There's some bad news out of the nation's capital on Tuesday morning, and it's got nothing to do with turkey Hunger Games (although, y'know, what?). Take it away, Washington Wizards:
The Washington Wizards announced today that guard Bradley Beal has been diagnosed with a stress injury to his proximal right fibula. He will miss the next two weeks and then be re-evaluated. The injury was diagnosed by team doctors following an MRI exam on Monday after Beal experienced soreness in his right leg.
If the "stress injury"/"right fibula" combination sounds familiar to you, it might be because Beal suffered a similar injury back in April that put him on the shelf for the final eight games of his rookie season. That injury, though, was to his "to his distal right fibula," according to the Wizards; as Michael Lee of the Washington Post explains, that means the spring injury was in the lower part of Beal's right calf bone and that the new one's in the upper part of the bone.
The two-week timeline is significantly shorter than the three months it took Beal to be medically cleared for basketball-related activities and the four months it took him to get back to five-on-five play, which could be construed as a positive sign. Then again, as Bullets Forever's Mike Prada notes, is really a "two weeks and then we'll see, who knows" timeline, dependent on the forthcoming re-evaluation, and the Wizards haven't had the best track record with this sort of thing; recall, if you will, that John Wall was set to miss eight weeks with a "stress injury" in his left knee last year but wound up sidelined nearly twice that long before returning in mid-January.
For his part, Beal told reporters Tuesday that the injury was identified and addressed early enough that he doesn't believe it will be a major stumbling block, and that the pain he feels is significantly less now than it was back in April. He did, however, suggest that a heavy early-season workload might have contributed to the ailment:
Beal: "I’ve been playing non-stop...playing a lot of minutes, so that constant stress & that pounding on my leg has been influential."
— Michael Lee (@MrMichaelLee) November 26, 2013
Beal ain't kidding — as ESPN.com's Tom Haberstroh noted Tuesday morning, he's averaging a league-leading 40.2 minutes per game this season and covering more ground per game in terms of miles run than any other player in the league, according to the NBA's SportVU player-tracking data. And the soreness — which Beal said has been lingering for about a week — dovetails with periods where the sophomore could just tell he didn't have enough in the tank to keep his form consistent on jumpers, according to Lee:
“Sometimes, I can feel my legs aren’t in it. Or a few minor adjustments here or there are all because of fatigue,” Beal said after the Wizards defeated the Knicks, 98-89 on Saturday at Verizon Center. “Sometimes, it just doesn’t go in. All my shots feel good, except for the ones that I know are off for sure. Nine times out of 10, I feel like all of my shots are going in.”
You can understand head coach Randy Wittman wanting to keep top guns like the sharpshooting Beal, who's scoring a team-high 20.6 points per game and has hit 43.9 percent of his 3-pointers this year, and point guard John Wall, who's getting just under 38 minutes of nightly burn himself, on the floor as much as possible — especially considering how much the Wizards' offense falls off a cliff when Wall sits (they score 23.4 fewer points per 100 possessions, per NBA.com), when Beal sits (13.3 fewer per-100, per NBA.com) and when they both sit (17.2 fewer per-100, according to NBAwowy.com). And especially considering Wittman was facing calls for his job after his second straight sluggish start to the season. And especially considering the playoffs-or-bust mentality that led the Wizards to make the now-for-later swap of a future first-round draft pick and the expiring contract of injured center Emeka Okafor for Marcin Gortat.
That's an awful lot of wear and tear on the wheels of a player who'd just come back from a leg injury, though, even if said player still can't legally order a stiff drink after another long night on the job. And while nobody can say for sure that Beal wound up in the shop because his head coach drove him too hard, but they can sure question the practice, and they'll have at least a couple of weeks of watching the 2012 draft's No. 3 overall pick sit the bench in street clothes in which to do so.
The good news is that if the re-evaluation after two weeks shows that everything's right as rain, then Beal will have only missed about seven games of the Wizards' upcoming schedule. The bad news is that this should likely serve as a wake-up call that the Wiz can't keep giving Beal Allen Iverson-level minutes, and with the lack of reliable off-guard options behind him, that could make fielding potent offenses more difficult for a Washington team that's already had enough trouble staying out of the bottom-third of NBA offenses this season.
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