How John Wall's Injury Alters the Course for Washington Wizards

Stephen Babb@@StephenBabbFeatured ColumnistSeptember 28, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 22: John Wall #2 of the Washington Wizards looks on during the closing moments of Wizards 115-107 loss to the Sacramento Kings at Verizon Center on February 22, 2012 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

The Washington Wizards were already overdue for some good news and a season that at least approximated a legitimate turnaround.

Unfortunately, any good news will have to wait, and maybe that turnaround along with it.'s John Schuhmann reports that rising star John Wall will be sidelined at least through the first month of the season:

Wizards say John Wall is out 8 weeks with "early stages of a stress injury to his left patella."

—John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) September 28, 2012

Let's start with some silver lining, because there won't be much of it.

The knee problem won't require any surgery, and president Ernie Grunfeld believes his prized point guard will be in perfect health for the rest of the season. If Washington has any shot at making the postseason, it can take some solace in the fact that Wall will be there for it.

In the meantime, Wall's absence will also give head coach Randy Wittman the opportunity to cultivate some depth behind his starter, which could certainly pay some dividends over the long term.

At the moment, it's not at all clear who Wall's full-time backup will be. Jordan Crawford, Shelvin Mack and rookie Bradley Beal all have the size and ball-handling ability to run the point, but none of them has that pass-first instinct.

What better time to develop one?

One way or the other, each of these guys will get some extra playing time in November, minutes that will help them improve and help Wittman define their roles in the rotation a bit more clearly. Things might not look pretty at first, but Washington will be better for it in time.

Now for the harsh truth.

While it would be nice to get one of Washington's young combo-guards some experience at the point, there's absolutely no guarantee it will work out. The Wizards were arguably the last team in the league that could afford to lose their starting point guard, with the sparingly used former-Pacer A.J. Price the only conventional option behind Wall.

The Wizards could always explore the free-agent market, but they won't find a whole lot (although I do hear Gilbert Arenas is available...).

Could a month without a true facilitator torpedo this season before it even gets started?

Quite possibly.

The Wizards were already on the outside looking in of the playoff picture. Though they're not quite long shots, no one really believes this club has more than a moderate chance at the seventh or eighth seed.

With organizations like the Brooklyn Nets going all out, Washington's baby steps forward feel painfully slow. Even the Toronto Raptors made impressive strides this summer. Where exactly the Wizards fit in with those up-and-comers is anyone's guess.

But you can be sure that playing without their best player and go-to scorer for even a fraction of the schedule will make it that much harder to keep pace.

Yes, the Wizards will look a whole lot more like a real NBA team this year after adding veterans Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor over the summer, especially after having traded for Nene earlier in the year. On the other hand, it will be that much harder for those guys to develop chemistry on the floor without their starting floor general (or any point guard of note) running the show early in the season.

In addition to a rough November, we could see an equally dysfunctional December as the gelling process begins in earnest.

Additionally, Ariza and Okafor are both defense-first kind of guys, and while that's a good thing at the end of the day, it leaves you wondering where this team will get its points in the early goings.

Will Wittman put that kind of responsibility on Beal right away? Will the Wizards depend on Crawford and his woeful (29 percent) three-point accuracy? With so few scorers and no one to create plays for others, this rotation could very well set some records in November.

And not the kind of records for which you'd like to be remembered.

If there were ever a case to be made that this team should continue thinking about the future and concern itself with building around Wall and Beal rather than winning now, that case just got a little bit stronger.

The Wizards' uphill battle to return to the postseason for the first time since 2008 just got quite a bit steeper.