John Wall was sitting on a stool, his left leg comfortably bent at the knee, talking about why he needed that offseason surgery.
“Sitting like this — I couldn’t sit like this more than 15 seconds,” he said. “Everywhere I’d go, I’d be straightening my leg out. Everywhere I went, because it would be hurting so bad.”
The former University of Kentucky point guard had double knee surgery in early May, to deal with loose particles in his right knee and a bone spur in his left. The procedures sound terrifying for a player who relies on speed and explosiveness, but Wall said this week he had no choice.
“It was important for me to get healthy and try to go back into this season being a young John Wall again,” he said. “I haven’t been myself basically the last three years. I don’t know how I was able to play through certain things I played through, to be an All-Star. These are things the doctor asked me, like ‘How [were] you able to play on one leg?’ It’s just my heart and dedication and fight and grit to want to play.”
Wall played the first 77 games last season for the injury-ravaged Wizards, before sitting out the final five. He has missed a total of eight games in the last three regular seasons, but still made his third straight All-Star Game and recorded career highs in points, assists, rebounds, steals and three-point shooting.
“I couldn’t jump off my left leg at all,” Wall said. “Everything I did was off my right leg or two feet. … Playing with a bone spur, it’s kind of nasty. And then every year it just got bigger and bigger, digging deeper and deeper into my knee.”
That’s why Wall said being unable to play in the Olympics was “somewhat disappointing, somewhat not.” Sitting out for the summer will give him a chance to recapture his health, he said, and he doesn’t want to hurry back to the court. That’s why he hasn’t promised that he will be ready for the start of training camp.
“I’m ahead of schedule right now,” he said. “But like I said, I’m in no rush to be back for nothing. Make sure I’m 100 percent, exactly how I want to be, and get the show on the road. … It’s good to be ahead of schedule, but you don’t want to have setbacks and then go back in four, five weeks and have the doctors do something again.”
I also asked Wall about the overwhelming likelihood that Washington’s dreams of Kevin Durant would wither this summer. Wall referred back to Durant’s comments about the rapturous reaction he had received from fans in Washington, which Durant said was “disrespectful” to the Wizards.
“Sometimes that’s pushing the pace,” Wall said. “You say your piece and say you want him to come and things like that, but it’s tough. You’ve just got to sit back and wait, see what happens. I think if we would have had another good year like we had the last two years, it probably would be a different story. Because we would have been a playoff team, getting closer to that step. But to take a step back like we did, now he’s in the crossfire. Because he’s getting older and older and trying to win a championship; he’s trying to go to the best-case scenario for him.”
As for the likelihood that Bradley Beal will soon receive a massive deal, Wall said “it’s kind of really up to the organization to figure it out.”
“I think when he’s healthy, you know what type of player he is,” Wall said of Beal. “I feel like if he didn’t get injured last year, he could have definitely been an All-Star. He’s kind of in the same boat I was in. … It was a situation of ‘do we pay John the max?’ Does he deserve it, I know it takes a lot of pressure off you when you already have it done. I mean, going into [a season] with a one year deal, those make it frustrating, because you’re thinking about oh [crud], I’ve got to play this way for myself to get noticed, instead of playing a team way. And I think once you get those type of deals done, you get everybody playing the right way.”