[Editor's note: Stephen D. Riley covered the Wall-Jennings matchup on TAI from John's perspective, now here's Rashad Mobley with a look from Brandon's perspective in his series "From The Other Side." -Kyle]
By the time John Wall’s name is announced as the Wizards’ starting point guard on their home opening night against Philadelphia 76ers, he will have received more than enough advice. His family is telling him how to manage his life, his friends are telling him how to spend his money and where to hang out, his teammates are saying get me the ball in my sweet spot, the coaches (especially Sam Cassell) are telling him how to be an effective point guard in the NBA. Hell, I’m sure even his twitter following has chimed in with their clueless, but well-intentioned advice.
After my visit to the Milwaukee Bucks locker room before their preseason matchup with the Wizards, it looks like Wall will have two more people to take advice from: Head Coach Scott Skiles and second year guard Brandon Jennings.
Skiles coached Jennings during his rookie year, so he knows first-hand about the ups and downs involved with a rookie running the show. But prior to that, Skiles enjoyed a 10-year career in the NBA (including one year with the Bullets), where he averaged 11 points and 6.5 assists, and dished out 30 assists in one game (an NBA record).
Jennings, much like Wall will do this year, was given the responsiblity of running the Milwaukee Bucks in his first season. He exceeded expectations in the regular season by averaging 15.5 points and 5.7 assists, and then in the playoffs he continued his solid play by raising his scoring average to 18.7 points (his assists dropped to 3.6, but Andrew Bogut was hurt, so he gets a pass). Much like Skiles, Jennings also picked up an NBA record along the way, by dropping 56 points on Golden State–the most ever by a Milwaukee Bucks rookie.
So armed with their accomplishments and records in my head, I approached Jennings and Skiles to ask them about Wall and point guard play in general. I started by asking Jennings to give me three pieces of advice Wall need to succeed during his rookie year.
“First thing I’d say is try not to get too burned out in the preseason, try to pace yourself right now because its so early, you wanna be able to still have that same type of intensity that he has right now, when we’re in game 30 and 40. Right now he’s playing a lot minutes, and they’re going to burn the kid out and it’s only preseason. But I can understand what the Wizards are doing, they want to put him out there to see if he can play, if he’s comfortable. And also, he just has to win. That sounds simple, but the reality is if you’re the point guard, you have to be the reason why they’re winning, not the reason why your team keeps losing. That’s the bottom line.”
I then asked Jennings when he thought Wall could look forward to feeling comfortable as a rookie running the show and ordering veterans around
“It really depends, I mean based on what I’ve seen, he may be ready right now, in terms of telling people what to do and how to control the floor. With me, I got comfortable after my 55 point game, that’s when I knew I could compete in this league, and I was able to do some great things.”
Next, I moved on the scrum around Scott Skiles, and when he was initially asked about Wall he used the tried and true cliches like “quick and explosive”, “franchise changing player” and “long and athletic” and I began to think I wasn’t going to get quotes worthy of a Truth About It post. But then David Aldridge asked Skiles about why Jennings had so much trouble finishing around the basket last year, and he dropped this bit of knowledge on everyone:
“The size and athleticism up here [in the NBA] is totally different than anything these guys have encountered anywhere else. When do you shoot you little floater, when is it a right-hand reverse layup, when is it just contact and getting two free-throws, when do you throw one high off the glass, and that decision is made on the fly. Tony Parker has always been a high-level finisher, but even when he came in, it took him a little while, and so it’s just one of those things young guys gotta get figured out.”
Other notes from the Milwaukee Bucks locker room:
Guards Chris Douglas-Roberts and Keyon Dooling both played on that dismal 12-70 New Jersey Nets team last year, along with current Wizards forward Yi Jianlian. I asked both of them how Yi was as a teammate last year, and whether they’ve noticed improvements in his game this year.
“To be honest I haven’t seen Yi play too much since we left the Nets, I’ve been so focused on my game and the Bucks. But as a teammate, he was cool with me. He’s really talented, and everybody knows that. But to be honest with you, everybody on that team was in a tough position last year, so it’s really unfair to judge me, Yi or anyone based on their performance … we didn’t know what we had, because everyone from top to bottom was just so inconsistent. But now that he’s in a more stable environment, everyone will see he has all the potential in the world. He’s 7-foot, he can really shoot the ball, he’s versatile, and just from looking at him during shootaround, he looks like he’s gotten stronger.”
“Well I saw a lot improvements in his game last year from the year before, so this year it seems like he’s just continued that same work ethic. He’s gotten physically stronger, I think that’s pretty obvious, but he still needs to play more minutes and kind of find his niche a little bit. But individually he has a lot of talent, he’s 7-foot, athletic, he can shoot the ball, but again, he’s going to have to carve out his niche and be the same player every night. And he was great as a teammates, he surprisingly has a great sense of humor, and he’s a hard worker. I always try to embrace international guys, because they don’t have a lot of people to talk to or a lot of things to do, so I try to make their transition easy. And he’s a guy I enjoyed working with everyday.”
And finally Scott Skiles, who was thrown out of the game during his last visit to Washington, decided to weigh in on the much-ballyhooed issue this preseason, of the referees calling technical fouls against players early and often:
“Well, I got thrown out here last year and got suspended, so I’m probably not one to be talking about any players or anything. Look, they’re not trying to take the passion out of the game or anything like that, just the prolonged complaining from one play to the next, and I think that’s good.”