John Wall is so fast, but he’s always waiting.
He breezes past defenders with more than quickness, aided by long strides and big steps. Still, he often waits.
In attacking the rim with an offensive mind, Wall plays the waiting game. Waiting for the defending arms to clear out of the way. Waiting, and bracing, for a potential hit… a foul call if he’s lucky. Waiting for the last possible second to release his shot, a layup attempt at his final destination. Waiting until the coast is clear. Waiting to finish with points.
Some haven’t considered the exciting, scary thought — those two emotions coming from two different angles. You didn’t see an NBA-ready John Wall this season. His rookie eating habits were horrible, but expected for a teenager. His mentality fought to adjust to League-caliber athletes, and in many instances made them adjust to him. His body was not always fully healthy, and he admittedly rushed back before fully healed (yet one day he’ll have to play hurt like Kobe Bryant). His semi-suspect Reebok shoes went through some “adjustments” to make them “firmer” after Wizards officials and training staff met with the shoe company, according to the Washington Post’s Michael Lee. If these things were holding Wall back to even the slightest degree, Wizards fans should be the excited ones, and the rest of the League should be scared.
Wall was introduced to the District with police escorts, red carpets and a section of a city unknown to him draped with marketing efforts featuring his name. He scored 1,131 points, tallied 574 assists, 317 rebounds and 121 steals in 69 games. No other NBA rookie has reached those milestones in less than 70 games; Chris Paul, Mark Jackson and Tim Hardaway are the only other rookies who have done it period, according to Basketball-Reference.com. Wall also won the NBA’s Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month Award in January, February, March and April. All of the meaningless pizazz, surface accolades and numbers are there, but the best has yet to come. Just you wait.
Wall’s strength is the combination of being a pass-first point guard who can finish at the rim and run one-man fast-breaks fueled by great size and excellent athleticism, with the ability to wait. According to HoopData.com, he finished fifth among point guards who appeared in 40 or more games in makes at the rim per game.
- Russell Westbrook - 4.1 FGM at the rim per game; 60.4 FG%
- Tony Parker - 3.9; 65.4
- Derrick Rose – 3.8; 60.0
- Tyreke Evans - 3.7; 59.0
- John Wall - 3.2; 59.9
The numbers and percentages will improve, especially if the franchise builds players around Wall who can shoot from the corners and beyond, and who can chase the rim with Wall, on both offense and defense.
But despite all that did go well, Wall had a more frustrating rookie season than he expected… than we all expected. By February, the Wizards had as many losses, 35, as Wall’s Kentucky team had wins in the previous season; while Washington was only able to tally 13 victories in the same time period to three losses for the Wildcats during all of 2009-10. The Wizards finished the season 23-59. But the frustration is a good thing. Because in everything overly evident from his arrival in Washington to the winding down conclusion, Wall was a sponge soaking up all the knowledge he could. He literally bugged the crap out of Kirk Hinrich with questions. Well, not literally. There were no bugs.
On April 22, Ted Leonsis blogged about his exit interviews with several Wizards players, John Wall was the only one he mentioned by name. Leonsis outlined, as he has done before, that the Wizards are rebuilding around Wall, and the owner all but said that the rebuild involves direct input from the young 20-year old star. It’s an essential, and additional, contract between the two parties, but this one has nothing to do with exchanged money.
The franchise will construct a team around Wall that will mesh with him both basketball-wise and effort-level-wise — because they certainly heard his frustrations regarding the effort of teammates during the season. And Wall will improve his body and eating habits. He will prove that he can further apply the basketball intelligence he so readily received. All is currently copacetic with this hypothetical agreement, with more of an onus on Leonsis and Ernie Grunfeld to produce the surrounding results while Wall keeps doing what he does.
But the anticipated warmth of Wall’s sunny day future is unfortunately clouded by a collective-bargaining dispute between the league and it’s players that will likely mean a lockout for an extended period of time. Slightly unfair to Wizards fans who have waited long enough for a winner, but not beyond the horizon where they can’t wait some more.
Either way, bet that Wall already can’t wait to get back on that court. Bet that he can’t wait to make himself better. Bet that he can’t wait to zoom down the floor past a blur of flesh and limbs, only to wait some more for a blink of the eye before releasing a timely fast-break bucket as only a Game Changer can.
John Wall Flying, Pictures: