- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 3, 2013

As he jogged off the court Thursday, Washington Wizards guard John Wall was wearing a jersey, not a T-shirt. It’s a telltale sign that he participated in practice, as opposed to doing what coach Randy Wittman likes to call “dummy” drills.

Wall declined to speak with reporters, but Wittman didn’t seem to mind, especially now that he can finally say the words “John Wall” and “practice” in the same sentence.

“He did some live contact today, as did Trevor [Ariza],” Wittman said. “You could see the excitement in [Wall’s] eyes to reach that point. It was good. That’s a positive, trust me. Now we’ve got to get him in shape. That’s the main thing. He’s been out a long time.”

Wall, who hasn’t played all season because of a stress injury to his left knee, has kept up his conditioning with non-weight-bearing workouts. After waiting this long, Wittman isn’t about to rush him back.

“We’ve got to make sure he’s in good condition,” Wittman said. “He can’t go out there and hurt himself from a calf muscle or a hamstring or something. We don’t want to set ourselves up for that.”

Mired in a three-game losing streak, and on the heels of a back-to-back against Dallas and Indiana, Wittman could have opted to give his players the day off. He didn’t.

“We needed practice,” Wittman said. “We need to get better.”

Washington (4-26), has the worst record in the NBA and ranks last in scoring, averaging 88.7 points. One reason for optimism, though, is Wittman finally having his entire team on the court at one time, including all of the walking wounded — Wall, Ariza, Trevor Booker and A.J. Price.

Price, who had the cast removed from his broken right hand last week, did the “dummy” drills, while Ariza (strained left calf), Booker (strained right knee) and Wall did minimal contact drills. Ariza, Wittman said, is the closest to being ready to return.

“I don’t really have any explosion off of it yet, the way I want it to be,” Ariza said, “but it’s pretty good.”

Ariza has been out of the lineup since Dec. 4. He knows it’s a long shot, but he’s hoping to play Friday against Brooklyn.

“Yeah, if I can, if it’s not sore tomorrow, if it’s not fatigued or tight, definitely,” Ariza said of playing through his injury.

He didn’t even mind the extra practice session, especially since it was the first time this season that all 15 players were on the court.

“Everybody was excited,” Ariza said. “Everybody played with a lot of intensity today. Everybody wanted to be here. Everybody was excited to practice, so that’s a good thing.”

As for Price, he says he’s about 80 percent.

“We’ll see what happens in the next week or so and after I’m cleared, I’ll be ready to go,” Price said. While doing his “dummy” drills, he had a chance to take a look at Wall, the player he was brought here to back up, for the first time in practice.

“He looked good,” Price said. “I think he did a great job of keeping himself in shape. He wasn’t winded or too overly gassed. He’s still the same player. Fast, aggressive. He looked good, like his old self.”

• Carla Peay can be reached at cpeay@washingtontimes.com.

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