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.

Hours after game-winning tip, restaurant told Giannis Antetokounmpo he had to wait

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Giannis Antetokounmpo was the toast of Milwaukee Sunday night: With the game on the line after a Boston comeback, he tipped in a missed Malcolm Brogdon lay-up that proved to be the game winner. (Jayson Tatum was in good position for Boston, he tried to move Antetokounmpo out of his rebounding spot, it just didn’t matter.)

Well, you would have thought Antetokounmpo was the toast of the town, but when he went to BelAir Cantina (a chainlet of Mexican restaurants in the area) he was told he had to wait. And wait. To the point he eventually left.

As you might imagine, the 6’11” Antetokounmpo walking into a restaurant a couple hours after tying up the series with the Celtics drew fast attention on social media. So did the fact he couldn’t get service.

First, good on Antetokounmpo for not pulling the “do you know who I am?” line. He was reportedly unassuming and just left after a while. No hard feelings, his girlfriend later tweeted this out.

As for BelAir Cantina, I kinda get it — I worked my way through college as a waiter and bartender. The restaurant got slammed, everyone working there was in the weeds, and things fall through the cracks. It happens.

But when the 6’11” toast of the town walks in, he cannot slip through the cracks. Cannot. Rather than social media posts about him not getting served and walking out, there would have been pictures all over of him eating the lamb barbacoa or whatever. It’s good for business. If you give the man a little special treatment after the game, nobody is going to complain (except the people who were going to complain about everything anyway… in that sense working in a restaurant was good preparation for me to use Twitter someday).

 

 

Kevin Durant apparently likes Instagram comment critical of Russell Westbrook (photo)

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Last summer Kevin Durant tweeted and deleted that the Thunder’s surrounding cast around him and Russell Westbrook was lacking when he played for Oklahoma City. Those tweets – another criticized Thunder coach Billy Donovan – appeared to be intended to come from a burner account, but Durant said he actually meant to send them from his own account.

Now, he apparently liked an Instagram comment with the opposite message about Westbrook. (I say apparently, because I can’t verify the authenticity of these screenshots, but they at least pass the initial smell test.)

“Like” is Instagram’s word. Maybe Durant uses the function for a different purpose – to note a comment, rather than endorse it.

Perhaps, Durant misread the conversation. The comment he liked rejected the notion that the Thunder were “subpar,” but it criticized Westbrook for them not living up to their ability. Perhaps, Durant focused on the comment sticking up for Oklahoma City overall and missed the part about Westbrook being the shortcoming. Skimming that conversation, it’s a plausible mistake.

Maybe Durant just actually hit the like button. It’s easy enough to do.

Or maybe Durant and Westbrook haven’t really gotten less hostile toward each other. Maybe Durant meant to like this from a burner account.

Those nefarious possibilities are the scintillating ones.

After getting crushed for those tweets last summer and repeatedly downplaying his feud with Westbrook, the Warriors star clearly wanted to move on from these storylines. But all those questions have suddenly reemerged. Perhaps for legitimate reasons, perhaps for benign ones. But we won’t know more about Durant’s intent until he answers to this.

Amir Johnson on South Beach: 2006 Pistons ‘let the streets beat us’

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Amir Johnson is a savvy veteran on the young 76ers.

On the 2006 Pistons, he was a scarcely used rookie straight out of high school.

But he was learning lessons he’d apply to his current role.

Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press:

Philadelphia heeded Johnson’s advice. The 76ers won Games 3 and 4 in Miami to take a 3-1 series lead.

The Pistons went 0-3 in Miami during the six-game 2006 Eastern Conference finals. There was little shame in losing to those Heat. They pushed Detroit to seven games in the 2005 conference finals and were – with Dwyane Wade transcendent while Shaquille O’Neal remained in his prime – even better the following year.

But too much partying is a major charge and a somewhat surprising one. The Pistons were led by the same veteran core – Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Ben Wallace and Rasheed Wallace – that made the previous two NBA Finals and won the 2004 title. They’d been around long enough to know better.

Gregg Popovich to miss Spurs-Warriors Game 5

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Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has missed Games 3 and 4 of his team’s first-round series against the Warriors following the death of his wife, Erin.

Unsurprisingly, he won’t coach the Spurs as they leave San Antonio for Game 5 tomorrow at Golden State.

David Aldridge of NBA.com:

Popovich should take all the time he needs. Ettore Messina is capable as acting coach, and Popovich being with his family now is more important anyway.

This will probably be the final game of the series. Up 3-1, the Warriors are the better team and at home.