John Wall’s injuries holding him back

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John Wall has been solid — he’s averaging 15.3 points and 8.9 assists per game — but he has not been what everyone hoped. We expected a guy who was going to be the next great point guard in the league and to show that from day one, but he plays like a guy still figuring it out. Like a rookie.

We have seen only flashes of the lightning quick speed, seen little of him taking over games. He’s shooting 39.5 percent overall, just 59.1 percent at the rim and his midrange game has been awful. Despite promises all summer that the Wizards were going to run to take advantage of Wall’s speed and vision, they have been a middle of the pack team in terms of pace. Wall has not pushed that.

Injuries are a key reason for all of it, Wall told Mike Prada of SB Nation. He missed five games last month to get his knee and foot right but pushed to get back in the lineup and returned before he was fully healthy. He has not felt right in a long while.

“It’s just kind of tough for me because of the injuries,” Wall admitted to me after the game. “That’s the only thing really I think that’s stopped me from being who I want to be and controlling myself….

“I got all this padding on my left hand, so it’s kind of tough to grip the ball when I’m coming up to shoot it,” Wall admitted. “But I’m working on it everyday. It’s just being confident and holding my follow through.”

With the padding and the questions about his outside shot, teams are giving Wall the Rajon Rondo treatment and playing well off him. They are daring him to shoot, he’s being tentative about it, and suddenly you have a downward spiral. Coach Flip Saunders wants him to just be confident and shoot the rock. Wall sounds like a guy still trying to find his way.

“I know teams are going under (the pick), I make it at times, and at the same time, I can still be aggressive and get to the paint.  But if I see it’s clogged up, I don’t want to force it for no reason.  I can find my teammates a shot,” he said.

“I think that’s where you’re going to see me force the issue more, but like I said, I’m not that kind of person. I’m not that kind of point guard, unless I got it going.”

Prada also points out that Wall is struggling on defense.

Wall is going to get it and in a few years will be a force in this league. But part of that will be getting and staying healthy. Part of that will be defense. Part of that will be developing a steady outside shot teams have to respect.

Part of it is Wall having to pace himself — something Prada reports Wall talks to Brandon Jennings about.  It will come, but right now the injuries are holding him back.

Celtics to retire Paul Pierce’s number after Cavaliers game in February

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The Celtics already said they’d retire Paul Pierce’s No. 34.

Now, we know when.

Celtics release:

The Boston Celtics announced today that they will retire Paul Pierce’s No. 34 after a mid-season game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday, Feb. 11

After? That’s apparently in response to a new rule that penalizes teams not ready to play after a 15-minute halftime. These ceremonies can drag on, and nobody wants to cut Pierce short. I wonder whether this will start a trend of number retirements coming after games.

DeMarcus Cousins on Confederate statues: ‘Take all them motherf—ers down’

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DeMarcus Cousins grew up in Alabama, played collegiately at Kentucky and now plays in New Orleans.

So, yeah, the Pelicans star has an opinion on Confederate statues.

Cousins, via TMZ:

“Take all them motherf*ckers down,” Cousins said … “Take ’em all down.”

These statues glorify people because they fought a war against the United States in the name of preserving the racist institution of slavery.

Not whom I want to honor, either.

Kevin Durant: Kyrie Irving-LeBron James situation ‘just a regular NBA problem’

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Kevin Durant knows something about star teammates not always getting along.

So, the Warriors forward is not freaking out about the disconnect between Kyrie Irving and LeBron James and Irving’s subsequent trade request.

Durant, via Chris Haynes of ESPN:

“It’s just a regular NBA problem, right? A lot of teams have gone through this before,” Durant told ESPN. “They’ll figure it out. That’s a great organization, a championship organization. They’ll figure it out.”

“It’s not the end of the world,” Durant said. “Both of those guys won a championship together. They love each other. If Kyrie wants to do something else, that’s on him. I’m sure whatever happens, it’ll work out for the best for both of them. But it’s just a normal NBA problem. It’s just two big stars that it’s happening to.”

Durant is definitely right in the larger sense. Teammates spat and requests trades more often than we realize. Remember, both Irving and the Cavaliers probably prefer this never became public.

But I’m not sure Cleveland will figure this out with the ease Durant suggests. David Griffin, who had proven so adept at putting out these fires, is gone. LeBron’s free agency looms. This could be extremely destructive to the Cavs.

The fact that this “regular NBA problem” became public only intensifies it – and raises it something greater.

Report: Heat signing Jordan Mickey

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Jordan Mickey – the No. 33 pick by the Celtics in 2015 – became the first second-round pick in memory to sign the year he was drafted and receive a higher initial salary than first-round picks.

He’s keeping the checks coming.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

Mickey will be the Heat’s 16th player with a standard contract, though Matt Williams (unguaranteed) will likely be waived to meet the regular-season roster limit.

I’m not sure where Mickey fits on this team, which already has several bigs. Hassan Whiteside, Bam Adebayo and Kelly Olynyk will likely play ahead of him. Miami also has A.J. Hammons (who might be just dead salary) and Udonis Haslem (who might provide nothing more than veteran leadership).

The Heat could just see Mickey as someone they can develop. At that point, how he fits into the current roster doesn’t really matter.

Mickey – 6-foot-8 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan – is a mobile defender with nice timing for blocking shots inside. He even possesses a work-in-progress 3-pointer in his arsenal. There’s plenty for Miami to help mold.