Wall Still Losing Sleep Over 2015 Playoffs
They say that when it comes to professional sports, the only thing that matters is a championship. Fans of certain teams may remember the bad beats or the occasional epic individual performance, but for the most part the basketball world at large only cares about which team finished on top. All those decades’ worth of teams that fell short don’t mean squat to history.
Sometimes, though, those bad beats are brutal. One ill-timed injury and a title contender gets relegated to those forgotten annals of NBA history. We’ve seen it over and over again—Dirk Nowitzki’s sprained knee in 2003, Kendrick Perkins’ torn knee ligaments in 2010, Magic Johnson and Byron Scott’s twin hamstring injuries in 1989. Every single time something nasty like that happens to a key player, a really good team’s title shot goes out the window, and that robs us all of the best of what could have been.
The most recent example of this was in the second round of the 2015 NBA Playoffs, when the rolling Washington Wizards saw a streak of big-time wins snapped at the hands of fate, which ironically took away the hand of John Wall.
Five non-displaced fractures in Wall’s left wrist and hand took him out of Games 3 and 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, and while the Wizards still won Game 3 due to Paul Pierce’s famous “I called game” buzzer-beating shot, they lost Game 4 at home without Wall. And that pivotal game could have been the rubber match in a series that easily could have gone Washington’s way.
Eight months later, Wall still hasn’t forgotten about it.
“I couldn’t sleep. I still can’t sleep it off. I lose sleep about that to this day,” Wall told Basketball Insiders. “It was tough. I did everything I could to get back out there and compete even with those fractures in my hand, but the ball just didn’t go our way. It was so frustrating.”
“Frustrating” is an understatement. Wall has been talking about competing seriously for a championship for a couple of years now, but health kept them out of it in 2015. This year, the Wizards are facing even more health issues, with Bradley Beal just returning from a bum shoulder and Marcin Gortat missing time with a knee infection nasty enough to have been tested for staph, but things are finally rounding out and the team is finally more or less back together. That, Wall says, is what it will take for the squad to make any real noise in the postseason this year.
“It’s hard being hurt,” Wall said. “We’re good enough, but you’ve got to have some luck in that guys have to be healthy. Last season, I really believe we would have made the Eastern Conference Finals if I don’t break my hand… We thought we could have done something special, and then I got hurt. Even when I came back, everybody still kept fighting and still gave us the opportunity to win Game 5.”
They lost that game by a point, then Game 6 and the series, but the loss hasn’t softened Wall’s resolve.
“I’m always going to say that my goal is to win a championship here,” Wall said. “I love the guys on our team, and we’re getting better. We just have to get to the point where we’re healthy at the right time and streaking right as we’re hitting the playoff run. We feel like we can compete against anybody.”
And perhaps they can, as long as they stay healthy. Wall knows to ask for good luck, which is something completely out of the control of even the hardest-working gym rats in the game, but he also knows at a relatively young age that every year is progress, even if it ends in disappointment.
“Our goal is just to keep getting better, play team basketball and get our guys back healthy,” Wall said. “We’ll just have to make up for this year.”
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