(April 22, 2021 / JNS) On Wednesday night, 2,133 lucky Washington Wizards fans saw their hometown team in person at the Capitol One Arena for the first time this season and for the first time in 407 days. They cheered as the Wizards defeated the Golden State Warriors 118-114 for their sixth win in a row and eighth in their last nine games. The fans also gasped as 20-year-old rookie forward Deni Avdija from Israel went down in pain just before halftime, grasping his right leg.
The 20-year-old Israeli had just gotten a defensive rebound and went up for a layup at the other end of the floor. Warriors player Andrew Wiggins blocked the layup, possibly fouling Avdija, who came down and landed unnaturally on his ankle. Teammate Jordan Bell observed the fall from the bench, ran out, took off his training jersey and covered Avdija’s leg. He left the court in a wheelchair.
Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard reportedly walked to the locker room immediately to check on the injured player. The team announced that Avdija would not return to the game. An X-ray revealed that Avdija reportedly suffered a hairline fracture and is expected to undergo an MRI exam on Thursday. He will be out for the remainder of the season but is not expected to need surgery.
Despite leaving the game, Avdija reportedly told his teammates that he was pleased with their win. The six-game winning streak is the Wizards’ longest since their seven straight victories from Jan. 23, 2017, to Feb. 4, 2017. Washington improved to 16-10 against the Western Conference this season. Bradley Beal finished with a game-high 29 points, going 11-11 from the free-throw line.
Russell Westbrook finished with 14 points, 20 rebounds and 10 assists for his league-leading 27th triple-double of the season. He served as a mentor to Avdija this summer. Of his Hebrew-speaking charge, he reports: “He has been amazing. He has been great.”
He offered encouragement for his injured teammate, saying his “first reaction was to pray for him and for his mental health. We will get him through these tough times and be supportive.”
Daniel Gafford, recently acquired from the Chicago Bulls before the recent 2021 NBA trade deadline, had 19 points on 7-11 shooting, adding 10 rebounds and three blocks. He, too, is thinking about his injured teammate.
“Seeing a guy go down like that is scary. I felt his pain,” he said. Gafford acknowledged that it will be “a long road to recovery,” but feels “he will be in good hands.” He noted that “ankle injuries are one of the worst, especially being a rookie. It is just tough!”
Avdija had six points in 14 minutes before leaving the game. He has been averaging 23 minutes of playing time per game, and 6.3 points and 4.9 rebounds per game in his 31 starts this season.
Avdija is expected to remain in Washington, D.C., as he recovers and undergoes rehabilitation.
UPDATE: As of April 23, Avdija was diagnosed with a right fibular hairline fracture with no surgery required. He should be back at play in about 12 weeks, according to the team.
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