Carrying the worst record in the league (3-22 overall two days before Christmas) the Washington Wizards shouldn't be confused as a team in the playoff hunt or even remotely close to a solid ball club at this point. Instead, for the second straight year in the row, the Wizards are among the laughing stocks of the National Basketball Association (NBA).
Their home record (2-9) is just as horrible as their road record (1-12) and if you're looking for a team that can't score (last in points scored, last in shooting percentage) then yes, that's the Wizards, too. A majority of the team's issues have revolved around the fact that their best players–center Nene and guard John Wall–have been on the shelf for much of the season. Nene just returned to action a couple of weeks ago while Wall continues to sit with a knee injury. Wall, 21, is clearly the most talented player on the team and his athleticism and speed is unheralded across the NBA.
And while Wall has promised to return this season, with the season already lost the Wizards staff should begin to question should he even bother. Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk tackle the question.
Riley: The Wizards stink and there’s no way they'll make the playoffs this year unless they go on a serious run. We're talking 30-1 type of run. Another high lottery pick is obviously in the cards so if I'm Washington I simply let Wall rest, play the NBA lottery and bring back a healthy point guard and next year's top selection going into the 2013-2014 season.
Green: You can't let Wall just take off for a year while ticket sales and the fan base dwindles. They're still fans out there who bought season tickets and you still need to put whatever is left in terms of excitement into the stands at the Verizon Center. Sitting Wall for the rest of the year would tear the bottom out of another endless campaign. Plus, I’ve seen this show before. I remember watching this city agonize over former Wizards star Gilbert Arenas when his knee injury kept him off the court for nearly two full seasons. Funny how, just like Wall, Gil was supposed to only miss a small portion of the 2008 season but somehow his recovery and return to the court just kept getting delayed and delayed. Gil missed so much playing time that his actions off the court began to outweigh any contribution he every made in a Wizards uniform. Not to say that’s how Wall’s situation will turn out, but the sooner he makes his return, the better the chance of avoiding what could potentially be a very dramatic encore.
Riley: It’s way too early in Wall’s career to dare make that comparison with Gilbert. And bringing back Wall from a knee injury just to show face would be one of the craziest moves this team has ever done. A knee injury on a player who's known primarily for his athleticism and speed rather than his skill could become disastrous should he hurt his leg. What is this team playing for right now? They're nearly 20 games below .500. The only thing this team is playing for right now is the right to not get fined for not showing up. And at 3-21, you might as well fine them because they haven't shown up all season.
Sure, we all want Wall to be out there competing with his team, but let’s be real: There is no team at this point, just a bunch of guys running around tossing up shots. I know you’re going to argue that he should be building chemistry with his teammates but there's a whole offseason and summer program if Wall wants to tune up with some guys who'll be on next year's team. Asking him to rush back just to get a few “practice” time in with his colleagues would be insane. Don’t throw Wall into this mess. Keep him clean and fresh for a new battle next year, because obviously this season’s battle is already lost.
Green: If all Wall has is his athleticism, rather than skilled talent, then maybe he’s not franchise star material, after all. I personally disagree because I think he’s a very skilled player. But you're forgetting about Nene and the rest of the holdovers that will be going into next season with the young star. Like you said, Wall still needs to get out there so we can see how he meshes with the players most likely to return next year. Rookie guard Brad Beal has been playing decent without him but how much better would he be with Wall orchestrating the show?
This team doesn't have the luxury of sitting its attention-attractive players unfortunately. If Wall can walk then he's playing for me and my team. He was drafted to replace Gil, not turn out just like him. I’m afraid that if you keep him away from the fans for too long, he won’t just be an injured player; he may end up being a disliked player in the eyes of the Wizards fan base, and ultimately replaced, just like his predecessor.