As John Wall ripped off his warm-ups and went from the Washington Wizards' bench to the scorers' table, a roar filled the Verizon Center.
Wall received a standing ovation as he stepped onto the court for the first time this season — the first time since last April — because of a left-knee injury and commenced his third season with the organization he was drafted to lead back to respectability.
After using the first three quarters to get his "jiggly" legs under him, Wall gave the Wizards and the fans a reminder of the speed, excitement and flash they've been missing in a 93-83 victory over the Atlanta Hawks.
"I hadn't played in so long, four months, so it felt like we were miserable, but I kept fighting for my team," Wall said after scoring 14 points with a team-high four assists and two rebounds. "Just excited to get back out there with my teammates, play in front of the D.C. crowd and help our team get a win."
Using that break-neck speed to break down the defense and unleashing several months of pent-up passion, Wall didn't appear to miss a step in the fourth quarter, when he took the suspense out of close game with back-to-back layups. Then, after forward Kevin Seraphin made a jumper to force Hawks coach Larry Drew to call timeout, Wall marched to the bench, shouting to the fans as they applauded what would end up being the first two-game winning streak of the season.
"Obviously, it's a long time sitting there," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. "He's been looking forward to this since the end of last year."
Wall was the difference in helping the Wizards (6-28) finally knock off a Hawks team that had won the previous six meetings, including two overtime games this season. He closed out the game with a nifty, behind-the-back pass to Trevor Ariza for a two-handed dunk, then talked some more trash to the Hawks as he made it down the floor on defense. He shouted to anyone who would listen, "I'm back."
Wall picked a good time to return, with several of his teammates starting to round into shape. He was in position to close out the game because point guard A.J. Price had a season-high 16 points after getting his first start since breaking his hand Dec. 8; and because Martell Webster, who moved into a starting spot with Ariza out because of injury, scored 15 points and had an impressive dunk over former Wizard DeShawn Stevenson.
Emeka Okafor had a double double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Rookie Bradley Beal had begun to come on before Wall made his debut and delivered an upset win over Oklahoma City on Monday with a one-handed jumper with three-tenths of a second remaining. But Beal certainly benefited from playing with Wall for the first time, as he scored 16 points and was on the receiving end of Wall's first three assists.
"That's what I expected. From the jump, he was enthusiastic. He was hyped," Beal said.
Pcts: FG .385, FT .640. 3-pointers: 7-24, .292 (L.Williams 2-6, J.Jenkins 1-1, D.Harris 1-3, J.Teague 1-3, J.Smith 1-4, Korver 1-4, Stevenson 0-1, I.Johnson 0-2). Team rebs: 13. Team turnovers: 16. Blocks: 4 (Horford, J.Smith, J.Teague, Korver). Turnovers: 16 (J.Smith 4, Horford 3, J.Teague 3, D.Harris 2, I.Johnson, Korver, L.Williams, Pachulia). Steals: 8 (J.Teague 2, D.Harris, I.Johnson, J.Smith, Korver, L.Williams, Stevenson). Technical fouls: L.Williams, J.Teague, J.Smith.
Pcts: FG .456, FT .704. 3-pointers: 2-11, .182 (Beal 1-3, Webster 1-3, Temple 0-1, A.Price 0-4). Team rebs: 6. Team turnovers: 17. Blocks: 4 (Booker 2, Seraphin, Temple). Turnovers: 17 (Nene 3, Seraphin 3, Wall 3, Beal 2, Booker 2, A.Price, Ariza, Okafor, Webster). Steals: 9 (Beal 3, A.Price 2, Webster 2, Booker, Seraphin). Technical fouls: Seraphin.
A: 15,331. T: 2:12. Officials: Kevin Scott, Tom Washington, John Goble.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times