NBA Saturday: Wall Out Until December
Wall Hits A Wall
A year ago, the Washington Wizards had the second-worst record in the NBA, but with the addition of a top-three draft pick, a handful of experienced veterans to replace a handful of outgoing knuckleheads, and of course the further development of former number one overall selection John Wall, the Wizards are expected to be a much-improved organization in 2012-2013.
That renaissance may have to wait a little while, though—8 weeks, to be more precise—as it was announced Friday evening that Wall would miss about eight weeks to heal a burgeoning stress fracture in his knee cap.
On the one hand, this isn’t a season-crusher for the Wizards, but on the other hand it means the team’s best player and floor leader will miss the entire preseason and around 12 regular-season games. A return in the first week of December is the realistic expectation, so even though this doesn’t rob the Wizards of their playoff hopes, it could make it more difficult if they’re unable to leap off to a hot start without their talented young point guard.
The Wizards are looking on the bright side, however, with team president Ernie Grunfeld using terminology like “a minor setback” and “a bump in the road” to describe the injury. Despite the relatively long healing time, the good news is that this wasn’t a serious injury sustained all at once. Wall reportedly had pain his knee a month ago, but tests didn’t show any problems.
Another MRI on Thursday performed by orthopedic specialist Dr. David Altchek showed the beginnings of a stress fracture that was only going to get worse if Wall didn’t start resting and rehabbing it. Hence, 8 weeks.
“(It’s) just something that happens when you work out very hard. That’s all I can say,” Wall told the Associated Press. “It’s very tough for me.”
It’s very tough for his team, too, but at least it’s not a season-ending injury, and at least he’s addressing it before training camp. It would’ve been nice to catch the fracture sooner, but it sounds like it wasn’t there sooner to be caught.
Either way, Wall will work very hard to get back on the floor, because as he told HOOPSWORLD in a Summer League interview back in July, he wants to get this team back to credibility this season so badly it hurts. He’s very motivated to do so, which means he’ll be very motivated to make a strong debut, even if that debut isn’t until December.
And The Era of Flopping Comes To An End
Outside of providing some occasional comic relief, flopping in the NBA is an undeniably awful aspect of the game that drives fans, players, and coaches berserk. Few things are more frustrating than earning a foul because an expert flopper like Manu Ginobili or Raja Bell acts like incidental contact is on par with getting run over by a speeding Mack truck, but according to league spokesperson Tim Frank, the NBA is considering implementing some kind of rule that would punish floppers for their Oscar-worthy performances.
Fans have been calling for such a system for years now, with some suggesting that referees be allowed to call technical fouls during games to punish floppers, and others suggesting fines be levied after the fact when league officials have had time to review tape and assess whether or not something was more performance than actual physical contact.
According to Frank, the NBA’s competition committee is apparently leaning towards the latter, probably because calling flops in the heat of competition in real time could prove challenging, and any use of instant reply to double-check the call would slow the game down. By simply fining offending floppers after the fact, the league can hopefully institute the same sort of discouragement while having an appropriate amount of time to make sure they’re getting their decisions right.
We’ve known for a while now that league commissioner David Stern was interested in implementing some sort of deterrent for this annoyance for quite some time. As recently as the NBA Finals, he was calling for change.
“If you continue to do this, you may you have to suffer some consequences,” Stern said. “What those exactly should be and what the progression is, is to be decided, because … we just want to put a stake in the ground that says this is not something that we want to be part of our game, without coming down with a sledgehammer but just doing it in a minimalist way to begin stamping it out. And I think there are ways we can do that and we’ll have to wait and see exactly what we come up with.”
We’re still waiting, but this latest little nugget of news is good, at least far as eliminating flopping is concerned. Depending on what sorts of fines are levied, these penalties could go a long ways toward curbing what really has become a league-wide epidemic over the course of the last decade. However, it’s likely that this is a work in progress, because old habits die hard. Even if players like Ginobili and Bell entered the season with every intention of knocking it off, these “talents” might be so ingrained that it takes a while to completely kick the habit.
That’ll be just fine in the eyes of most fans, though, because even half as many flops goes a long way towards rejuvenating the integrity of the game. The effectiveness of the system will depend on the harshness of the punishment, but we’ll hopefully get a sense of what that is once the preseason begins.
Until then, all we can do is watch YouTube videos of insanely dramatic foul calls and chuckle at the ghosts of flopping past. That, and hope that the future is considerably less ridiculous.
Ronny Turiaf Makes Triumphant Return to L.A.
A lot has been made about all the great players the L.A. Clippers have brought in this offseason, including Jamal Crawford, Lamar Odom, and Grant Hill, but Ronny Turiaf’s signing flew well under the radar compared to all those other, bigger names. It’s been four seasons since Turiaf last played in this city, even if he was a Laker the last time around, but he’s still a beloved player there, and he feels like he can bring a lot to a Clippers team that’s clearly on the rise.
Turiaf believes he can do that by “Just being myself. Being the guy everyone fell in love with over the course of my playing career. By playing hard, by playing defense… passing the ball, scoring when I have the opportunity to, and being my old self. Being the crazy Ronny that never runs out of energy.”
Turiaf has always made his money as an energy guy and loveable locker room presence. Now, of course, he brings championship pedigree since he just won his first ring as a member of the 2012 Miami HEAT.
“The difference between the Ronny in 2005, ‘06, ‘07, ‘08 and now is that I’m a champion,” he said at Clippers Media Day on Friday. “I went through so much with the ups and the downs—and there were so many downs—that now it’s coming full circle. It’s a good wave, and I’m trying to ride this wave as long as possible. I’m at peace in my life… I had to deal with my open heart surgery, but now that’s all in the past. It’s a fun time in my life because when I walk through Los Angeles, I get this undeniable love from the fans. It gives me this extra boost in my life, and I’m very thankful for that.”
If L.A. was such a great fit for him on a personal level, why, then, would he leave in the first place?
“It was the biggest, toughest decision I had to make,” Turiaf said. “My heart is in Los Angeles. That’s where I accomplished myself as a professional and as a man off the basketball court. I felt like the fan base here embraced what I did as far as the guy that didn’t care about himself and cared about his team. The blue collar guy who takes care of the team before himself. I had to do it, but if I had to go back and do the same thing, would I do it? I don’t know.”
To be fair, he did win a championship because he chose to leave, but he also could’ve done so had he chosen to stay with the Lakers. One more year with the team and he would’ve had a ring in 2009. Still, he’s back now, albeit with a new team, and based on his comments at Media Day on Friday, he’s grateful for his latest opportunity.
“This team has that ‘it’ factor,” he said. “Everybody wants to rally around Clipper nation with Blake… and the final touch was the applying of All-Star point guard Chris Paul. Those are the building blocks of this franchise.”
And, according to Turiaf, that duo is among the best two-man teams in the entire NBA.
“They’re definitely up there,” he said. “That’s something for you guys to have fun with and run with. What I’m going to worry about is how can I make those guys better, how can I make their life easier on the basketball court, how can I help them any way possible to take my various stops in the NBA and help them get to where they want to get? That’s what I’m focusing on.”
The Clippers look stronger than they ever have since moving to California, and while Turiaf won’t play a huge role on the team, he’s good enough and positive enough to have a solid impact on the group. If all goes well, he’ll end up with a second championship in as many years, but that’s a hard road, due in large part to the last L.A. team he played for the: the Lakers.