Wizards to see length­en­ing glimpses of the old John Wall

Point guard play­ing more min­utes as re­cov­ery from knee surg­eries pro­gresses

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Can­dace Buck­ner

WASH­ING­TON — Through his pro­gres­sive come­back from surg­eries on both knees, Wash­ing­ton Wizards guard John Wall has dashed through fast breaks, dunked off one foot and flaunted his ath­leti­cism. Now he’s work­ing to do all this for longer than eight min­utes.

“I’m in shape to play a cer­tain amount of min­utes at a time but not play like I had in the past,” Wall said after Mon­day’s prac­tice. “I don’t think I’m in that type of shape, but the good thing is I can look at Coach and sub my­self out.”

While the Wizards pre­pare for their sea­son opener Thurs­day at the At­lanta Hawks, Wall en­vi­sions play­ing 32 min­utes. If that trend con­tin­ues, then Wall’s min­utes-per-game av­er­age would match the 2012-13 sea­son, the low­est of his ca­reer, when he did not play un­til Jan­uary be­cause of a right knee in­jury.

Sev­eral fac­tors sup­port the no­tion that Wall can progress to more. For now, how­ever, he has to fight against fa­tigue dur­ing longer stretches of play.

“It’s tough. I was push­ing my­self through a cou­ple pre­sea­son games, that’s what we were try­ing to do to play eight min­utes straight and just push my­self to be able to lock in on both ends of the floor,” Wall said. “At times, I would have a fast break and I’d slow down or on de­fense, I wouldn’t be as en­gaged as I would be for the first two min­utes. So I’m just try­ing to

get to the point where I can be en­gaged for a long pe­riod of time.”

Wall’s can­dor should come as no sur­prise — he of­ten calls it as he sees it — but his ad­mis­sion seems re­mark­able to any­one who’s watched him this pre­sea­son. On the sur­face, as Wall’s min­utes in­creased through five games, so did his strength of play.

By the fi­nal two pre­sea­son games, Wall made six of nine 3-point at­tempts, and Fri­day against the Toronto Raptors he played more than 91⁄2 min­utes straight to open the game.

Even so, as ar­du­ous as it was for Wall to re­cover from his two surg­eries, the rig­ors of an NBA game can be even more try­ing. Wall may look game-ready, but his re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion con­tin­ues.

With that in mind, coach Scott Brooks has de­vised a plan to ease Wall into the reg­u­lar-sea­son sched­ule.

“My job as the coach is to be able to man­age that and not keep him out there and wear him out game in, game out,” Brooks said. “I have a plan go­ing into the game and hope­fully we can ex­e­cute that game by game, but there’s go­ing to be some nights that he plays ex­tra min­utes. We’re not go­ing to put a num­ber on it but … there’s go­ing to be some games he gets a lot of min­utes.”

At least early on, Wall does not see him­self ap­proach­ing the 40-plus minute mark.

“I know talk­ing to [Brooks] be­fore, when­ever I was go­ing to get back to play­ing, he didn’t want to play me like 40, 45 min­utes,” Wall said.

“We have a great bench and we have some great back­ups. We trust those guys to run the team and do dif­fer­ent things than what I do. I feel like they can hold their own and keep our unit go­ing.”

On Mon­day, the team re­turned to the prac­tice court with a phys­i­cal ses­sion, its last tough round be­fore the sea­son opener.

“We weren’t go­ing as hard early on right away and coach stopped it, had a talk with us and told us ba­si­cally about not tak­ing short cuts,” Wall said.

“To be a good team, you got to be able to com­pete ev­ery night and through ev­ery prac­tice, so we picked it up.”

NICK WASS/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Wizards guard John Wall drives against Raptors guard Nor­man Pow­ell in a pre­sea­son game Fri­day. Wall made six of nine 3-point at­tempts in the fi­nal two pre­sea­son games.

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