Carroll County Times
Carroll County

Wizards give Wall's knee a rest

WASHINGTON — Injuries are not foreign to John Wall. Myriad ailments have dotted his brief NBA career. There's the tendinitis in both knees he's played through since entering the league as the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2010. Then there's the sprained foot he played through his rookie year when he was advised not to. A stress injury to his left patella that nearly broke his kneecap sidelined him for eight weeks a couple of years ago and back spasms permeated last season.

Wall, when possible and when necessary, has played through pain. But Wall did not believe laboring through tendinitis in his left knee for a meaningless preseason game Monday night against the New Orleans Pelicans was worth the pain or the risk, so the Wizards decided to give the 24-year-old point guard the night off when the discomfort emerged Monday.


"I'm not worried about it at all," Wall said. "I've dealt with tendinitis my whole career so you just play through it. . . . There's no excuse for me not to play. I just felt like it was a time to give other guys an opportunity to play and also a time to let it heal and prepare myself for the regular season."

Wall practiced Tuesday and adamantly declared he will play Wednesday against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden in the finale of a forgettable preseason for the Wizards that has included suspensions, injuries and frustrating offensive hiccups. His coach, however, was not as resolute.


"We'll see," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. "Again, it makes no sense if he's got some soreness and tendinitis, but he felt pain free today and we'll see how he feels afterwards and when he wakes up in the morning."

Wall's absence left the Wizards with only 11 healthy players Monday. The shortage fueled the Wizards' decision to sign point guard John Lucas to a non-guaranteed contract Tuesday morning. Injuries, particularly on the wing, have ravaged the Wizards' depth and increased the chances of the team filling the vacant spot on their roster, but Lucas, generously listed at 5 feet 11, is a point guard, not a wing player.

Though he has played off the ball in the past, primarily in his two seasons with the Chicago Bulls, the Wizards' impetus to bring in Lucas centered on having another option at point guard behind Andre Miller and Wall for Wednesday's exhibition and practice sessions before they open the regular season next weekend in Miami.

Lucas's addition also indicates the Wizards are confident Glen Rice Jr., who sprained his right ankle last week, may be available for the season opener and Garrett Temple, a combo guard off the bench, will inherit minutes at shooting guard with Bradley Beal (fractured wrist) on the mend. Temple played 42 minutes in the Wizards' loss Monday.

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"We just needed another body in here with all our injuries and I don't want to get into a situation where we're overusing guys just to get through practice and stuff," Wittman said. "And it gives me a chance to take a look at 1 / 8the 3 / 8 guy. I haven't had John before. I've coached against John. It gives me an opportunity to take a look at him because he's going to get the opportunities at practice to be on the floor a lot. You never know down the road when a situation comes up."

Lucas, whose father starred at the University of Maryland and played two of his 14 NBA seasons with the Washington Bullets, shot a career-worst 29.8 percent from the three-point line and 32.6 percent overall from the field in 42 games with the Utah Jazz last season, but both numbers were drastically better the previous two seasons. In 2011-12, he shot 39.9 percent from the field and 39.3 percent from three with the Bulls. The next year, he finished 37.7 percent beyond the arc and 38.6 percent from the floor with the Toronto Raptors.

"At the end of the day the game is knocking down open shots and that's what I kind of work on and that's what I kind of take pride in," said the 31-year-old Lucas, who was born in Washington and was waived by the Boston Celtics on Sept. 25. "Beating people off the dribble, but also drawing two and creating for others."

Lucas, who was traded twice during the offseason, will debut Wednesday, when the Wizards' objective will be to establish a semblance of cohesion offensively, which has been an onerous task partly because of the turnover caused by injuries. Paul Pierce (bruised right knee) made the trip to New York on Tuesday evening after not traveling to Baltimore on Monday and, if he plays, his return should provide a boost Wednesday.


But Wall is the Wizards' max-contract engine, and his health is paramount. He completed a full 82-game schedule for the first time in his career last season despite back pain, and the goal is to replicate that feat this year. Missing an inconsequential exhibition or two, the Wizards believe, is a meager toll to pay.

"You can never count me out if it's a meaningful game and a regular season game," Wall said. "Preseason means something to us because you want to get better, but I think it's a time to make sure I'm just healthy going into a regular 82 games because those really count."