In brief, a history of the Washington Wizards in the so-called “John Wall era.” At length, an exposition of the team’s front office and why the time for change is now.
“Point guards are not made, they’re delivered from heaven—and I believe he was delivered from heaven,” Flip Saunders said on “John Wall Day.” That’s what then-Washington, D.C. mayor Adrian Fenty dubbed the day after the NBA Draft when Wall was chosen first overall—June 25, 2010. Team brass wasted no time in welcoming highly-touted rookie to the city. Wall, who one day earlier signed a shoe deal with Reebok, was treated to door-to-Verizon Center limo service, red carpets, and had his mug posted on a billboard outside the arena. He even received an officially endorsed nickname, “The Game Changer.”
Garrett Temple cleaned out his locker at the Verizon Center on Thursday and departed with its contents in a large, black trash bag. John Wall cleaned out his locker and left with a large, rolling suitcase.
Bags were packed, ready to go. Wall wore an adidas shirt and Zubaz-esque shorts. CSN’s Chris Miller had jokes. “Summertime fine,” snapped-back Wall. And the DC Sports Bog had a whole pixel post about the garb.
So with that, it’s summertime, John Wall, and Wizards fans.
Indiana Pacers Coach Frank Vogel addresses the media after a loss to the Washington Wizards
Prior to last Saturday night’s game against the Washington Wizards, Indiana Pacers Head Coach Frank Vogel wrote the following words on the white bulletin board in the visitor’s locker room, ”He’s a difference maker.”
The “he” was John Wall, and Coach Vogel was well-aware of Wall’s torrid play during the month of March, when he averaged 22 points and eight assists per game, also putting up a career-high 47 points against the Memphis Grizzlies. Vogel undoubtedly knew that earlier in the week, Bradley Beal, the other formidable offensive threat on the Wizards’ roster, was ruled out for the rest of the regular season with a stress injury to his right fibula. In the first game after the announcement about Beal, the Wizards lost 88-78 to the lowly Raptors in Toronto, and Wall was harassed into a 5-for-18 shooting night, including 1-for-10 outside of the paint. Coach Vogel went on to give specifics about the game plan for stopping Wall:
“He’s a sensational young talent, he changes their team offensively, and you really have to put most of your defensive game plan into limiting what he brings to the table … you still want to keep him out of the paint first, and hope that he’s not getting hot from the perimeter.”
Against the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night, John Wall, playing his 165th game in the NBA, finished with 23 points, 10 assists and six rebounds. It was a really good, smart performance from the team’s starting point guard. But it’s also a line we’ve seen before: he has 13 career games in which he’s scored at least 20 points, dished out 10 assists and grabbed six rebounds. It was Wall’s second straight double-double (he had 27 points, 14 assists and seven rebounds in a loss to Cleveland on Tuesday).
Why is that number of games played (165) significant? Because Wall’s story is a coming-of-age tale of sorts. People who talk basketball like to point to a player’s third season as the “breakout year,” and everyone expected Wall to show serious progress in 2012-13—a constant theme in summertime Wizards coverage. In a way, the Wizards-Bucks game was opening day for John Wall version 3.0 (two typical, 82-game seasons add up to 164). So, not a bad “season debut” for the third-year player.
[Ed. Note: Adam Rubin is a relatively new contributor to TAI, you may have seen him in a D.C. Council or two. Follow him on Twitter: @LedellsPlace. -Kyle W.]
There is no way to sugar coat it. John Wall played a very bad game on Wednesday. And it was not just the poor shooting and turnovers (or as Wall likes to call it: “great passes” that his teammates dropped). It’s the body language. Wall looked like he would rather be anywhere but the Verizon Center. This screen shot shows Wall as he entered a very winnable game with 3:38 left in the fourth quarter and Washington down 88-81. Not exactly the look of someone ready to lead a comeback after sulking on the bench for ten and a half minutes.
Now it’s on Wall to snap out of it and prove them correct. The division leading New York Knicks, who enter the Verizon Center tonight riding a two-game win streak and looking to avenge a 106-96 defeat during their last trip to D.C. on February 6, provide as good a stage as any for Wall to stand up and lead his team. Read more »
Jose Calderon played flawless basketball for the first 47 minutes and 17 seconds of Detroit’s game against Washington. He had just six points on 2-of-6 shooting, but he dished out 18 assists–nine in the third quarter when the Pistons went from down nine points to up 12. Up to that point, Calderon had not turned the ball over, and he hadn’t committed any personal fouls. His only focus was on getting good shots for Brandon Knight and Greg Monroe (the duo accounted for 13 of Calderon’s assists).
With 43 seconds left in the game, Trevor Ariza hit a 3-pointer to bring the Wizards within six points of the Pistons, 96-90, and on the next possession, Calderon committed his first turnover of the game via an offensive foul. Coach Lawrence Frank immediately called timeout, and when play resumed, Calderon turned the ball over for a second consecutive time when he lost the ball off the dribble. Ariza grabbed the errant pass and was headed down the court for an easy layup, until Will Bynum committed a clear path foul. Ariza converted the two free throws, and the Wizards pulled to within 95-96 with 12.3 seconds left–with the ball. Here’s what happened next:
Twenty-eight percent of 3-pointers taken in the NBA are from the corner, and they go in the basket 3.6 percent more than above the break 3-pointers. The Washington Wizards, with John Wall, are the best shooting team in the league from the corner. This is significant.
John Wall was waiting to grab a rebound during warmups before Washington’s game versus Orlando, and his face instantly lit up when he recognized Jay-Z’s voice over the loud speakers: ”Aw man, it is Big Pimpin’ Baby.”
Wall continued to sing verses of the Jay-Z hit single as he filed through the layup line, enticing smiles out of his teammates. John Wall was back where he wanted to be, and the mood of the team was noticeably lifted. This was a different scene than that of the Nick Young/JaVale McGee/Andray Blatche era, where jacking around reigned supreme in warm-ups and a level of seriousness never materialized when it mattered. Wall was chatting up Bradley Beal non-stop and the rookie could not contain his laughter. The future franchise core tossed each other alley-oops—Wall struggled converting some dunks on his “jiggly legs.” Jan Vesely and Kevin Seraphin followed Wall’s lead with impressive slams of their own. Later during warmups, Wall started playing around with Kevin Seraphin on the left wing, shaking the big man with a crossover. Both cracked up. Wall mocked Seraphin’s inability to stay on his feet.
Wall’s engaging personality is often hidden in the button-downed, risk-averse image he presents in media interviews. Spend any time around Wall and you see the happy-go-lucky attitude is real and genuine. He appears to know every elite basketball player and partakes in many pregame pleasantries with opponents. The Orlando game was no different, as he greeted Magic reserve guard Ish Smith at half court—both hail from North Carolina, and likely know each other from the hoop circuit in the Tar Heel state. As the national anthem approached, Wall’s roommate and best friend, Tyrone (Ty) Williams, came over for their pre-game conversation ritual.
Williams grew up with the dynamic point guard in Raleigh and, although not blood related, Wall call’s him his “brother.” Ty attends almost every home game and sits near the floor. Through Wall’s infamous club appearances (which certain bloggers passive aggressively concern troll), trouble and off-the-court drama has never surfaced in any capacity. This might seem trivial and not worthy of praise, but being a young, rich NBA player makes you a target when you are just doing a simple activity like being out socializing with your circle of friends. This can be difficult waters for famous hoopers to navigate in a world full of hanger-ons and distractions. Williams deserves credit for keeping Wall away from any negative publicity or troublesome situations. (If only Arenas and Blatche had similar peeps.)
So it’s halftime of the Wizards-Magic game, and the Wiz Kids are looking good, sort of. They got up 48-34 on Orlando at one point with — you guessed it — Emeka Okafor (11) and Jan Vesely (8) as your leading scorers. The Wizards even pushed their lead to 55-36, prompting one millionaire blogger on the sideline to slap Trevor Ariza on the ass. But then Jameer Nelson dropped 12 points and two assists in the last three minutes of the second quarter, and the Magic closed out the half on a 13-0 run. A one-time 19-point lead was quickly cut down to six for Washington, 59-53.
And then there was the time Orlando’s Ish Smith jumped over John Wall’s head and still blocked his shot. On to the second half…