John Wall seemed to be everywhere last summer (him and Kevin Durant). As summer rec leagues and charity games grew is stature during the lockout — players were not at Summer League, were not working out at team facilities, so they were finding games — Wall crisscrossed the country seeming to show up at everything from Goodman League events to Vegas work out sessions.
And he looked spectacular — in games with spotty defense and a free-flowing style his speed and athleticism stood out. But when the more defined and focused NBA games returned, Wall could not translate those skills and take the step forward some of us expected in his sophomore campaign.
As he looks back on it, he might have handled it differently, something he said to reporters Monday night (after the Wizards beat the Bulls) and picked up by Mike Prada of Bullets Forever.
Q: Did you feel like you were at a disadvantage this year? Nobody had a summer, nobody had much of a training camp, but for a younger player, that would seem to be pretty important.
A: No … I didn’t think I had a disadvantage. I just think that, instead of working out more, I did more of playing in charity events and summer leagues, when I should have been working out more. That’s the only thing I think I should have done differently, but it was a great experience going to different states and venues.
Wall is putting up similar numbers this year compared to his rookie effort (for example 16.5 points per game last year, 16.4 this year) but he is doing it a little more efficiently has he has cut back on the three pointers he doesn’t hit. However, he has not a big step forward. The bigger issue is that his outside shot — which looked fluid when left wide open in summer leagues — is still wildly inaccurate. He is shooting 32 percent from 10-15 feet, 30 percent from 16 feet out to the arc, and 7.9 percent from three this season. He can attack and get to the rim in transition, but teams will just go under the pick and force him to shoot jumpers in the half court until he can prove he can knock those down.
Part of the problem in evaluating Wall is it’s hard to tell how good he would be on a reasonable NBA team. Deron Williams feels bad for Wall. Wall had erratic big men and team that rarely brought consistent effort for his entire career, what happens if he is on a team where he gets real help? I wonder what would have happened if, like Rajon Rondo, he was dropped into a team loaded with veterans who demanded accountability and responsibility, rather than the Wizards?
Wall has to lead the changes he wants to see in the Wizards. He is the star. Which means next summer a lot of time in the gym with a shooting coach and less time on the charity circuit. Time to grow up.