- - Wednesday, February 6, 2019

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

This is terrible. The news that John Wall ruptured his Achilles following surgery he had weeks before is devastating for the Wizards guard, devastating for the team and, I would guess, devastating for Wizards fans.

I qualify the impact on Wizards fans because it’s possible that this fan base is so damaged after decades of failure, disappointment and dysfunction that it may be numb to such bad news.

The speculation is that Wall may not even be able to begin to start taking part in basketball activities for a year after the surgery to repair the Achilles heel — surgery that has not even been scheduled yet — let alone actually step back on the court to play for the basketball team that is required to pay him about $190 million for the next five years.

Let’s deal with the humanity of John Wall first. This may be a personal crisis for the 28-year-old that goes beyond playing ball. This is the kind of setback that can test a person’s strength and character. And, though we may choose to ignore it, both of those were seemingly already being tested earlier this season, when Wall was on the court while his team struggled — a 17-23 record before Wall was shut down on Dec. 26.

His nightlife habits were called into question by ESPN personality Stephen A. Smith, with stories floating around the league about his “partying.” And there were more tales behind the scenes about confrontations between the guard and teammates and coach Scott Brooks in practice.



Wall defended his lifestyle on Instagram. “What, not supposed to party once in a blue while?” he said. “Where you be at opera? Living room? It’s a long season, everybody don’t start off great. Keep being a fan, I’m gonna keep hooping. If you don’t like it, you can hike it.”

Facing what was already going to be a long recovery time from the Jan. 8 surgery — which, ironically, Wall underwent to relieve pain and to guard against an injury like the Achilles rupture — was going to be tough enough.

Now, this kind of setback — another procedure and a year or more away from the game — will require Wall to call on something deep inside if he intends to come back.

The Wizards issued a press release that said Wall had developed on infection from the initial operation and then, while Dr. Wiemi Douoguih was doing a procedure to clean out the infection, discovered Wall had ruptured the left Achilles heel. The story is that Wall “suffered the rupture after slipping and falling in his home” on Jan. 29, the release stated.

For a franchise that was — and has been, for the most part — a dumpster fire under general manager Ernie Grunfeld — the news that their highest-paid player would be lost for perhaps all of next season would seem to destroy any illusions that this team would perhaps be in a position to seriously compete in the NBA when Wall returned from his initial surgery.

But the John Wall that would lead that comeback for this franchise was gone before he underwent surgery, or before he suffered the ruptured Achilles that followed. That Wall — the one that nearly led the Wizards to the Eastern Conference finals in a seven-game series against the Boston Celtics two years ago — has been a memory.

Wall — a five-time All-Star — had double knee surgeries in the offseason in 2016, and had to go under the knife again last year, missing nearly two months for left knee surgery. During that time, there was speculation that the team played better without Wall — speculation that came up again recently during Wall’s absence since late December. His game appeared more selfish, more out of control, with few signs of growth and progress and a continued lack of shooting judgment. His leadership and chemistry with teammates certainly came into play when it came to his feud with former teammate Marcin Gortat.

The reality is that when stories refer to Wall now and moving forward (he was averaging 20.7 points per game and 8.7 assists this season) it would be accurate to say he is their highest paid player — not their best, and maybe not their leader anymore. That is Bradley Beal now — at least for as long as the Wizards keep the prolific point scoring guard.

For a roster constructed by Grunfeld that has left the Wizards handcuffed with bad contracts and bad players, the latest news just adds injury to insult. If you’re not too numb to notice.

Hear Thom Loverro on 106.7 The Fan Wednesday afternoons and Saturday and Sunday mornings and on the Kevin Sheehan Show podcast every Tuesday and Thursday.

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