John Wall has had to get accustomed to losing in Washington, and this week, the 2010 No. 1 overall pick had to deal with what felt like a rejection. TNT analysts Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal chose teams for the Rising Star Challenge from a pool of 20 rookies and second-year players and Wall was selected 12th overall.
“It’s a joke to me,” said Wall, who is averaging 16.9 points and 7.5 assists in his second season. “If they think there are 11 guys better than me, then that’s their decision. But I know what I think in my mind and all I can do is go out there and play basketball the way I know how to play.”
Wall wasn’t necessarily a fan of the format for the game formerly known as the Rookie Challenge, which featured rookies against sophomores for the previous 17 years. Before the NBA put the power in the hands of Barkley and O’Neal, Wall was looking forward to defending the victory that his team had last season, when he was named MVP of the game after handing out a record 22 assists, and had even talked a little trash to rookie Kyrie Irving at the draft lottery.
But now, he and Irving are teammates on Team Chuck. Barkley and O’Neal gave him more reason to take issue with the set up as Wall was also the sixth guard taken overall after Irving, Jeremy Lin, Ricky Rubio, Marshon Brooks and Kemba Walker.
“If they think I’m the 12th-best player out of all of those players, then that’s their decision. That’s my mindset. I know what I worked on this summer and I know what I can do on the basketball court,” Wall said. “That’s just one game. I’m not really worried about it. It’s one game. We got more season before the all-star break and after the all-star break, and how I want to finish.”
Wall had plans to go to Orlando for all-star weekend, but not simply to serve in the Friday night appetizer for the festivities. He set playing in the Sunday game on his list of plans, but that wasn’t going to happen with his lackluster play to start the season and a poor Wizards record (7-24) that has already resulted in former coach Flip Saunders losing his job. Only four players who have won MVP of the Rookie Challenge have failed to eventually make an all-star team, with Wall and Sacramento’s Tyreke Evans winning the past two awards.
“You make all-star for having a good record,” he said. “Some guys that I thought could make all-star but didn’t. You can’t do nothing about it, but keep playing basketball.”
Wall has raised his level of play in the past 20 games, averaging 19.2 points, 8.7 assists and 5.1 rebounds, but that production has gone largely unnoticed or disregarded with the Wizards still among the worst teams in the league. He had 24 points and five assists against the Jazz on Friday — feeding JaVale McGee for a lob dunk, catching an alley-oop of his own on a pass from Jordan Crawford and stealing the ball from Utah reserve guard Earl Watson, blowing by him with a wicked spin move before making a reverse layup — but again, the Wizards lost, 114-110.
Coach Randy Wittman dismissed Wall’s selection as more of a reflection of the people picking the teams than Wall’s reputation around the league. But Wall was obviously disturbed by the snub, as he went his Twitter account afterward and wrote, “Motivation!!”
When asked to explain the comment on Friday, Wall said, “It’s in reference to everything. I wanted to be an all-star this year, but I didn’t play good in the beginning, then not having a winning record, that makes you not be an all-star. There’s a lot more I can do. So yeah, that’s motivation for that game. Picked 12th out of all those guys? If that’s how they feel, that’s how they feel. But I guess I still have to prove people wrong I see.”