- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 15, 2017

There was a time this season when Washington Wizards coach Scott Brooks had the fanciful idea of John Wall playing around 33 minutes a game. The feasibility of that thought at the time was low, but the sentiment made sense.

Brooks and the rest of the Wizards‘ staff understand the value of their four-time All-Star point guard. They, like the rest of the league, have also learned how to prioritize rest. The run-until-you-vomit practice era has ended.

Washington even plucked a point guard, Brandon Jennings, for a late roster add on March 1.

Yet, Wall’s minutes keep climbing.

Wall is averaging the second-most minutes of his career and the fifth-most per game in the league entering Wednesday night. Since Jennings was signed, Wall’s minutes have gone up. He is averaging 38 per game in those seven outings. Two of those games have gone to overtime, somewhat skewing the average. But, stripping those 10 minutes still leaves Wall at 37 minutes per game, which remains an increase on the roughly 36 minutes he was averaging before Jennings was signed.

“I’d like to get him down a few more minutes,” Brooks said Wednesday. “It’s not critical, but it’s semi-important. We’re definitely cutting some of his practice times and shootaround times and we’re having days off, especially with this stretch of games in March.”

Wall has played 82 games in a season once during his six year career. That 2014 season, Wall made 82 starts and played 2,980 minutes. He can’t match the game total this season since he sat out the second game of back-to-backs twice early in the season as part of his recovery from two offseason knee surgeries. But he is on pace for the second-largest minutes total of his career. At this rate, Wall will play 2,947 minutes this season.

Brooks makes a specific effort to provide breaks in between games. Wall’s in-game and off-day activity is also monitored. It’s logical to think his workload per minute on the floor has been reduced considering that he is surrounded by the most talent of his time in Washington. However, Wall’s ambitious up-and-down style is rooted in speed, crashing through the lane and dozens of trips from baseline to baseline on a nightly basis.

Among the issues in any recent attempt to reduce Wall’s minutes are early deficits and Brooks‘ preference to see how and if he can put Jennings and Wall together on the floor. Instead of strictly swapping Jennings for Wall, the two or three minutes they may play together kill any reduction for Wall. But, if they are not on the floor together in a game in the limited amount of regular season remaining, Brooks won’t be able to get a read on the pairing.

“I’m trying to figure that out on the fly as we go,” Brooks said.

Which leads to one more question that has been debated throughout the league: Should the Wizards rest Wall if he is not injured?

The complications of that philosophy were on display last week when the Golden State Warriors rested multiple stars in what was supposed to be a marquee matchup on national television. San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich brought the idea to the fore. He routinely rests many of this best players, sparking debate about whether teams owed it to fans to play their best players whenever possible.

Wall has stated multiple times that he does not want to miss a game just to sit out. Two years ago, he played in the playoffs with a broken hand. Multiple dings acquired during the regular season don’t keep him off the court. It’s a point of personal pride, not to mention crucial to the Wizards‘ ability to win.

“I’ve never done that unless a guy’s really banged up and needs time to rest,” Brooks said. “It’s important to have our guys feeling healthy and feeling fresh throughout the games. We have an obligation — just my philosophy — you have 82 games to play and you try to play the best that you can during those times. I like when guys are committed to playing every game. That’s what we all get paid to do. If it’s necessary, we will consider it.”

Brooks said he is in daily communication with Wall and the medical staff. He also pointed out another key that, at this point, appears to rule.

“He feels good right now,” Brooks said.

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