There's never a good time to have an injury setback. But the timing for some injury setbacks is better than others. Unfortunately, the news that Alan Anderson had to have a second ankle surgery on Tuesday -- after missing all of training camp and the preseason -- does not fall in the "better than others" category.
First, it makes an already difficult injury situation all the more difficult. The Wizards are already dealing with injuries to other players at his position. Jared Dudley (back), Garrett Temple (hamstring), and Martell Webster (hip) have all missed time during the preseason. While the hope is all three will be ready in time for the start of the regular season, it wouldn't be out of line to expect at least one player to miss the start of the season.
Even if they are all healthy, you're asking everyone to take on a bigger load with Anderson out. At best, the Wizards will need more from Dudley, Temple, Webster, and newcomer Gary Neal than they expected so early in the season, and you may have to see more of Ramon Sessions playing alongside John Wall and Otto Porter at the 4 to compensate. At worst, if anyone's injuries are worse than they expected, we could see Kelly Oubre forced into the Wizards' rotation right off-the-bat, and based on his early performances, that's not going to go well for him or the team.
Last year, the Wizards were able to absorb early season injuries to Bradley Beal, Nene, and Martell Webster, thanks in part to an unexpected surge from Rasual Butler, and mainly to a very soft start to the regular season schedule. Perhaps Gary Neal or maybe even Martell Webster could come out of nowhere and have a strong start, but the start of this season's early slate does them no favors.
Jorge Castillo reported the Wizards think Anderson could miss a couple months after his latest surgery. So let's play it conservative and say Anderson returns on New Year's Day, which would be just over 2.5 months from now. Over that stretch, the Wizards play 30 games. 18 of those games are against teams that made the playoffs last season, and they also get to face the Heat (a team that would've easily made the playoffs last season if it not for injuries) and the Suns (a team that missed the playoffs in the competitive Western Conference, but swept the Wizards last season).
Before we lose sight of things, it's important to remember we're talking about Alan Anderson here. The season does not hinge on Alan Anderson. You could even argue it may be a good thing because it means John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter will be more alert to start the season without veterans like Anderson and Dudley to bail them out if they struggle.
Still, Anderson's injury is important because the stakes are so high this season. Every game is an opportunity to make an impression on free agents like Kevin Durant. If the Wizards get off to a slow start, it's a bad way to kick off their recruiting pitch. And of course, if either Dudley or Anderson take longer to return to form than expected after their surgeries, it could take even longer to convince free agents they're not the team that limped out of the gates.
And at the same time, if the Wizards struggle early, their biggest issue may not be trying to convince free agents things are OK, it might be trying to convince each other things are OK. Let's not forget two-thirds of the roster could be free agents next summer, and Randy Wittman only has a team option for next season. If the team gets off to a bad start, the Wizards' resolve to stick together will be tested.
Optimistically, the Wizards could rebound and pick up steam as the schedule gets better and players get healthier and finish on a high note if things get off to a bad start. And let's be real, the way a team finishes is what matters most. But if things go badly with Anderson on the shelf, there are certainly ways it could contribute to a bad start to the season that could fester into something worse in a season where the Wizards really, really don't want to show anything than their best.