John Wall played in his first NBA game in two years Thursday night after a prolonged recovery from two injuries, which the five-time All-Star said he thought at one point might not only end his basketball career but cause him to lose his foot.
“It was tough,” Wall told Stadium’s Shams Charania prior to his 22-point, six-rebound, nine-assist performance in the Rockets’ win over the Kings. “I went through three or four different infections. So it got to the point where, ‘OK, are you going to have to cut your foot off or not?’ That’s where it got real with me. The basketball aspect was, like, going to be easy for me.
“I feel like any rehab that comes in the first three or four months is the biggest key of anything, is how you attack it. So all of a sudden, I couldn’t be a heavyweight. I had to be lighter weight.”
Wall underwent surgery on his left heel in January 2019, when he was with the Wizards, to remove the bone spurs that had bothered him for years. But he developed an infection in the incision from that surgery. He then had to have more surgery after suffering a ruptured left Achilles tendon when he slipped and fell in his home.
The first-overall pick in 2010 was traded last month to Houston, along with a protected first-round pick, for Russell Westbrook
His return to the court was further delayed when he was deemed a close contact high risk of rookie Kenyon Martin Jr., who tested positive for COVID-19 a day after getting a haircut at Wall’s apartment. Wall had to miss the Rockets’ previous two-game road trip to quarantine.
“It was great, man, just to get out there and have fun,” he told reporters Thursday. “When I get between those four lines and once the ball touches my hands after the jump ball, I was fine. I was happy to be able to compete with some of the best guys in this league and [demonstrate] that I have the ability to be one of the best point guards in this league.”
Although he was rather pleased with his first performance in his first game back, Wall acknowledged that there was room for improvement, specifically pointing to his five turnovers and poor 3-point shooting (2-of-8) — though teammate Christian Wood said Wall was back in “All-Star mode.”
“Having 22, nine and six is not bad for my first game in two years,” Wall said. “I can pat myself on the back for that, and I know that I’ll be even better for the next game.”