John Wall is Dunzo Part Deux – What Does his Extended Absence Mean for the Wizards? | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

John Wall is Dunzo Part Deux – What Does his Extended Absence Mean for the Wizards?

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Updated: February 6, 2019

The New Orleans Pelicans’ option to trade or not trade Anthony Davis to the Los Angeles Lakers has cast quite a pall over the NBA this week, and justifiably so. Davis is arguably one of the top three players in the NBA, and whether he goes to the Lakers, the Clippers, the Knicks, the Bucks, or the Wizards (too soon?), his whereabouts will justifiably command front page, NBA headlines.

But at 1:39 p.m. yesterday, the Washington Wizards PR team unsheathed a bit of news that temporarily pressed pause on all things Anthony Davis. Their press release read as follows:

“Wizards guard John Wall will undergo surgery to repair a ruptured left Achilles tendon.  The procedure, which has yet to be scheduled, will be performed by Dr. Robert Anderson in Green Bay, WI. Wall is expected to return to full basketball activity in approximately 12 months from the time of the surgery.

“Wall had developed an infection in the incision from initial surgery on Jan. 8 (a debridement and repair of a Haglund’s deformity and a chronic Achilles tendon injury in his left heel that was also performed by Dr. Anderson) and he suffered the rupture after slipping and falling in his home.  The rupture was diagnosed by Wizards Director of Medical Services and Orthopedist Dr. Wiemi Douoguih during a procedure to clean out the infection.”

Wizards Twitter immediately shifted into Apoplectic Mode, and the reactions ranged from “thoughts and prayers,” to outrage over Wall’s sizable contract, to sharp criticism directed towards the front office tandem of Ted Leonsis and Ernie Grunfeld.

Fans, bloggers and writers openly wondered if Wall would ever be the same, if the Wizards would have the cojones to make an impactful move–whether it be via trade or tanking–and what this will all mean going forward. Others chose to prematurely throw dirt on Wall’s career—and as a result, in his defense, Twitter was strewn with pictures and videos of Wall’s highlights from the past.

So what does all of this mean? No one truly knows, but TAI writers Bryan Frantz, Sean Fagan, Rashad Mobley and John Townsend did their very best to make sense of this weird, wild stuff.


Bryan Frantz (@BFrantz202)

This is devastating. John Wall should have had a long, productive career as one of the top guards in the NBA. Instead, the Wizards surrounded him with exactly one good piece for the majority of his career, which was Bradley Beal. Besides Beal, all Wall has had to support him is a few years of Marcin Gortat, a year of Paul Pierce, a couple of years of Trevor Ariza, a handful of mediocre seasons from Otto Porter, and some on-again-off-again play from Nene.

Now, Wall is 28 years old and is looking at a grueling road back to the court. If his current timeline holds, he won’t take the court again until roughly this time next year. If the Wizards are indeed going to “stay the course” as Candace Buckner and Tom Haberstroh report they will, they’ll in all likelihood miss the playoffs next season, in which case it would behoove Wall to just sit the entire season and come back for the 2020-21 season. That means he would next take the court in October 2020, nearly 22 months since his last game action, at age 30 no less.

As everybody outside the Wizards front office knows, the best course of action is to go into sell mode. (This was the best course of action even before this news came out.) Washington could go into full seller mode by pawning off Bradley Beal and Otto Porter to the highest bidder, or it could be more conservative and just trade away expiring contracts for future assets.

The future is exceedingly bleak in Washington. The young core is aging and broken, the coach and GM have both proven to be among the league’s worst in their respective roles, the payroll is bloated for years to come, and there is little room for immediate improvement even for a talented, creative front office–which the Wizards don’t appear to have.

The worst part about all of this? Ted Leonsis just doesn’t give a damn. He has time and again refused to raise the bar for the basketball team he owns, and he has made it abundantly clear that perpetual mediocrity is a perfectly fine goal. Considering the Wizards are currently nine games below .500 and among the worst teams in the NBA, Ernie Grunfeld has some work to do to get back up to mediocre.

Strap in, Wizards fans: Minor, inconsequential change is coming.

★★★

Sean Fagan (@McCarrick)

The only thing more depressing than the news that John Wall ruptured his Achilles and will be out for a least a year is the news (according to Tom Haberstroh) that the Wizards intend to “stay the course.”

This is the Wizards’ apparent path of choice despite the fact that the universe decided to weigh in and take out billboards on every street corner in America, advising the Wizards that now, perhaps, might be the time to blow it up. A clearer message couldn’t have been sent unless it was hurled through the window tied to a brick. Yet Team President Ernie Grunfeld and Ted Leonsis, are safely ensconced in their war room at the center of the earth, headphones set to blast and pointedly ignoring the phone ringing off the hook for teams who might be interested in the services of Otto Porter.

Instead, what we have is an extremely diluted Tang-flavored version of “run it back.” Except this time next year, you are running it back without John Wall, mostly likely without Tomas Satoransky and Thomas Bryant (the Wizards can’t afford them) and adding the charred remains of Dwight Howard (if he picks up his player option). Wizards management is also going to have present to their already anxious season ticket holders a po-faced rendition of “You can’t predict injuries, so if you hang on for 1.5 years we can promise you that this team is on the right track.”

To this point, the fact that management is asking Wizards fans and players to just wait out the next 12-18 months is what should set off alarm bells for the few remaining stalwarts following the team. “Staying the course” means subjecting yourself to losing basketball for at least a year, without any of  the promise of a rebuild. “Staying the course” means it become more likely each day that Bradley Beal takes a look around the league and issues a statement through his agent to get him out of D.C. and to a contender (e.g. Anthony Davis).

The real disappointment is that even with all the (fun) chaos currently engulfing the NBA and with the tea leaf reading business going gangbusters, the Wizards are immune to all weather patterns. They act (and react) like a far-flung small market outpost—simply unable (or unwilling) to acknowledge that the very structure of the league is changing around them, secure in knowledge that no outside of the DMV cares about the Wizards.

Perhaps they are embarrassed by the fact that the last time they tried to flex: Kevin Durant and Al Horford told them kick sand. But the fact remains that the Wizards remain a franchise firmly stuck in 2006, still using rotary phones and pagers while the rest of the world zooms by.

★★★

Rashad Mobley (@rashad20)

Man plans and God laughs, the expression goes, but in the case of the Wizards, Ted Leonsis planned to stand pat at the trading deadline (and possibly beyond), and Wall’s unfortunate Achilles injury makes those plans look laughable at best.

There’s no question that Wall will work hard to return to peak form, because as Boogie Cousins alluded when he was interviewed about it, Wall has overcome far tougher obstacles in his life. He’ll put in the work, he may even document the arduous process on social media, and he will be back in the Capital One Area either at the tail end of next season or at the very start of the 2020-21 season (if that seems far away, that’s because it is).

The question is what condition will Wall be in upon his return. Cousins looks surprisingly spry after missing a year due to his injury, but he’s more of a plodding big man who relies on strength, not quickness and speed. Derrick Rose did not have an Achilles injury like Wall, but he suffered a series of knee injuries that robbed him of much of his explosiveness. The first of those injuries happened in 2012, and it wasn’t until this 2018-2019 season that Rose’s game resembled what it used to be–and that still is a far cry from the level of play he possessed during his MVP season.

Considering Wall hasn’t even had the surgery yet, it is impossible to speculate what kind of player he’ll be in 11 to 15 months. But it is the job Ernie Grunfeld and Ted Leonsis to construct a plan in his stead, and that is where the trouble begins.

The last time the Wizards were faced with a stagnant roster and an injured/diminished superstar (Arenas), they lucked up and got the No. 1 pick (Wall) and they slowly built a team around him while shedding the previously problematic players in the process. This time around, the Wizards have a player to possibly build around (Beal), but his salary, as well as the ones for Wall and Otto Porter, make it virtually impossible to overhaul the roster sans trade. And in case you missed it, Leonsis has claimed that he won’t trade any of his so-called big three.

The other answer would be to figure out a way to tank and increase the team’s chances of getting a high draft pick, but again, Leonsis shut that down last week. Strike two.

So the question is, what’s the revised post-injury Wall plan? A playoff berth this season will most likely mean a first-round exit at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks. Keeping Wall, Beal and Porter and making everyone else open to trade is the equivalent of watching Tom Glavine pitch. A pitch on the corner of the plate here, a pitch on the other corner there, but no at-bat ending high heat down the middle. And given that a (sometimes) healthy Wall wasn’t exactly leading this Wizards team to post-second round playoff glory before his injury, minor changes just won’t do.

Unless Grunfeld and Leonsis step out of their respective comfort zones, and decide to make productive moves to improve the team with or without Wall, the Wizards will continue to be stagnant. That means the Wizards will continue to make substandard plans, the basketball gods will keep laughing and the Wizards’ fans will surely cry–or just stop coming to games altogether.

The bloggers will be fine by the way. We love writing about this stuff.

★★★

John Converse Townsend (@JohnCTownsend)

America loves an underdog story. The Washington Wizards, this year, just like too many years prior, are not one of them. But at least then, in 2010, they looked like one. D.C. had John Wall, 20 years old and full of promise. At least then (closer to now, now), they had a five-time All-Star to carry a franchise that is too proud to tank but also too stubborn—some might even say stupid—to be truly, actually good. What a burden.

Wall put it all on the line, almost every time. Already, he’s the Wizards’ all-time leader in assists and steals, putting up numbers that test Magic Johnson’s legend. He’s starred on broken teams, and just fine ones. He’s played through broken bones and heartbreak. But eventually, it’s the promises broken by the team’s front office that have let down John Wall, and Wizards fans everywhere.

That same front office will do now what it always does: whatever it takes to survive. The franchise has long been desperate to be relevant, dying to be respected. (Never forget 2013’s chase for the 9th seed.) Now, surely, the team’s brass is exploring a minor deadline trade to save a job, or to save this season, as if a season can be saved by qualifying for the playoffs. 

Everything changes. Nothing changes.

“We have to stay the course for this season,” the team’s owner says. And sure, that makes sense. Wall was already out for the rest of this season. So why should the latest injury update change anything with respect to this franchise’s direction? Everything is fine. The Plan is working. We’re a free agent destination. And if we make the playoffs, anything can happen.

It’s business as usual.

The reality is, where the so-called American Dream is the most dead, people believe in it most strongly. That’s certainly true in Wizardsworld. A wealth of wins are not just around the corner. Unwilling to accept reality, the team’s leadership is doubling down and, once again, betting on themselves to prove the basketball gods wrong.

In the end, how long can an underdog be seen as such till it’s seen for what it actually is?

 

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Rashad Mobley
Reporter/Writer at TAI
Rashad has been covering the NBA and the Washington Wizards since 2008—his first two years were spent at Hoops Addict before moving to Truth About It. Rashad has appeared on ESPN and college radio, SportsTalk on NewsChannel 8 in Washington D.C., and his articles have appeared on ESPN TrueHoop, USAToday.com, Complex Magazine, and the DCist. He considers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar a hero and he had the pleasure of interviewing him back in 2009.