As the NBA gears up to resume the 2019-20 season on July 31, there are some questions about which NBA players will be available when games get underway at Walt Disney World in Orlando.
Because of the long break, some players who suffered a season-ending injury may be able to return to action since they’ll have had an additional four and a half months to heal. There’s been a lot of speculation about certain star players and whether they’ll be able to come back just in time for their team’s postseason run.
However, don’t expect Washington Wizards point guard John Wall to suit up in Orlando.
While he has declared that he’s “110 percent” healthy, the five-time All-Star has repeatedly said that he isn’t going to play this season. Head coach Scott Brooks and general manager Tommy Sheppard have echoed this sentiment. Earlier this week, Wall reiterated that he won’t be back until the start of the 2020-21 campaign.
“No. I won’t play at all. I’ll wait until next season,” Wall told 980 The Team’s Kevin Sheehan. “That decision has already been made. So, no, I’m not [playing].”
When Sheehan followed up by asking if he might consider returning if the Wizards have meaningful games down the stretch, Wall doubled down.
“Me not playing all season, I’m trying to get into a rhythm of practicing,” he said. “And the last two or three months, I haven’t been around the guys, I haven’t worked out with the guys, and we haven’t got any chemistry or anything like that. So, that’s a big factor. So, no, I won’t play at all. I’ll let those guys continue to work and keep getting better, and then I just can’t wait to get out there with those guys next season.”
This lines up with what Wall told NBC Sports Washington’s Chase Hughes back in April when he was asked if the extra time off could lead to a return: “Nah. One of my ultimate goals is to make sure I’m fully, all the way healthy… In our best-case scenario, we’re just going to wait until next season.”
Even though Wall and the Wizards keep shooting down any talk of a potential return, there continues to be speculation that he may play in July. SNY’s Ian Begley reported yesterday that despite the comments from Wall and the Wizards, “some Eastern Conference teams expecting to head to Orlando are planning as if Wall may return to the court once the season resumes.”
It’s possible that teams are just doing their due diligence and staying prepared for anything. Eastern Conference teams are likely preparing as if Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving may return to the Brooklyn Nets once the season resumes too – just in case.
“Better safe than sorry,” one Western Conference executive explained. “I’m not sure how much teams are really ‘preparing’ for him to play. It’s more so just being aware of his strengths and weaknesses in the event that he does play. And I do think he should play. The Wizards have the least to lose of any team there, and they’re the only team in the league that seems to believe a backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal makes them a contender. If they actually think they’re that good when both guys are healthy and Wall is actually at ‘110 percent,’ then go play and take advantage of this insane opportunity! Wall said [he and his teammates lack chemistry], but the Wizards lacked chemistry without him this season so that’s not a compelling reason to sit out. At some point, you’re away from basketball for too long.”
Wall hasn’t played since December of 2018, when he suffered a left heel injury that required season-ending surgery. Then, in February of 2019, Wall fell in his home and suffered a ruptured left Achilles tendon, which was expected to sideline him for an additional 12 months. But rather than rushing Wall back, the Wizards have been very cautious with his recovery process.
Either this is a tremendous smokescreen by Wall, Brooks, Sheppard and others within the Wizards organization, or the 29-year-old isn’t ready to return yet.
Prior to the injury, Wall was averaging 20.7 points, 8.7 assists 3.6 rebounds 1.5 steals in 2018. How will he fare once he returns?
“I think his return from injury is going to be met with a lot of skepticism around the league, but I wouldn’t write him off just yet,” the Western Conference executive added. “It’s probably more of a ‘prove it’ situation given how much he’s gone through. But in the East, I could see him becoming an All-Star again. He is very talented. There’s a path for him to be a pretty good player still. This feels like one of those situations where everybody turns on the guy and the pendulum has swung too far in one direction and now he’s under-appreciated. His contract may be bad, but he can still play (see: Chris Paul).”
The Wizards are currently 24-40, putting them just 5.5 games out of the Eastern Conference’s eighth seed. Because they are within six games of the eighth seed, Washington will be one of 22 teams resuming play in Orlando.