Last summer, I spent a day with Wall at Reebok Headquarters in Canton, Massachusetts. A handful of standouts from Reebok’s summer Breakout Challenge Camp were there, and Wall spent hours going full-court, running through shooting drills, and even got after it in some two-on-two games with the high schoolers. By the time I left in the late afternoon, he was still playing.
As he reminded me that day, he’s still young, and that means we all need a little patience, even if Wall sometimes seems so enamored with the game and so observant that we expect it all to come together immediately.
“I don’t think it was a disappointing season,” Lowry says of Wall’s play last year. “John’s young. People don’t understand how young John really is. He’s one of the most explosive point guards we have in this league. He’s up there with Russell Westbrook and D-Rose in athleticism, explosiveness and his speed.”
Between his work with the U.S. Select Team, as well as the time he says he’ll spend this summer with one of the NBA’s most famous trainers, Rob McClanaghan, Wall plans on being a new player next season. Of course, he won’t be giving up the summer league circuit completely. The Wizards lockers were barely cleaned out before footage surfaced on YouTube of Wall catching a reverse alley-oop from R&B superstar Chris Brown in L.A.’s Drew League.
“This is going to be a very good summer for him going into his third year,” Love says. “That’s where I made my big jump. He’ll have to apply himself and do everything it takes to get to the next level but he has all the tools that to be the player he wants to be and who people think he can be.”
In June, at a press conference announcing his return as the team’s head coach, Randy Wittman said he wants to see confidence in Wall. Not just a belief in his athletic gifts, but the poise to step up and take open jumpers.
“That’s the main thing with John,” he explained. “Just getting him comfortable with what we’re trying to do in terms of repetition, repetition this summer. He’s already been hard at it, and that develops your confidence. You see it with people throughout the NBA, guys who wouldn’t be able to shoot, but just kept working at it.”
Wall admits nothing about this past season met his expectations. But it didn’t kill his confidence.
“No doubt the All-Stars and individual awards, those will come soon enough,” says teammate Jordan Crawford. “His thing is about leading a team to the playoffs and hopefully on beyond.”
Washington’s season-ending six-game winning streak, coupled with a new, more serious approach has the fans dreaming once again. More importantly, Wall’s goals for himself haven’t diminished either. He can play the part of a superstar. But until he starts making jumpers, making All-Star Teams and leading the Wizards out of a nearly 30-year plague of bad basketball, he won’t actually be one.
“As a player,” Wall says of what would make a perfect summer, “I think be where everybody expects me to be: lead my team, being a clutch performer, being a superstar. That’s what I think about putting it in exact words that I need to, so I can finally lead to my superstar statement and be one of the top five point guards in the league.”
So Wall knows what he has to do. He knows what he wants and knows what it takes. Everyone else is simply waiting, and Wall is not about to delay it any longer.
Right before press time, John Wall launched his own personal web site. You can check it out at www.johnwall2.com.
Is this the year the Wizards get back to the playoffs?
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