John Wall is… Fast? Paced? Randy Wittman, Tyrone Corbin & Richard Jefferson Speak On It
John Wall is… fast?
Well, that’s what they say. Coming into the NBA, ESPN’s “Sports Science” revealed that: “Wall runs faster while dribbling a basketball than Kevin Durant runs without a ball.”
Seems fast. The science also said that Wall was faster than Chris Paul … in a straight sprint with no ball. On Tuesday, Utah Jazz assistant coach Sidney Lowe told Utah’s 1280 “The Zone” that Wall was the fastest player with a basketball in his hands that he’s ever seen.
But Wall has clearly learned how to control his speed and pace much better now in his fourth year in the league. No longer is he pedal-to-the-metal, first gear to fifth charging to the basket. He’s showed opponents a mean hesitation move. He’s showed that he now understands that speed doesn’t necessarily mean “Go, go, go!”
The “pace” of his game (number of possessions per 48 minutes when on the court, per NBA.com/stats) hasn’t changed that much from season one to four:
But, the team’s offensive rating when Wall is on the court (points scored per 100 possessions) certainly has:
(And yes, much of this has to do with having better teammates, and Wall has gotten pretty damn good at making those better teammates even better.)
Before the Wizards faced the Jazz on Wednesday, TAI asked Wizards coach Randy Wittman about Wall’s progression in understanding pace. We also asked Jazz head coach Tyrone Corbin and 12-year veteran Richard Jefferson if Wall is really the fastest player with the ball (that they’ve seen).
Q: Is fair to say, out of all the areas, that John Wall has improved the most this season in terms of his understanding of pace and that he doesn’t have to always go from first the fifth gear?
R. Wittman: “Yes, he’s made great strides, and he’s the one that orchestrates that. The ball’s outlet-ed (sic) to him nine out ten times, and so that’s on his shoulders more than, say, a Bradley Beal or a big. You gotta run with it though, too.
“But yes, I think that’s a fair statement, and I think he knows when we get bogged down and when the time is to slow it down. The game in Philadelphia, he wanted to pull the change on it with about six minutes to go, and you can’t do that with the type of team that we are. That’s too early. But he’s learning, and you get down to the last three minutes of a tight game, now you want to execute, make sure you get the shot you want to get, those things, and he’s got a great understanding of that now.”
Q: One of your assistant coaches, Sidney Lowe, said the other day that John Wall is the fastest guy he’s ever seen with the ball in his hands. Do you agree with that?
T. Corbin: “He is fast. I mean, he’s fast with the ball from end to end—getting the rebound, getting the outlet pass, and getting on top of the rim really quickly. So it’s not just the guy that’s guarding him, we gotta make sure he sees bodies in that lane getting to the basket.”
Q: But the fastest you’ve ever seen?
T. Corbin: “You know… fastest I’ve ever seen? I’ve been around a long time and I’ve seen a lot of guys. He is very fast but I don’t know if he’s the fastest I’ve ever seen. But he’s a fast one.”
Q: When you talk about Wall and the pick-and-roll, have you noticed defensive philosophies against him changing now that he’s taking, and hitting, jump shots with more consistency?
T. Corbin: “Well, it will. Different teams play differently. The way he plays and the way he’s going during games, you might have to change from the way you started the game. It depends on what’s going on. I think most guys, I would assume, think he’s attacking the basket first. You contain that and if he starts hitting shots, you have to change the way you play the guy on him. You play a different way, either on his body to push him down or go under to see if they can cut him off. The way he attacks, if he gets down the lane, we’re getting under and trying to cut him off before he gets his speed up and gets to the basket… May be too late, so you have to give him different looks. He’s a guy who draws a lot of attention, and that’s what the top guys in the league do.”
Q: Sidney Lowe called John Wall the fastest player he’s ever seen with the ball. Do you agree with that?
R. Jefferson: “I played with Jason Kidd, so John Wall probably is faster, but J-Kidd was a bigger train. That’s probably the only difference. John Wall is a lot more athletic, but yea, with the ball in his hands, and just his ability to pass, J-Kidd was obviously—his reputation precedes him. But John Wall is definitely up there. And again, the kid is so young. One thing that J-Kidd said was that he was too fast when he was younger. Once he learned how to slow down—you know, actually getting older probably helped his game in not trying to move and do things too fast. John Wall, it looks like he’s on the verge of leading them to a playoff appearance and that’s huge for the growth of a young franchise and a young player.”
Q: From seeing film on Wall this season, and from what you’ve seen from him before, is he better learning the pace of the game?
R. Jefferson: “That’s just the natural progression of players. You have to learn how to kind of slow down, and that’s what happens… When you’re young, the game just moves so fast, and you’re trying to move fast when you’re just doing things it’s not as fluid as you would want sometimes. But he’s done a great job continuing to grow, improving on his jump shot, getting his teammates involved. He’s one of those point guards that in the next two or three years you start to see guys taking less money and free agents signing here because they want to play with him.”