- All-Star point guard John Wall's latest knee surgery is another black mark for a mediocre Wizards team inching away from the Eastern Conference elite.
In the minutes after Blake Griffin’s move to Detroit sent the NBA scrambling once again, word about a potential John Wall surgery started to quietly trickle around the league. The Wizards’ All-Star point guard will undergo a left knee scope scheduled for Wednesday, as first reported by Candace Buckner of the Washington Post, and the procedure could sideline Wall for as long as two months.
This development comes at, quite possibly, the worst time for Washington, a team with East aspirations that has seemingly stalled in the mid-tier of the conference. In what feels like the blink of an eye, the Wizards have completely tumbled. The Wizards were only minutes away from making the Conference Finals last May. Now the Wizards are merely a 27–22 outfit—good enough for the sixth seed in the East—that’s suddenly bereft of the All-NBA talent who steered the franchise back to respectability in the first place.
Bradley Beal’s evolution into an efficient on-ball playmaker will certainly help the Wizards put a band-aid over their new, massive hole at point guard. A huge bulk of those responsibilities will also fall on back-up guard Tim Frazier and second-year combo Tomas Satoransky, who both have exhibited lead ball handling capability in the past. After sorely lacking backcourt depth the year prior, this Wizards roster was constructed to withstand minor injuries to either of their All-Star guards. Washington will clearly suffer a major setback with Wall out for this sizable amount of time, however, and the franchise has to turn its attention to the long-term fragility of their sparkling backcourt as well.
Wizards head coach Scott Brooks has said Wall needed his knee drained a few times this season. He had missed 10 games thus far due to lingering inflammation in the knee while also receiving multiple MRIs and injections. He ultimately flew to Cleveland and consulted with orthopedic surgeon Richard D. Parker on Monday night, when a league source informed The Crossover that Wall was indeed leaning towards going under the knife. Parker performed the two knee surgeries—one on each knee—Wall sustained 19 months ago in May 2016. One procedure removed calcium deposits on his left knee while he underwent an arthroscopic lavage on his right knee to remove loose bodies.
Like Joel Embiid, Derrick Rose and Blake Griffin—just to name a few—before him, Wall now joins the ranks of all-world talents riddled with existential injury question marks. He missed the first 33 games of the Wizards’ 2012–13 campaign with a left patella injury he sustained the previous season, and later told Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck he “was on the verge of breaking my knee cap,” and aptly deemed that concept “scary.”
Wall did play an average of 79 games each of the next four seasons, including two following that double-knee surgery in the offseason of 2016. That leaves the Wizards a mountain of evidence suggesting he should be able to seamlessly return from rehab. Two months will spit Wall back onto the court at the end of March, with roughly 20 games remaining for another Washington playoff push. With the Wizards holding a 4.5-game edge over Griffin and the ninth seed Pistons at this juncture, Washington could feasibly be in position to reach the postseason for the fourth time in five seasons.
Yet the Wizards’ remaining schedule features opponents that boast a composite 55% winning percentage, the most difficult of any team in the Eastern conference. Wall’s surgery has to send a queasy feeling throughout the franchise for this year and beyond. After Wednesday, he will have undergone left knee surgery about once every two years dating back to 2012. And while a smooth recovery is probable, at 27, how Wall’s elite speed and athleticism—imperative to his tenacious playing style—age is a premise that has absolutely grown murkier.
The three-year, $170 million contract extension Wall signed in July is on the Wizards’ books until 2023. Washington was rightfully happy to lock in a perennial All-Star and, perhaps most importantly, a two-way franchise cornerstone other players of that magnitude would love to play with. Still, Wall’s latest surgery has to infuse some reasonable doubt in that vision, one that once had Wizards fans dreaming of DeMarcus Cousins teaming with his former Kentucky teammate this summer. Now, after Cousins suffered an Achilles tear, both former Wildcats are out for a significant amount of time, and Washington’s postseason hopes, which seemed so close to crystallizing in last year’s playoffs, may be cut off at the knees before the Wizards ever truly emerged.