Even without John Wall, the Washington Wizards appear to be more formidable now than they have looked at any point this season. The teamwork and ball movement has been outstanding, prompting members of the team to echo out the importance of playing as one unit in Wall’s absence. The words from Wizards players have been twisted into perceived shots at Wall, causing the team’s first overall draft selection in 2010 to lash out against teammates through televised interviews. If nothing else, it’s certainly been a controversial campaign for the Wizards and the show must go on.
Washington Wizards’ Otto Porter Jr. (22) goes up for a shot against Chicago Bulls’ Justin Holiday (7) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)
Only a week away from the All-Star break, Washington couldn’t prolong a five-game winning streak after dropping two straight conference games. However, a 111-102 road win against Indiana on Feb. 5 and a 101-90 win in Chicago on Feb. 10 both opened and closed the week out for Washington in good fashion. Newly minted all-star Bradley Beal and reserve combo guard/forward Tomas Satoransky have taken turns as co-playmakers inside Washington’s Wall-less offense. Beal’s all-star nod is an indication of the career year that he’s been having, but Satoransky has been a pleasant surprise. After his inaugural season as a Wizard went unused and underdeveloped, the 6-foot-7-inch forward appears to be a different player this season around. He’s confident, his jumper is accurate and he can operate as a ball handler and make plays for the Wizards offense. If there is any silver lining to Wall’s absence, it’s the presence and deployment of Satoransky.
Losses to Philadelphia (115-102 on Feb. 6) and Boston (110-104/overtime) were just measures of the talent index on both teams. Philadelphia’s youthful combo of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons combined for 42 points, 11 rebounds, 18 assists, four blocks. Boston’s Kyrie Irving returned just in time after missing time with a quad injury to drop 28 points and six assists against Washington, pacing a Boston team that put six players in double figures. Team play and ball movement can only do so much when the opponent is supremely stacked with talent. Washington might be playing well without Wall but, make no mistake, this team still needs a healthy Wall if they have any aspirations of a deep playoff run.
Speaking of Wall: when the “proposed” leader of the team takes to national television to advise any member of the team who has a problem with him to confront him like a man that’s never a good sign. But that’s exactly what Wall did early in the week. Wall told reporters, “It was kind of shocking to hear a couple of people saying the ball is moving a lot better when that’s what I pride myself off of,” during a string of different interviews on ESPN NBA shows. Wall is still several weeks away from returning so things could either get a lot worse or a lot better whenever he does in fact return. The Wizards, however, cannot afford to stop their winning ways to focus on Wall’s feelings. The team sits just one game behind Cleveland in the Eastern standings at press time. Washington will return to action with a visit against the New York Knicks on Feb. 14.