- The Washington Times - Monday, March 26, 2018

A funny thing happened to John Wall while he recovered from left knee surgery. The Wizards star lost weight.

“I don’t know how it happened because I wasn’t able to run,” said Wall, who estimated he’s down 10-15 pounds.

Wall said he feels better at the lower weight. The 27-year-old All-Star returned to practice Saturday, going through full contact for the first time in nearly eight weeks after having his knee scoped on Jan. 31 and missing the last 26 games.

Wall’s exact return for game-action still needs to be determined. He’ll travel with the Wizards for Thursday’s game against the Detroit Pistons, and coach Scott Brooks did not rule him out.

The goal is for Wall to string together contact practices without pain. So far, he has gone through three.

But whenever he suits up again, Wall says he has no plans to dial back his explosive, slashing style.

Despite three knee surgeries since May 2016, Wall said he won’t change to avoid further injuries.

“I’m just going to be me,” Wall said. “This injury I had, like the doctor said, it was just one of those ones where I was driving and someone kneed me when I was trying to make a cut. How many times have I have got kneed driving to the basket?”

In other words, it was a basketball play, and stuff happens.

Wall’s knee pain started after a November game in Dallas, when he collided with a Mavericks player. The injury caused him to miss nine straight games from late November to December, but the soreness kept recurring. The Wizards and Wall decided in late January that going under the knife was the best solution.

Wall still needs to receive medical clearance from the Wizards’ doctors, adding he doesn’t know how many practices they require before then.

When he is cleared, Wizards coach Scott Brooks said Wall likely won’t be on a minutes restriction.

The Wizards, Brooks has said, plan to be careful with how they treat him during the final stretch of the regular season, particularly with back-to-backs. Washington faces three sets of back-to-backs in its final seven.

Wall also acknowledged he needs to work himself into game shape.

The Wizards, meanwhile, have found a formula for winning without Wall. Washington is 20-17 this season in Wall’s absence, and 15-11 in this latest stint. During Wall’s 26-game absence, ball movement has popped when things are going well. Bradley Beal has become more comfortable as a playmaker and point guard Tomas Satoransky has taken a needed step forward.

Washington’s assist percentage of 69.7 percent trumps the 57.9 percent of recorded assists when Wall is on the court.

“We had to play different,” forward Markieff Morris said. “John is our playmaker. [Expletive], if we don’t play different, we don’t win.”

Stylistically, the Wizards will look different with Wall on the court. Wall’s slice-and-dice game sucks defenders into the paint, creating opportunities for others. But just because the Wizards have found an efficient way of moving the ball without their best player doesn’t mean they are better off.

The offense has become stagnant at times, and offensive troubles led the Wizards to lose five of their last seven before Tuesday’s blowout win against the San Antonio Spurs.

In the last 26 games, Washington’s offensive rating has been basically the same as when Wall is on the floor — 112.3 without him to 112.1 with Wall.

Wall played while hurt, too.

“When he comes back, guys are still going to score the basketball like they did last year and the year before that,” Morris said.

The Wizards’ playoff ceiling will also assuredly be higher with Wall. The key will be if Wall has the same burst as prior years. Will he still look sluggish, even after surgery?

Wall said he feels a lot better physically.

“Whenever I have an injury or anything like that … I don’t think about it,” Wall said. “I can go out there and play the same way I did before. A lot of aggression, a lot of attacking. A lot of fast pace. I’ve been doing that, so all I had to do was show that glimpse and it showed I was being myself again.”

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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