Wizards enter training camp without their star point guard
On the eve of the opening of training camp, the Wizards' hopes of becoming relevant again after years of rebuilding have suffered a dramatic setback.
Point guard and franchise cornerstone John Wall will miss all of preseason and the first month of the NBA season after an MRI revealed a stress injury to his patella in his left knee. Surgery won't be required, but Wall's rehabilitation is expected to last eight weeks.
"It's disappointing for me and my teammates," Wall said. "It's just like a minor setback. It's something that I'm going to get in the training room and try to get stronger, take my time and make sure I don't rush back and force myself to come back any time soon and just take care of myself for whenever I get ready for the season."
Wall is coming off a year in which he played all 66 games and was one of three players (with Chris Paul and Deron Williams) to average at least 16 points and eight assists. The Wizards finished 20-46 but won their final six games in row and eight of their last 10.
The normal, full-length offseason was also Wall's first, and an important one with the third-year point guard eligible to sign a contract extension next summer. But Wall said he started to experience discomfort in his knee last month. An MRI at the time didn't reveal anything, but that changed after an examination in New York on Thursday by orthopedic specialist Dr. David Altchek.
"The good thing about this is that we caught it when we did," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. "It's not the best-case scenario, but we also have to look at this in a positive way."
Without Wall at point guard, the Wizards have fourth-year A.J. Price, who was signed in July, second-year Shelvin Mack and training camp invitee Steven Gray. Shooting guards Jordan Crawford and Bradley Beal could also play the point, but Washington may add another player to the roster.
"We'll look around and see who's available, who is out there," Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld said. "If the right player becomes available, we would consider signing someone else. But we feel good about the players that we currently have on the roster. And John should be back for us toward the end of the first month of the season. Everybody heals at a different pace. We have versatile players also, at multiple positions, and plenty of guys here right now that can play at that spot."
The Wizards will also begin camp without Brazilian center/power forward Nene, who is battling plantar fasciitis in his left foot. Nene is expected to be ready in time for the regular season.
Wittman still expects his team to contend for the franchise's first playoff spot since 2008.
"This gives us a chance down the line, if you're looking at the long road, of us becoming a better team," Wittman said. "If we can come out and establish ourselves early and have different guys step up, and then when John comes back, John being John, those expectations aren't going to change."