Washington Wizards: Do they need even more from John Wall?
Last weekend I was ready to write about how a loss in a nationally televised game to the NBA Champion Golden State Warriors last Wednesday night might end up being a defining moment in John Wall’s career. A moment where Wall turned good into great, where being an All-star turned into being an All-NBA performer.
That feeling quickly faded with the loss to the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday night and I was once again reminded of why John Wall, while an All-star, is a maddening player.
Let’s start with Wednesday’s performance: 41 points and 10 assists on 68 percent shooting from the field and a perfect three for three from beyond the arc.
The story of the night was Stephen Curry, but John Wall fully capitalized on his opportunity versus the league’s premier player in front of a national audience. After a slow start to the game in the midst of Chef Curry slicing and dicing the net, John Wall came to play.
For three quarters you can make the argument that John Wall was the best player on the floor. He was getting to the basket, making his outside shot, and creating for his teammates — all while being defended by a Warriors team that ranks in the top three in the NBA in defensive efficiency.
It was arguably the best game of his career, eclipsing his 47 point outing versus the Memphis Grizzlies in 2013. He played a perfect game, taking on the burden of scoring while maintaining his propensity to facilitate and protecting the basketball in doing so.
The test for me was going to be two days later versus the Philadelphia 76ers.
How would John Wall respond two days later versus a historically bad 76ers team with absolutely zero buzz entering the game?
For as much excitement as there was for the visit from Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors, the matchup versus the 76ers was from the bizarro world, a matchup void of any excitement, and the very definition of a trap game coming off the game versus Golden State.
John Wall didn’t fall for the trap though and responded with a triple double, the fourth of his career on 50% shooting from the field.
The leap was happening before my very eyes.
John Wall was finally in the process of ascending from good to great and solidifying himself amongst the best in the NBA.
For as disappointing as the season had been, his ascension and the chance to make up value ground in the standings versus a team ahead of the Washington Wizards in the standings had me bullish for the game versus the Charlotte Hornets.
Everything seemed to start off well.
The Wizards got off to a hot start early and lead by 19 near the end of the first half but a sloppy end to the first half and unenergetic start to the second half quick lead to an unraveling that was all too familiar to Washington fans.
Statistically, Wall seemed to play a sound game: 23 points, 10 assists, and six rebounds on 41 percent shooting is a solid performance, but a deeper look into the numbers showed a +/- of -16 and in this case, that +/- did tell the story.
Charlotte tied the game at 66-66 with 3:50 left in the 3rd quarter.
John Wall, until that point, had an uneventful eight points and six assists. From my seat on the couch of my living room, it seemed as though John Wall was sleepwalking through first three quarters and didn’t turn it on until the lead was gone.
In what was a huge game for the Washington Wizards’ push for a playoff spot, their best player, and player who earlier in the week dominated against the defending NBA champions was a no-show.
Where does this leave us? It leaves us back to where we were prior to Wednesday’s night’s dual versus Stephen Curry, hoping that John Wall will finally get it; it being what Superstars get, the nightly consistency and desire to dominate.
- Am I expecting too much? Perhaps
- In year-6 of Wall’s career, should I accept that these highs and lows are who he is? Probably
- Am I looking too much into a game in February regular season NBA game at the tail end of three games in four nights? Definitely
Then why am I upset? Why did the loss to Charlotte basically erase all of the positive vibes that occurred in the week prior to that night?
It is because John Wall flashed who he’s capable of being last Wednesday night versus Golden State.
People have tried to define him as a pass first point guard but I don’t think that label is accurate.
John Wall is at his best when he’s scoring and facilitating.
John Wall is the only All-star on this team. When he isn’t engaged, aggressive and active, his effectiveness and the defectiveness of his teammates declines.
We didn’t see that versus Golden State.
What we saw was a fully engaged, active player who was alone making it a fight versus a team threatening the All-time win mark for an NBA single season.
So am I expecting too much from Wall to want that level of engagement and effort nightly? It may seem like that’s an unfair burden — but is it? There are no nights off for LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, and Kevin Durant. For the fans of every team they visit, it’s like last Wednesday night was to Washington.
No, John Wall does not have to have 40/10 every night and if I suggest as such I would hope to be taken to a doctor, but this organization from the coaches to Wall himself have to figure out how to see that level of player more often than not and how to ascend from All-star to All-NBA.
It’s the difference between being a player whose jersey one day hangs in the rafters compared to a guy who just shows up on alumni night to little fanfare. John Wall has already done enough to go down as one of the better players in this franchise’s history, but with #KD2DC seemingly on life support, the best and only chance this team has to really move the needle will start and end with #2.