Perhaps never in the history of the world wide web has a Twitter video produced so much elation among the Big Blue Nation as the six-second clip PJ Washington posted Wednesday of himself merely putting one foot in front of the other.
PJ’s out of his cast!
Yes, the video evidence suggests the sprained left foot of Kentucky basketball’s leading scorer and rebounder is no longer enclosed in plaster or hard plastic, or whatever hard casts consist of these days. The metal scooter that served as his former means of transportation was nowhere in sight. The non-limping PJ even seemed to be proceeding with a purpose, as if he had somewhere important to go.
Oh, I don’t know, maybe Kansas City.
“Uh oh . . . ,” tweeted UK Coach John Calipari with his re-tweet of PJ’s walk of life.
Kentucky’s going to the Final Four!
Slow down there, Mr. Presumptuous. Yes, WKYT’s Dave Baker reported that according to his sources, Washington had the cast removed Tuesday by a foot specialist in Wisconsin. And it was certainly encouraging to see the sophomore forward moving forward, especially after seeing him sadly wheel around Jacksonville, Fla., on one leg with that bulky cast.
Wednesday’s clip was just the first step, so to speak. Yes, we have documented proof PJ can walk. But can he run? Can he jump? Can he move laterally? And if so, how long can he do those things free of enough pain to sustain a consistent level of performance? Are we talking 10 minutes, a half, a full 40 minutes?
On the Jim Rome radio show, Calipari said Washington did not practice Wednesday and called his status day-to-day.
Does No. 2 seed Kentucky absolutely, positively have to have the USBWA Third Team All-American to get past No. 3 seed Houston on Friday night and reach Sunday’s Midwest Region finals?
Jay Bilas thinks so. ESPN’s No. 1 college hoops analyst wrote this week that, “The Cougars are tough as nails. Undersized at almost every position, Houston fights. The Cougars fight for rebounds, fight for position, fight for loose balls and fight for respect. Well, they have the latter, and they will continue to fight for the former three. Will Houston beat Kentucky? With a healthy PJ Washington, probably not. Without Washington, Houston will win. It’s that simple. I love this Houston team.”
Big Blue Nation, perhaps suspicious of Bilas since he did his “94 feet with Jay Bilas” walk with a Kansas Jayhawk (blasphemous!) on the Rupp Arena floor back in January, did not appreciate the sentiment.
“Take that, Jay Bilas!” they reacted to the Washington video. And, “You’re going down, Jay Bilas.” And “Jay Bilas, you done.”
UK band member Hayden Hooper, a celebrity in his own right, tweeted, “Seeing PJ walk is better than seeing a baby take their first step and it’s not even close.”
And, of course, far too many UK-friendly Twitter accounts were filled with “Houston, you have a problem!”
Do Kelvin Sampson’s Cougars have a problem? That remains to be seen. After all, Houston leads the nation in field goal percentage defense (36.7) and three-point percentage defense (27.8). They excel at that slug-it-out style that has been Sampson’s staple at Oklahoma, Indiana and after an NCAA-mandated respite, at Houston.
In fact, Sampson has been so successful resuscitating the program of Phi Slama Jama, he’s reportedly the apple of Arkansas’ eye now that the Razorbacks have dumped Mike Anderson.
But back to PJ. He’s out of his cast. He’s walking. And apparently he’s much closer to actually playing Friday than we previously may have thought, or hoped. How effective he’ll be, who knows?And who cares? He’s PJ. He’s walking. That’s one step away from playing.
And Kentucky has a much better chance with PJ Washington, even a less than 100 percent PJ Washington, than without.