John Wall coolly dribbled up the court at Calvin Coolidge High on Saturday and Minnesota Timberwolves forward Michael Beasley sagged off of him, almost daring Wall to take the long jumper. Without hesitating, Wall pulled up, dropped a three-pointer and Beasley made a double-take, as if to make sure that Wall was the player who really took the shot. Beasley got the ball, went right back at Wall and sank a fading three-pointer over him.
Wall replied, “Just working.”
Beasley didn’t want to be outdone, so he responded to Wall’s second three-pointer with another of his own. “This is my home. He might play here, but this is my home,” Beasley, a Maryland native, said of Wall. “I can’t let him get the best of me.”
But after watching Wall score a game-high 40 points to lead his team to a 144-128 win in a charity exhibition, Beasley left the gym impressed with the latest addition to Wall’s offensive arsenal. “I didn’t know he could shoot like that,” Beasley said after scoring 37 points for the losing squad. “Scouting report all year was let him shoot, let him shoot. I let him shoot.”
Wall opened the “Clash of the Superstars” exhibition by hitting a pull-up jumper. While most of his points came from driving layups and dunks and were a direct result of his superior speed and athleticism, he has worked to make his game more well-rounded.
A glorified scrimmage, such as Saturday’s game – which featured fellow NBA players Beasley, Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, Greg Monroe, DeMarcus Cousins, Kemba Walker and Ater Majok – was probably not the best place to truly assess Wall’s progression. The contest lacked a high level of competitiveness and concentration, with a small crowd only able to inspire spurts of effort. But in conjunction with a week in which he had back-to-back 42-point games at the Impact Basketball Competitive Series in Las Vegas, Wall believes he is getting better.
“You see I’ve got my explosiveness back. I can do whatever I want and I just want to show people I can make jump shots now,” Wall said. “That’s what I’ve been doing on a consistent basis. I’ve been working. I’m making them. Now I can’t stop working.”
Wall shot just 40.9 percent from the field and 29.6 percent from beyond the three-point line last season. He never had a problem with his shooting form, since he consistently used the same motion and release point that he has always practiced. But he didn’t always take jumpers with the belief that they would go in and often sulked whenever opposing defenses closed off his driving lanes and made him do something other than penetrate and finish at the rim. He announced the arrival of a more dependable jumper in Las Vegas when he made a shot and yelled, “Y’all better guard me!”
“It’s just confidence and shooting,” he said. “Last year, I’m not saying nobody told me, but if I missed one or two in a row, they’d tell me don’t shoot no more and that’d make me lose my confidence. I didn’t have the confidence in myself and when I sprained my foot, I didn’t have the explosiveness to shoot the way I wanted to. Now that I’m back to myself, I feel pretty healthy.”
Wall will return to Las Vegas for the second week of the so-called “lockout league,” where he has been playing with teammates Rashard Lewis, Jordan Crawford, Shelvin Mack, Larry Owens and JaVale McGee. He chose to play with Impact instead of joining teammate Andray Blatche for the lightly attended workouts in Clarksville.
He still thinks it’s possible to have larger team workouts, but preferably in Los Angeles over Washington. “I think it’s better to do it L.A., where everybody is at,” said Wall, who trains at the Impact facility in Reseda, Calif., with Crawford and Nick Young. “Most of us are based in L.A. So I think it’d be great to go out there.”
Wall was back in Washington this weekend for the charity game, but he also was continuing his extended 21st birthday celebration as he threw a party at Love the Club with R&B singer Chris Brown. He has already had birthday bashes in Raleigh, Atlanta, New York and Miami, but felt he had to have another in the city he represents in the NBA. “I’m trying to enjoy myself. You only turn 21 once,” said Wall, who earned the right to legally drink on Sept. 6. “It’s no other place to give back to than D.C. That’s where I’m playing now and want to finish my career. I love playing here, the fans support us. I’m coming out to have a big party.”