There is no reason to expect that John Wall’s dynamic scoring outbursts in meaningless exhibitions will translate into him dominating the NBA whenever the next season comes. But his 40-point eruptions are an encouraging sign of his progress, explosiveness and improved health since his rookie season.
The free-wheeling style of pickup basketball allows a player like Wall to overwhelm the competition with superior speed and athleticism. He exploited those talents again on Saturday when he got 41 with the ease of someone digging into his pockets to pull out a quarter, a dime, a nickel and a penny.
As the headliner of a pro-am exhibition between the local Goodman League and Knox Indy Pro-Am at the University of Indianapolis, Wall had a triple-double with 41 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds to lead the Goodman team to a 170-167 victory.
Wall knocked down fallaway jumpers, got inside for windmill dunks and continued his incredible play since turning 21 earlier this month. He will have another opportunity to showcase his abilities this Saturday, when he will join LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant and Chris Paul for Paul’s charity game in Winston-Salem, N.C. When asked last week why he has traveled across the country to play so much basketball since the lockout, Wall smiled and said, “I guess I do it because I’m young.”
His performance in Indianapolis – where he gets a lot of support from Kentucky fans who drive up from Lexington – came on the heels of a dominant two-week outing in Las Vegas at the Impact Basketball Competitive Training Series. He averaged 40.8 points through his first five games, and even when he decided to lighten up and let his teammates have some shine, Wall still finished with 25 points in the finale.
Wall hasn’t had to contend with traps or help defenses, or had to make adjustments against a team that has scouted and prepared for a way to stop him, but has been making a subtle statement about his desire to join the conversation of elite point guards sooner than later. “He’s unbelievable,” Durant said of Wall after watching him score 40 points in the “Clash of the Superstars” game at Coolidge High on Sept. 17. “That guys is going to be an all-star in this league for years to come. It’s a joy to be on the court with him. As fierce a competitor as they come.”
He is taking advantage of an NBA lockout that has already forced a postponement of training camps and the cancellation of 43 preseason games. “This is probably the only time I will play in all these summer leagues,” Wall said, adding that the focus for players could shift as the lockout drags on. “I think after October, people will get back on their workout grind. You never know when the season is going to start. You don’t know nothing really. You’re just going with the flow.”
With the owners and players’ union still far apart on the deal, with no negotiating sessions scheduled for this week, Wall is admittedly concerned about when he will flaunt his talents in the NBA. “I’m really worried,” Wall said. “I look at my e-mail 24-7. [National Basketball Players Association Executive Director] Billy Hunter writes me an e-mail, I’m checking it. [Players’ union President] Derek Fisher, I’m checking it. You just want to play. Most veteran guys, they take time off, they know how to get themselves ready for a season and stay in shape. Most young guys, we so anxious to play, we play wherever.”
Until there is a resolution with the labor dispute, Wall said he would continue to be a regular at the charity games. “It’s not all about the money. It’s about the love the game,” he said. “I’m competitive. I love playing basketball.”