WASHINGTON (AP) — A little over midway through the first quarter, John Wall stood up in front of the Washington Wizards' bench and removed his warm-up jacket. Applause rippled around the half-full arena.
When the whistle next blew, with 4:56 to play in the quarter, the team's franchise player walked onto the court to a standing ovation. Wall gave a very quick salute to the crowd, tied his shorts and took his place near the free-throw line.
The former No. 1 overall pick is back, making his season debut in Saturday night's 93-83 win over the Atlanta Hawks.
Playing his first game since being diagnosed with a stress injury to his left kneecap in September, Wall played 21 minutes and scored 14 points, going 5 for 11 from the field and 4 for 5 from the free-throw line.
Wall's first highlight was a fast-break assist to rookie Bradley Beal, the kind of play the Wizards envisioned from a speedy Wall-Beal backcourt when they drafted Beal at No. 3 overall last June.
Wall was expected to miss about two months when his injury was announced Sept. 28. He began increasing his basketball activity last month, but it wasn't until Wednesday that he had his first full-throttle practice with the team. After three consecutive days of pain-free workouts, Wall was given medical clearance Friday to suit up.
Wall still needs to work on his conditioning and is having his minutes carefully monitored by coach Randy Wittman.