- The Washington Times - Friday, May 8, 2015

Considering the circumstance, John Wall was in a decent mood Friday afternoon. His injured left hand played with the strings of his sweatpants while he answered questions about it. The only conclusion Friday was that Wall and the Washington Wizards don’t know if he will play in Game 3, any other part of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Atlanta Hawks or, should the Wizards advance, beyond.

“I have no idea,” Wall said. “Depends on how my swelling and all the pain goes away, that’s all I can dictate off of. I finished Game 1 with it, but not knowing that I had anything wrong. Then I came back and got an evaluation, so I have no idea.”

Wall returned to Washington and underwent further testing on Wednesday on the wrist and hand that he fell on in the second quarter of Game 1. X-rays taken in Atlanta did not reveal an injury beyond a sprain. An MRI and CAT scan later showed five non-displaced fractures in his left hand and wrist and immediately clouded Wall’s future.

It’s moving better,” Wall said. “But still pain there. I haven’t tried dribbling again, so I’ll probably try tomorrow. Just the same pain has been there even though the swelling has gone down a little bit.”

The reduction in swelling has been minimal. Wall said if he can’t dribble and the play the way he is accustomed to — he was the starting point for the Eastern Conference all-star team this season — that he is unlikely to be on the floor. He was able to play through the injury in Game 1. Adrenaline helped that. When he tried to warm up for Game 2, he knew right away he could not dribble and would not be able to help the team.

“I can’t do anything if I can’t dribble,” Wall said. “You got to be able to dribble. If not, it’s just basically taping my hand behind my back and saying play with one hand. It’s not happening in this league.”

According to Wall and his coach, Randy Wittman, there is still a possibility of further damage to Wall’s hand and wrist.

That’s any type of situation like this,” Wall said. “If the bone moves out of place, you can hurt it worse. It’s still in a stable position and it’s still in line. There’s just a fracture there. If we did play and a guy stepped on it or it got hit the wrong way, it can move. It’s a risk that you can take if I have the opportunity to play this series.”

Wittman was insistent that he would not put Wall on the floor if he could do further damage, and was waiting for more information.

We haven’t reached that point,” Wittman said. “They need, it’s my understanding … you have to again, look at once the swelling gets out of there, what the breaks look like. It’s gonna change, kind of what my understanding is. You’ve got all that swelling and pressure and so that next step has to be looked at, then the doctors make that decision, if there is a risk. We’re not going to put the kid at risk. That won’t happen, I guarantee you that. If the doctor says there is a risk of hurting him worse, then, he’s not playing. I won’t let that happen.”

In many ways, the Wizards have begun to move forward without Wall. Ramon Sessions started Game 2 and scored a team-high 21 points. He’s been working with the starting unit in practice this week while Wall received treatment. Wall has been “supportive” at practice, giving Sessions and backup Will Bynum suggestions.

News of Wall not playing in Game 2 was sudden. Ninety minutes before tipoff, Wittman said all players were available that night and reiterated Friday that’s what he knew at the time. An hour prior to each game, teams have to hand in their official list of inactive players. That’s when the final decision was made, Sessions was put into the lineup, and the Wizards‘ rapid adaptation began.

It was bumpy to start. They scored 20 points in the opening quarter. Though, through the second, third and well into the fourth quarter, they were right with Atlanta.

“I think it’s reality,” Wittman said. “We’re trying to look at it that John’s not here. How we have to play doesn’t change because John’s not here. Doesn’t change. I thought they did a good job of that. We turned it over at the end and the game got out of hand. But with 4:30, it’s anybody’s game. When you’re on the road, against a good team like that, put yourself in a position to win. These guys have proven when they do that, they have a great chance of winning games.”

Wittman is wary of his team trying to fill the gaps of Wall’s possible absence by doing things out of character. That happened to Bradley Beal in Game 2. For a stretch, he uncharacteristically forced shots. He handled the ball too much. The ball movement that is so important to the Wizards — particularly without their best slasher, Wall — was taken away for a spell. Beal volunteered afterward that he tried to do too much. He repeated the stance Thursday when he spoke to reporters. Wittman is on guard for just such play.

“Here’s the thing I don’t want us to do,” Wittman said. “I don’t want anybody to try to be John Wall. All right? Ramon has to be Ramon. Will has to be Will. And they’re not going to be John. We’re not going to have that. But, that doesn’t mean anything other than, you do what you can do.

“That’s when I talk about stepping up and guys playing. Don’t come out and try to be John because you ain’t going to be very good. And nobody else needs to do that, either. Bradley Beal or Paul Pierce or [Marcin Gortat] don’t need to be anybody other than who they are. All right? And, be good. That’s kind of the message. You guys know what we miss. That’s why he’s one of the elite players in the league.”

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