[What does John Wall smell? - photo: K. Weidie]
Media members tend to attach themselves to keywords or catch phrases and then shape narratives around them. Guilty as charged. The Washington Wizards franchise has especially provided an abundance of excellent catch phrases over the years.
Recently, you have “pixels” via the web tech-savvy Ted Leonsis (and now, likely “erudite“). From Flip Saunders, we’ve had “Style over substance” as a JaVale McGee descriptor. Going back further, Gilbert Arenas helped popularize the term, “Swag.” Now most feel that word is overused, how oddly fitting.
“Just like Groundhog Day,” Antawn Jamison used to say. From “Get buckets son!,” via Oleksiy Pecherov to “I Love This Game!,” the NBA’s 90s motto that Gheorghe Muresan famously said in broken English over the television airwaves on draft night 1993, some phrases have been more relevant than others. And I’m failing to mention dozens of them, as they pertain to the Wizards.
It is unforeseen where Flip Saunders’ recent “popcorn players” parable/anecdote will fall on the spectrum, but it elicited one of the more revealing quotes from John Wall that I’ve heard. Because we all wonder, how exactly are stars like him wired? And while Wall’s words don’t exactly reveal anything about the inner workings of his neurology, they do show what he cares about: playing every basketball game like it’s his last.
“There’s certain players, that when you step into the gym and they smell the popcorn,” said Saunders at media day. “They play at another level, popcorn-type players.”
The coach was then asked who were the popcorn players on his roster.
“John [Wall] is definitely a popcorn player… Jordan [Crawford] is definitely a popcorn player,” countered Saunders.
He went on to cite Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee, mostly out of courtesy, but they do have their moments. Rookie Shelvin Mack even got a budding mention as Saunders wound down his answer.
Wall was later asked about being a “popcorn player,” as his coach put it.
“I don’t understand that one,” Wall said with his Southern drawl, rolling the first two words of the sentence together. He was making a joke, showing his personality. And the room laughed out of his hand. Then Wall got serious.
“If you love the game, then every time you step on the court, your adrenaline should already be pumping. You should be ready to play every game,” he said. “You should be thankful because you never know when your last game could be. So I just enjoy it and take all the fun into every game I play.”
Popcorn is just a food. Some players live to eat. Others eat to live. John Wall smells more than popcorn, he’s hungry for basketball.
Video: Flip and John Talk Popcorn