AUG 18, 2019
This week is Wall Week at NBC Sports Washington. We are rolling out content each day centering around the Wizards’ five-time All-Star point guard. Today, we examine how the Wizards are closely monitoring his rehab from a ruptured left Achilles…
With $170 million committed to John Wall over the next four years, the Washington Wizards will do everything they can to make sure they get his rehab from a ruptured Achilles right. The future of their franchise depends on it.
So, in order to certify that things are going well, there is a team of people at work. Jesse Phillips, the Wizards’ director of player performance and rehabilitation, has spent much of his summer in Miami, FL where Wall makes his offseason home. Steve Smith, the team’s senior director of health wellness and performance, flies in to be with Wall Monday through Thursday.
Wizards assistant coach Alex McLean leads Wall through his on-court workouts, which at this point feature only light basketball activities. General manager Tommy Sheppard and head coach Scott Brooks have also made the trek to South Florida to check on Wall. And Dr. Daniel Medina, the Wizards’ new chief of athlete care and performance, has been involved, making sure all of those playing a role in Wall’s recovery are on the same page.
Wall also has his own people who are Miami-based. He has a physical trainer, Dr. Brett Fox, who counts many professional athletes as his clients including Wall’s former teammate Jeff Green and NFL wide receiver Allen Hurns. And Wall has a personal trainer, Andy Luaces at Core Fitness, who has worked with Green, Hornets point guard Terry Rozier and many college and pro football players who reside in the Miami area.
There are a lot of people working with Wall and monitoring his progress. His rehab is being so closely managed that he joked at a recent charity event: “I feel like I’m in solitary [confinement].”
Keeping tabs on Wall’s recovery goes beyond simply having people there to see it. Phillips and Smith prepare reports on Wall’s daily progress. Those notes, sometimes paired with video, are sent to top executives in the organization including managing partner Ted Leonsis.
Leonsis doesn’t just skim past them in his email inbox, either.
“I used to start my day reading the Washington Post. Now I start my day reading [and watching] my daily John Wall exercise video,” Leonsis said.
Part of the reports include Wall’s weight. He weighs in towards the beginning and end of each month to track his progress.
All of it makes for a painstakingly detailed process. But despite being the subject of all that attention, Wall doesn’t mind being micromanaged.
“It’s great for me, to understand that the organization I give my all to and the city I give me all to has my full support and believes I can come back to be the player I am,” Wall told NBC Sports Washington.
“That’s the best-case scenario. I’ve seen guys who have been with organizations that didn’t really stand by those guys. To have Ted and Tommy and all those guys, Coach Brooks, the whole D.C. community or DMV, has my support, it means a lot to me.”
“John knows that. We text and talk all the time,” Leonsis said. “I think great athletes think that’s fantastic. We care about him.”
Wall, who turns 29 next month, is entering his 10th NBA season. He has been around long enough to have undergone several significant injury rehabs. He has made plenty of friends in the league and has heard how other organizations have treated their injured players.
Wall believes the Wizards are doing things right and in part by expressing almost extreme patience. Everyone from Leonsis on down has said that Wall has no defined timeline to return. They will be understanding even if he has to miss all of the 2019-20 season to make a full recovery.
Wall says that patience isn’t there in other situations.
“To know they have my back and that I don’t have to rush back, it’s the best [situation] ever,” Wall said. “A lot of guys have been in this position and they have to rush back from injuries. I don’t have to do that. I can take my time.”
How much time Wall will end up taking seems to be very much up in the air. Leonsis said at a press conference last month said that Wall “probably won’t play at all next year.” But in order for that to happen, Wall’s rehab would stretch to an unusually long amount of time.
The return timeline for a ruptured Achilles is generally 11 to 15 months. The 11-month mark is in January when three months of the season will still remain. He could even take 13 months, one month longer than most players have had in the past, and still return to play 15-20 games.
Missing all of next season would mean Wall waits 20 months following his surgery to return to NBA game action. That is a long time, especially considering Wall is in a precious window of his athletic prime.
But Wall, at least at this point, insists he is in no rush.
“I’m enjoying it. It’s a fun process,” he said. “It’s not boring like a lot of people told me it would be. I love the challenge.”
What may ultimately be tough to balance is that patience coupled with Wall’s competitive drive. When the regular season is in full swing and the Wizards are where they are in the standings, will Wall be willing to stay on the sidelines?
Because as much as Wall says the right things about taking the long view and being understanding if doctors say he should sit out all of next year, he can’t help but also issue warnings to his critics, the stuff that suggests he has some urgency to get back in due time.
“I love to hear everybody talking about ‘oh he will never be it again, John Wall is done.’ That motivates me more every day,” he said. “I wake up and say ‘I’m going to prove somebody wrong.’”