The day I’ve been waiting for all year has finally arrived; John Wall has returned to the basketball court. The Washington Point Guard received a standing ovation on Saturday when he entered an NBA game for the first time since April. For those who haven’t been paying very close attention to Washington (it’s ok, I don’t fault you) Wall has been dealing with a serious knee injury for the past couple months. The Wizards held their cards pretty close to the chest regarding its severity, but it had been likened to the knee injury that kept Blake Griffin out for the 09-10 season. After waiting patiently on the sidelines night after night, watching his team in the early stages of circling the drain, Wall finally got his chance to jump in and help. And boy did he. The washed out Wizards handily defeated the soaring Hawks 93-83. It was a team effort, but every player had a little more pep in their step with their leader on the floor.
John Wall finished the game with 14 points and 4 assists in 21 minutes of play. Not too shabby for a recently injured player on minute restriction. There is one play in particular that vividly stands out in my memory: Nearing the end of the first quarter, Wall was running down the court to score in transition. Seeing that his path was impeded, he dished back to the trailing Bradley Beal, who threw down an impressive dunk. While the execution itself was memorable, the aftermath is what sticks in my mind. For the first time in a long time, John Wall was smiling. In fact, as he got back on defense I could see him grinning from ear to ear. This was not just the smile of a man returning to his passion, but the smile of a man whose passion had returned to him. There were days with last year’s crew that I thought he would never be happy again; A stoic captain, burdened with dragging Private McGee and Private Young through the NBA trenches. Yesterday, John Wall seemed, in a word, renewed. This is a new team and a new beginning for the burgeoning star.
Thanks to last year’s misadventures, he is now joined by another young guard with potential. This was the first time Wall had played in a game with his new teammate Bradley Beal. As indicated earlier, they wasted little time developing a connection. They were even deadly on the swing. Beal has helped keep the team afloat in Wall’s absence, but I have been very critical of his efficiency. However, they paint the picture of a “better together” duo. John Wall’s ability to draw the defense and facilitate should create better looks for Beal and help him put up a field goal percentage he can hang his hat on. It is my hope that, in time, Bradley Beal can do for John Wall what Monta Ellis did for Brandon Jennings; relieve the scoring burden. If Beal can establish himself as a perimeter threat, The Wizards may end up getting some positive media attention. Heck, if Nene can stay healthy they might even get some wins! I very much enjoy seeing the Wizards succeed and with this kind of a record, Wall hasn’t been the only stoic supporter.
Of course, there are basketball politics regarding Washington’s fate this season. It would probably be best for their future to continue losing so they can draft high. BUT, in the end I’m not worried about that. I’m just glad to see John Wall playing basketball again. I could see in his speed that he hasn’t lost a step, and I could see in his face that he hasn’t lost his hope. I look forward to watching his minutes rise with his spirits, and The Wizards with them.