HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — Mid-September is the time when basketballs start bouncing at a more frequent rate in NBA gyms around the country, a sound that brings hope and joy to all involved. But when players get back to playing full-speed basketball, they also get back to getting injured.
For the second straight season, the Washington Wizards got a head-start in the injury race. Last September, they announced that John Wall would miss two months with a stress fracture in his left knee. This September’s news isn’t as bad, but it could certainly affect Washington’s outlook.
Early Wednesday afternoon, the Wizards announced that Chris Singleton has a Jones fracture in his left foot and will be out 6-8 weeks. An hour later, they announced that Emeka Okafor has been diagnosed with a herniated disc in his neck and will be out indefinitely.
The Singleton injury is tough, but he could be back for the start of the season and the Wizards have depth at the forward positions. The Okafor injury is obviously a lot more worrisome.
Washington is a team that promised to improve this season and possibly snatch a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Last season, they were 22-19 in games where both Wall and Nene were healthy, had a top-10 defense, and had a starting lineup that was excellent in limited minutes. Only four lineups that played at least 100 minutes had a better NetRtg (point differential per 100 possessions) than the unit of Wall, Bradley Beal, Martell Webster, Nene and Okafor.
So the hope was that Washington could maintain its top-10 standing on defense while improving its offense with the development of Wall and Beal. But the defensive part of that equation looks a little more doubtful with the Okafor news. He was a big part of that top-10 defense, anchoring the middle for more than 2,000 minutes last season.
Kevin Seraphin can step out an hit a mid-range jumper, but his shooting numbers were barely better than Okafor’s last season. And Seraphin is obviously not the defender that Okafor is. So the Wizards will have to help that Okafor isn’t out too long.