- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Here’s a small positive for the Washington Wizards in the wake of news that star John Wall will miss 6-8 weeks after he undergoes knee surgery Wednesday: The Wizards have already played 12 games this season without him.

With a 6-6 record in those games, the Wizards are used to relying more on Bradley Beal as the primary ball-handler and Tomas Satoransky entering the starting lineup.

That’s perhaps the only positive.

With a thin roster and not a lot of depth, the Wizards don’t have much margin for error without Wall. Over the next 20 games, the Wizards will face 16 teams currently slated for the playoffs. To this point, the Wizards have had the easiest strength of schedule.

The Wizards announced Wall would require a “arthroscopic debridement procedure” — or a knee scope, in simple terms — on Tuesday, one day after Wall flew to Cleveland for a second opinion on his sore left knee. He will miss Feb. 18’s All-Star Game.

This will be Wall’s third knee surgery since May 2016. The same surgeon, Dr. Richard Parker, will perform the operation.

“It just proves he wasn’t the John like we know,” Satoransky said. “His knee was bothering him all season long and it’s probably the best way for him to do.”

Wall has dealt with soreness since taking knee-to-knee contact in a November game against the Dallas Mavericks. He tried a slew of treatment, ranging from getting his knee drained to receiving PRP injections, but the pain kept coming back at different points. He also missed nine straight games earlier in the season with the injury.

Wizards forward Markieff Morris said since he often sat next to Wall on the team’s plane rides, he knew how much his teammate was hurting. The surgery, coach Scott Brooks said, was needed now because Wall was “dragging” over the last week. The timing couldn’t be worse for the Wizards, but at least leaves open the possibility Wall could be back for the playoffs.

The playoffs, though, aren’t guaranteed. The Wizards entered Tuesday’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder at 27-22, fifth in the Eastern Conference and 4½ games ahead of the ninth-place Detroit Pistons. The Pistons desperately want to make the playoffs and swung for the fences this week by acquiring forward Blake Griffin.

One way for the Wizards to stay afloat would be to make a trade before the NBA’s Feb. 8 trade deadline — though the team has few of the resources necessary to make a significant move, even if it wanted.

The Wizards can trade their 2018 first-rounder because the Stepien Rule, which prevents teams from trading consecutive first rounders, only applies to the current season. Washington sacrificed their 2016 and 2017 first rounders in the past to acquire Morris and Bojan Bogdanovic, who turned out to be a rental.

The Wizards owe their next three second round picks to Denver, Utah and Milwaukee because of separate trades.

The Wizards don’t have many assets, outside of moving a major piece like Otto Porter or a younger prospect like Kelly Oubre. Their ill-fated decision to spend $64 million on backup center Ian Mahinmi has been well documented.

Wizards coach Scott Brooks said Wall’s surgery doesn’t change the team’s approach at the deadline.

“If we see something that’s going to make us better this year and long-term, we’ll definitely look at things,” Brooks said. “It’s our obligation and our job to find a team that can be better every year. But with this situation, with John, it’s not going to change how we look at it.

“This is a minor setback, he will be back.”

But there is no doubt there are longer term concerns involving Wall, a player whose speed and athleticism is the foundation of his game. The Wizards signed Wall to a four-year, $170 million contract extension over the summer, which doesn’t start until the 2019-20 season.

By the time his contract expires, Wall will be 32 and earning $46 million in the final year of his deal. Brooks said the Wizards would do “everything” for Wall to help monitor his health in the future.

Brooks addressed his team before shootaround, telling them not to panic and to stick together. Brooks said he likes the “spirit of the group.”

“I know if you feel sorry for yourself, you’re missing the boat or missing the opportunity because no one in the league is feeling sorry for us,” Brooks said. “We have to embrace the challenge and mentality. I know our guys will.”

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