The Story: John Wall’s troublesome left knee will sideline him for six to eight weeks and keep him out of the All-Star Game, The Washington Post reported Tuesday. Wall will undergo a “scope” or a “cleanup” about a month after returning from an extended absence caused by pain in the same knee. The Post reported that Wall specifically did not want to wait on surgery so that he could be back for the playoffs.
The Importance: This is a huge blow for the Wizards, who already lost Wall for nine straight games earlier this season. The 27-year-old banged knees with a Dallas Mavericks player in early November, leading him to receive platelet-rich plasma and viscosupplementation injections to reduce the inflammation. Wall returned in mid-December, and Washington proceeded to win nine of its next 13 games. But the Wizards are 4–6 in their past 10 games and 27–22 overall, tied for fifth in the East.
Wall signed a four-year, $170 million super-max extension with Washington this summer. He overcame a left leg injury earlier in his career. If this injury lingers past this season, the repercussions would be significant.
The Takeaway: The Wizards are two games ahead of the eighth-place Sixers and four and a half games ahead of the ninth-place Pistons, who just traded for Blake Griffin. Unless Bradley Beal goes supernova or backup point guard Tim Frazier is able to replicate Wall’s 19.4 points and 9.3 assists per game (he won’t), getting bumped out of the playoff picture, at least until Wall returns, is a plausible outcome.
The loss of Wall will expand not just Beal’s role, but Otto Porter Jr.’s and Kelly Oubre Jr.’s, too. Don’t get me wrong: The Wizards have the talent to stay in the mix, but they’re in trouble. It’s not quite “miss the playoffs” trouble, but we’re in “Wall comes back and we get swept in the first round” territory. The only upside is that the All-Star point guard’s absence will force Washington to learn to play without him.
The Wizards are frustrating because, on paper, they should be better than they are. More than anything, they need to find a third star to play with Wall and Beal. Instead, much-maligned GM Ernie Grunfeld will likely have to use his available resources to acquire backcourt help before the February 8 trade deadline.