John Wall Said WHAT On ESPN Radio?!
John Wall, an All-Star for the first time, chatted with P.J. Carlesimo, NBA insider Marc Stein and ESPN Radio host Marc Kestecher today.
In a radio segment called “Meet The All-Stars,” the three sportscasters asked Wall about this weekend’s festivities in New Orleans, what it felt like to get love from Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, what his Washington Wizards have to do in the second half of the season, and more.
What follows is a transcription. Enjoy.
Marc Kestecher: What do you think this whole weekend is going to be like for you, now that you’re on the Eastern squad?
“I think it’s a lot of excitement, a humbling experience to be here. I think it’ll be a lot of business here—you got a lot of stuff to do. I think a lot of people think the All-Star break is for fun—you get a little bit of free time—but mostly it’s important things: giving back to the fans and enjoying ourselves.”
P.J. Carlesimo: “Looking forward to the remainder of the season, what do you guys have to do to even build upon what you’ve done so far?”
“We definitely got to just learn how to play the same way throughout the rest of the last 30 games. We gotta go out there and give 110 percent effort on the defensive end, for 48 minutes, and play team basketball offensively. I think that’s what hurts us in certain games: we play a half, or we might play three quarters, and we’re not a good enough team right now to do that. We gotta go out there and play 48 minutes.
“Look what we did the last couple of games. We get down and then decide to play in the second half. We gotta learn to do it for both halves, and I think we’ll win those tough games.”
Marc Stein: “In the build up to finally getting over .500, how aware were you personally of that stat?”
“I knew about it. Every time you come into the building or talk to the media they was bringing it up. We kinda wanted to tell them to stop bringing it up so we could stop focusing on it. For some reason, for a while, while we was there close to it, we came out with no sense of urgency. We didn’t play as a team. We tried to do it individually to get over that hump and it was hurting us. So, it was good to finally get over that stump.”
Kestecher: “[After the double-overtime game against San Antonio] Gregg Popovich gave you a lot of praise, publicly—came out and talked about how great you’re playing. How much does that mean coming from a coach like him whose been in these wars for a long time?”
“That’s big for me. That’s a humbling experience for me. I thank Coach Popovich for that, because I always had tough times against that team. I think it was about time for me to finally get over that hump of trying to stay healthy and doing the right things. I knew what I had to improve on: my pace, my jump shot and trusting my teammates. I think that’s something I improved this season, and at the end of last season, also. That’s a big compliment to hear that from him.”
Carlesimo: “How pumped are you for the Sunday night game, the big game this weekend?”
“[laughs] I’m too anxious—I hope my mom can make it, because she’s stuck in North Carolina in the snow—just to be in my first All-Star game and be ‘big time,’ you know what I mean? Just watching on TV in my first two and half seasons, or coming to watch and sit in the stands, I finally get to play in front of all the stars and enjoy myself and say, ‘I’m an All-Star.'”
Stein: “I imagine it was a bit of a blow when Team USA announced the final 28 and you weren’t in the gorup. What was it like after that to then get this All-Star honor? How much did that make up for it?”
“I think it made up for it. But you know what I mean, it’s very tough. Team USA? You put everything behind you. You take the name off your back, you put the Wizards away, and you’re playing for your country. Nothing’s bigger than that.
“The NBA, getting drafted? That was pretty big for me. But playing for your country is always a dream come true. Those guys did a great job of picking who they liked. I did the best I could to go there and be a professional, when I went through the summer workouts. You look past it—that’s what they decided to do—and I’m still gonna support my country and move forward. I’m happy I’m here at All-Star Weekend to be an All-Star.”
Kestecher: “We had a lot of really good point guards suffer some injuries the last few years. You actually had a stress injury in your left knee—maybe 12, 13 months ago. How concerned were you at that time that it could be an injury that would set you back?”
“Well, it was tough for me, because I usually come in around my birthday [Sept. 6] for training camp to prepare, but I came in a whole month before, in August, and I knew something wasn’t right when I was working out in L.A.
“I came in, got checked up, and they said I’d be about eight weeks. Every time I went to the doctor, they was like, ‘Well, it’s another eight weeks, and another eight weeks.’ The last test before I came back and played January 12, they said, ‘If you don’t pass the test you can have surgery.’ That really made me mad, because I’m thinking, why didn’t I have surgery from the start if I have to have it now?
“All I did for Christmas and New Year’s is ask God, ‘Can I be able to play basketball again?’ That was the first time I ever dealt with an injury of sitting out for so long. It kinda made me mentally stronger.”