WASHINGTON — Kelly Oubre Jr. was one of the best Washington Wizards weapons off the bench this season, shooting better than 42 percent from the floor and averaging 6.3 points per game.
But his stat line went dark in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, as he played just six seconds in the game, down from an average of more than 17 minutes per game through the rest of the series.
As the Wizards watched their hopes of an Eastern Conference Finals berth wither and die, many Wizards fans questioned how one of the best bench players could be shuttered. Apparently, teammate John Wall wondered the same.
“We need to help our bench,” Wall told CSN’s Chris Miller. “Just to be honest, that was our downfall in each series that we had in the [Eastern Conference] semifinals, our bench got outplayed.
“I think Kelly Oubre could’ve played a little bit more. But Coach [Scott Brooks] makes the decision, and we stick behind him 100 percent.”
Right. 100 percent.
The good news/bad news is that Oubre wasn’t simply overlooked on the bench; he was playing through a knee injury that will likely require offseason attention if not surgery.
Perhaps Brooks was simply protecting the youngster from himself. Oubre’s injury was revealed after Game 1 vs. the Atlanta Hawks, but Oubre told the medical staff not to tell him specifics. He was in pain but wanted a clear conscience to play as needed.
“I told them not to let me know. I just wanted to focus on basketball. I’m alright,” he said at the time. “I might have to take some time off [this offseason] just to let my knee heal.”
Also this offseason, Wall hopes that the Wizards front office will target upgrades to the bench, to allow the team to play at a high level when he isn’t on the court.
“I heard Marcus Smart say after the game that I had no legs,” Wall said. “He’s basically right. I don’t make excuses. I’m going to play. If I miss shots or make shots, I’ll live with it. I know people will say he finished 0-for-11, but I play—it took everything I had in me to keep fighting.”