Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire
The Wizards announced John Wall will miss the first eight weeks of the 2012 season with a "stress injury," and if you don't understand why that's depressing, you must not be familiar with the Wizards.
Me back in August:
... it's a strange time to be a Wizards fan: they're suddenly looking more competent and stable than ever, which means I'm getting all nostalgic about the two solid decades where they were the most dysfunctional organization in sports. All the radioactive, ridiculous cult heroes are gone, replaced with steady characters like Nene, Emeka Okafor, Trevor Ariza, John Wall, Bradley Beal, and more. For the first time in more than a decade, it feels like the Wizards have a real plan to build a stable, winning team. It's jarring. We'll see how it goes.
Well, here we go!
This is the worst. The worst the worst the worst the worst.
Eight weeks isn't THAT bad, you might be saying to yourself. Maybe you're right. But it doesn't feel that way. People who aren't Wizards fans probably don't understand why this news is even a big deal, so for the sake of clarity and venting, let's explain why this sucks.
1. THE INJURY. An objective observer might say that Wall could miss as little as 10 regular season games, but it's hard to see the glass half-full given the history of superstar injuries in D.C.
In 2008-09, Gilbert Arenas was supposed to miss the 1st month of the season with a knee injury. He played 2 games that year.— David Malitz (@malitzd) September 28, 2012
It's an eight week injury NOW, but who knows. What's more, this sort of injury might be even worse than a torn ACL or something equally horrific-sounding. At least with those injuries, you have a confirmed return date and clear rubric for how to work toward recovery. A "stress injury"?
"It's just something that happens when you work out really hard," Wall said on a conference call this afternoon.
Well, uhh ... Okay.
This can go in a lot of different directions. All anyone can do now is let him rest for eight weeks and HOPE it gets better. But there's no guarantees, and there's no guarantee it doesn't flare up again later in the season. Or next year. Or, or ... Bottom line: It's not a good sign when the 22 year-old franchise player has a "stress injury".
2. THE PLAYER. John Wall was tapped as the future of the franchise the second the Wizards won the lottery in 2010. Last year, the future of the franchise shot 7.1 percent from three for a team that went 20-46. The losing wasn't all his fault, but when the Wizards drafted him No. 1 overall, the hope was that he'd help lift the Wizards by himself.
He didn't do that.
After the first few games of his career -- which were perfect, and had him looking like a hybrid of Derrick Rose and Chris Paul -- watching Wall the past two years has been an exercise in slowly lowering the bar and rationalizing disappointment. It should be noted that last season's Wizards were a deathmonster of apathy and incompetence that swallowed up everyone associated with the team, from coaches to fans to players to Wall. But still. Let's be honest about where we've been and where we are now: not only is John Wall no longer a sure thing, but betting on him to turn into a superstar seems like kind of a longshot. This is a problem, because ...
3. THE PLAN. The Wizards have bet the next five years on Wall becoming a superstar.
After years of questionable decisions and snakebitten everything, they put together one of the more sensible offseasons in franchise history this summer. They traded for Nene at the end of last season, they drafted Bradley Beal, one of the only potential superstars available in this June's draft, and they traded for Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza, giving them a lineup of veterans to surround Wall for the immediate future.
The best part of the blueprint? Okafor and Ariza come off the books in two years, when (hopefully) the Wizards young players will have matured into a playoff nucleus, allowing the Wizards to sign one or two free agents to fill out the core and become contenders. And then in small print at the bottom of this blueprint you will see an asterisk:
*None of this matters if John Wall doesn't become a superstar.
The phrase "franchise cornerstone" started because if you take away the cornerstone everything else collapses. Nowhere is that truer than with the Wizards. Wall is the linchpin to everything that's supposed to come next. If he doesn't turn into a superstar, then two years with Okafor and Ariza will have been wasted money and wasted time spent paving the way to mediocrity, and the Wizards will STILL end up overpaying Wall on his next deal. Because what else can they do?
At this point, the Wizards just have to hope Wall pans out. They have to hope he gets a better jumper, learns how to run a team, plays better defense, learns how to change speeds in the halfcourt and becomes a better a finisher. That may seem like a lot, but he's -- oh wait, he also needs to stay healthy.
4. THE TEAM. Of course this happened. All summer long, I would gchat with fellow Wiz fan Dan Shanoff and we'd gush in disbelief at how much sense the Wizards were making this year. And one of us would always say it feels too good to be true, and then we'd laugh, and ... DAMNIT.
The first thing I thought after hearing the Wall news was that this team is cursed. Right? They have to be. It's childish and stupid and ridiculous, but come on. This is getting ridiculous.
Never bought into the curse thing with Wizards even when I covered team through Gilbert saga but man, gotta wonder sometimes #Wizards— Ivan Carter (@IvanCarterCSN) September 28, 2012
I don't know. Should the Wizards have made sure Wall had a team-sponsored trainer? Would a team-sponsored trainer have been any better, given the Wizards' history? Maybe there's an institutional element to all this, yeah. But still. Just by random chance, you'd think there'd be one superstar who doesn't suffer a career-altering injury or leave D.C. in disgrace. How does this stuff keep happening?
There was Chris Webber's knee injury, Kwame, Gilbert's knee injury, and now ... whatever this is. It's like even when good things happen (Gilbert Arenas, this past offseason), it's just setting us up for a more crushing disappointment later (Gilbert Arenas, the next five seasons?). Wall's injury wouldn't be so upsetting if Wizards history didn't more or less guarantee that it becomes a chronic issue that plagues the rest of his career.
Isn't this what it feels like to be cursed?
5. THE LESSON. Hopefully this article looks completely ridiculous one day, but it's not a big deal if it doesn't. I'm already talking myself into the Wizards all over again. Maybe Beal can be the cornerstone if Wall doesn't work out? Maybe Nene stays healthy, maybe Wall will be back and better than ever by December. If not, there's always that 2014 cap space ...
Sports totally suck sometimes. But they're also great, because hope in the face of hopelessness is part of the fun, and even if it feels like this franchise is cursed and constantly torturing its fans, that's just a badge of honor for the people who stick around every year. One day it'll all be worth it. Until then, the worst teams have the best fans -- addicts who are bonded by shared misery and black humor and interminable seasons where we can only take solace in pipe dreams for the future and all the weird characters the team has now.
So let's talk about Kevin Seraphin, because Kevin Seraphin is the greatest.