[Editor's note: Stephen D. Riley has contributed to player previews on Truth About It.net and writes about sports for the The Afro. This is his first piece on TAI, where he'll be keeping tabs on John Wall during the season. -Kyle]
John Wall is a gamer. This much you should know already. He’s so much of a gamer that he basically attacked Brandon Jennings at every turn on Thursday in one of the more intriguing matchups of the evening. Actually, forget one of, it was the only intriguing matchup of the evening. Pretty impressive when you consider that both men only have a combined year and two weeks invested into the NBA.
Jennings splashed into the league last season with a 50-Burger against the Golden State Warriors in November, then proceeded to flash the Association with the type of speed and quickness unseen since the days of a young Allen Iverson. But the way Wall played Thursday night, he pretty much showed he could care less about any of that. He attacked Jennings from the tip, defending with vigor and making plays that wouldn’t keep the guys behind me at the Verizon Center from shutting up.
Late in the first quarter he caught an over-the-head pass from Gilbert Arenas, avoided a reach by Jennings and contorted his body while drawing the foul and finishing the layup. The fans stood up, I stood up, and Wall face-flexed to his bench. Splash plays for Wall, one. None for Jennings.
For his next trick, Wall was trying to contain Jennings as he ran off a screen. Wall stole the intended pass, tip-toed the sideline and raced down court for the two-handed finish while hanging on the rim. Again, the fans stood up, I sat down (but wanted to stand up), and Wall jogged back down the court like he’s used to it all. Splash plays for Wall, two. Still none for Jennings.
With Jennings sitting out, Wall was still geared to stand out. He snuck a steal from ex-Wizard Earl Boykins late in the second quarter and sprinted down court for the left-handed dunk (he’s right-handed by the way). Splash plays for Wall, three. Still at zilch for Jennings.
The third quarter was much of the same. With Jennings back in, Wall switched hands on a fast break to blow by the Milwaukee guard for a teardrop finish. He later blasted down court with Jennings chasing him, split a trap aided by Chris Douglas-Roberts and launched in another finish off glass, then turned and mugged at the courtside seat holders for style points and appeared to mutter something along the lines of “get the $#@! off me!” Splash plays for Wall, five. Zero for Jennings.
It wasn’t all about the flair for the rookie, he ran the team pretty well until the Wizards’ offense stalled in the second half. He finished the game with 11 assists and 15 points, putting his so-called “duel” against Jennings aside for the betterment of the team. You notch a double-double against one of last year’s runner-ups for the Rookie of the Year Award, you deserve some props. After the game I prompted Wall to declare a winner but as always, the country kid stayed humble.
“It was a great matchup,” Wall said. “But it’s going to be a matchup every night whoever I play. This is the first time playing against him on this level and the key thing I have to do is try to get wins like him. He led his team into the playoffs last year as a rookie and had a big explosion. I’m not trying to have the biggest game or outmatch him on his rookie year, but I do want to do what he did and help my team get to the playoffs.”
Yea, yea, yea, whatever John. Just go ahead and say it, you got the best of Jennings on Thursday night.