The Washington Wizards were supposed to be an improved team, one with playoff aspirations this season after the additions of Nene and some other valuable pieces to the roster.
The cold hard reality indicates not that it’s a question of whether they might or they should, but that the Wizards simply can’t survive without John Wall, their star point guard, on the court.
Wall is scheduled to return from a stress injury in his left knee by the end of the month. The outlook is promising, since the 22-year-old point guard is already doing ball-handling drills.
However, even though it’s still early in the season and the Wizards shouldn’t fire their coach (like some other teams), it is fair to ask whether Wall will return in time to right the ship.
The record shows that the Wizards are 0-4 (accurate as of Saturday, November 10).
Not only are they one of only two winless teams in the league, but their minus-7.3 point differential is the third worst in the league.
Bradley Beal exemplifies the type of frustration that reigns in Washington, as the rookie guard got ejected on Friday in the waning seconds of a 101-91 loss to the surprising 3-1 Milwaukee Bucks.
The intent behind that looks awfully similar to this:
There is a key difference between the two. Rondo’s foul was unnecessary, yes, but it sent a “message,” questionable as it may have been, in a rivalry that will be continued throughout the regular season and probably into the playoffs.
Beal’s foul had no purpose, it had no message, and it won’t fire up the Wizards.
What was the logic behind it? It probably went something like this: “Oh yeah, I fouled the guy hard losing by nine with 24 seconds to go. Monta Ellis better not try to score in our house. That will show him. They may win by 10, but we are tough, we protect our house. We may not win at our house, but we sure do protect it.”
Beal is a rookie. Yes, he is Washington’s second-leading scorer, but where are the veterans that were supposed to step up? Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza are averaging 6.5 points per game, while the team’s leading scorer is Kevin Seraphin.
Seraphin averages 12.3 points during his 26 minutes on the court. That explains why the Wizards are 28th in the NBA with 88.8 points per contest.
The closest Washington has come to a win during this young regular season was against the Boston Celtics in their second game of the year, an 89-86 loss that came down to execution down the stretch.
That game showed exactly why Wall is so sorely missed by new Wizards head coach Randy Wittman.
The Wizards did hang tough. They overcame an early 14-point deficit and held the Celtics to 42.9-percent shooting.
In spite of their best efforts, Wall’s absence could be seen in the moments that cost them the game.
There was a propensity for turnovers—15 total—that led to 13 points by the Celtics, who turned the ball over just nine times with Rondo pulling the strings.
Then there was the game-deciding play. Four-and-a-half seconds to go, the inbound pass goes to Martell Webster, and he misses a contested three from the corner.
Would the result of the play have been different if the ball had been in Wall’s hands? Maybe, maybe not, but the execution would have probably been better.
What the Wizards hope to get when their star point guard comes back are the explosiveness, ability to score and ability disrupt that Wall has and can be seen in the video below:
That kind of performance won’t come overnight; Wall will need some time to get his feet under him.
Let’s assume that, as the reports say, Wall comes back by the end of the month. Say, Nov. 30 in New York against the Knicks?
That could amount to a 2-7 record in those nine games and a 2-11 record overall the way things are going in Washington right now.
With the Redskins basically out of the playoff chase, the Nationals not coming back until April and the Capitals locked out, Wall’s comeback might be the last reason to be optimistic and happy Washington fans might have for a while.