start to the season with strong defensive efforts including against Karl-Anthony Towns and Joel Embiid.

Wall himself has been impressed with the team's performance.

"I think our bench has played a lot better the last couple of games. I hope the bench can keep playing the way they’ve been playing," he said. "It’s a lot different when I’m not there... It’s a lot different. I know nobody can be me, but they can be themselves and try to help the team win."

The Wizards are about to embark on a five-game road trip that begins Monday night at the Utah Jazz. Four of the five games are out west.

The schedule hasn't been ideal with Wall out, there are many road games and matchups against good teams. But if they can maintain a .500 record or better without him, they will be in good shape once he returns. They will also give Wall some breathing room to come back when he is absolutely ready to do so.

"Any win we can get without him is good for the team," forward Markieff Morris said. "If we can get some more wins before he comes back, it will be an easy transition."

[RELATED: WIZARDS OWNER WONDERS IF NBA DRAFT SHOULD EXPAND]

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Barack Obama had front row seat to Zion Williamson injury: 'His show broke'

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Barack Obama had front row seat to Zion Williamson injury: 'His show broke'

Former President Barack Obama is just like us.

While attending Wednesday night's North Carolina vs. Duke game, Obama had a front-row seat to Zion Williamson's wild shoe-breaking move. He was just as shocked as the rest of us.

Just 36 seconds into one of the greatest rivalries in college basketball, Williamson was making a move towards the basket when his left foot slipped. Trying to find enough balance to counter his collapsing leg, the 6-foot-7, 285 pound player took to his right leg causing his sneaker to completely tear apart. Zion, who is a big enough superstar that he can be recognized just by his first name, then left the game and did not return with what Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski described as a "mild right knee sprain." 

Zion's rookie season has been headlined by his monster-like ability, but tearing a Nike shoe apart is something not even the 44th President of the United States has seen before.

After the game, Obama tweeted his well wishes to the 18-year-old. 

Duke felt the loss of Zion as the Tar Heels went on to win 88-72. How much time the predicted No. 1 overall pick of the 2019 NBA Draft will miss will become clearer Thursday. Duke heads up to No. 7 Syracuse Saturday.

"When you lose the leading candidate for national player of the year, you have a lot of adjusting to do," Coach K said after the game. 

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Wizards coach Scott Brooks returns from All-Star break with positive news on Dwight Howard's rehab

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Wizards coach Scott Brooks returns from All-Star break with positive news on Dwight Howard's rehab

Wizards head coach Scott Brooks returned from the All-Star break to the team's practice facility on an icy evening in Washington with something he hadn't provided in months: an update on Dwight Howard.

The Wizards center, who has been recovering from back surgery since Nov. 30, is due to arrive in D.C. soon to continue his rehab. Since the procedure, he has been working out in Atlanta, slowly building strength and flexibility.

Howard is now ready to take the next step in that rehab. He is set to begin on-court work and would have done so on Wednesday if it weren't for a flight cancellation due to the weather.

"Hopefully he'll be back tomorrow and get back on the court," Brooks said. "It's exciting to have him back."

Howard, 33, still has a long way to go. As Brooks explained, Howard isn't ready for much more than light shooting work. He hasn't been cleared for contact or even 1-on-1 drills. 

Brooks gave no sense of a timeline for Howard to return to game action.

"I don't know how that long is going to be before he can participate in a game, but that is not our concern right now. Our concern is to get him some good work every day and let those days pile up on one another and see where it takes us," Brooks said.

Signed as a free agent by the Wizards last summer, Howard has appeared in only nine games due to the injury. It was first revealed on media day, the day before Wizards training camp began. He missed their entire preseason before making his debut on Nov. 2. He last played on Nov. 18 in a loss to the Blazers.

News that Howard would need back surgery came two weeks later. The procedure was to relieve a herniated disc.

He was given a timeline of two-to-three months before he would be re-evaluated. Jan. 30 marked two months since the surgery and soon after that milestone, the Wizards sent a trainer to Atlanta to check on him.

The Wizards have 24 games remaining on their schedule. If Howard can play any number of those, it should help the team. His biggest strength is rebounding and the Wizards have been among the worst teams in the league on the glass this season.

There are also salary implications to a Howard return. He has a player option for next season worth $5.6 million. If he can come back and play well, the odds of him opting out to test free agency would seemingly go up. Such a move would give the Wizards more financial flexibility this off-season.

As Brooks said, we could be a long way away from Howard's return. But Wednesday was a good sign that he's getting closer, even if he wasn't physically with the team yet.

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