Forget about whether or not, how or why he was booed in his backyard, as John Wall claimed. That wasn’t what I was checking for when I watched footage of his 36-point effort in a loss during an appearance at the Greater North Carolina Pro Am in Durham, N.C., earlier this week.
What stood out for me in the video was Wall leaping high above the rim to catch an alley-oop, him sprinting down the court before anyone had a chance to catch him, and him hitting a pull-up jumper and a corner three-pointer. And I was even more amused by his nasty glares and boastful comments to the unfortunate kid assigned to defending him.
“You can’t guard me,” Wall shouted and clapped to make sure he was heard. “You can not guard me!”
The taunts and stares seemed a little unnecessary, since Wall is a former No. 1 overall pick and should be able to dominate North Carolina Central forward Dominique Sutton. But the attempts to belittle the competition spoke to something else that has been emerging the more and more Wall plays this summer: The burst. The explosion. The speed. It’s there. He’s talking smack because it’s all coming back.
That’s been apparent through all of the YouTube videos of his exploits this summer. Wall certainly showed some flashes of that giddy-up late in the regular season, but Wall and those close to him were adamant that he never was able to be the player he truly wanted to be, with his right knee injury limiting his ability to get to the basket and make cuts the way he wanted. Wall said he was about “80 to 85 percent” of what he should’ve been.
“Some nights, he went out and, if you don’t know, you’d think, he’s back, but he wasn’t,” Wall’s adviser and representative Brian Clifton told me back in April. “He wasn’t even close.”
But now, he’s soaring.
Wall has been all over the map this summer -- playing basketball as he bounces from the District to Durham, Seattle to College Park, Baltimore to Los Angeles — and he is expected to be in Lexington, Ky., as Kentucky alums take on the Dominican Republic next week and back in Washington on Aug. 20 to participate in the highly anticipated Goodman League vs. Drew League matchup at Trinity University.
Wall took some time off after the regular season ended, got some rest and let his body heal. Then, when he represented the Wizards at the NBA draft lottery, Wall vowed to get better this offseason.
How much Wall has improved won’t be determined until he’s playing against other NBA players, and not some guy in a pickup game hoping to make a name off of him. In the meantime, Wall is showing that he’s got that bounce again.