After months of ominous reports, suits on the sidelines, and generally poor point guard performance, the Washington Wizards will finally see the return of franchise player John Wall against the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday night. It's the first game of the season for Wall, who slowly saw a minor knee issue turn into a 33-game absence from the Wizards' lineup.
While he won't immediately be playing the usual minutes that he's logged over his first couple years in D.C., Wall should immediately provide a boost to a Wizards team that's struggled mightily this season minus its starting point guard. With a league-worst 5-28 record entering Saturday's game, Wall's returning to a team with essentially no playoff aspirations.
Passing through the likes of Jannero Pargo, Shelvin Mack and Shaun Livingston, the Wizards eventually settled on Garrett Temple and A.J. Price as Wall's alternatives, but they haven't come close to providing the explosive athleticism and scoring ability that a healthy Wall can offer.
With an improving Bradley Beal giving the Wizards another strong option to play alongside Wall, it appears that Wizards fans will finally get to see the first glimpses of a backcourt that's been dreamed about since the Florida product was drafted third overall in the 2012 draft.
That's particularly good news for the league's worst offense, as the Wizards score just 93.1 points per 100 possessions this season. No other team in the league is below 97.8 points per 100 possessions, reflecting Washington's general inability to score without its primary ball handler and playmaker.
Giving Washington some hope for Saturday night, beyond a stunning 101-99 win over the Thunder at the Verizon Center earlier this week, is Atlanta's recent issues. The Hawks are still amongst the Eastern Conference's contenders with a 21-14 record, but they've won just five of their past seven games.
The Hawks have struggled to put on the scoreboard recently, but the offense came alive in the fourth quarter of a 103-95 win over the Utah Jazz on Friday night. The team averaged just 88 points over the previous four games, losing all of them, but Devin Harris put up a season-high 24 points against his former team to get the Hawks a much-needed win.