Late in the fourth quarter of the Wizards “G” team’s 107-101 win on Wednesday at the Impact Basketball Competitive Training Session, the announcer told the 150 or so fans in attendance, “You are about to watch the John Wall show.” It was a safe assumption, because Wall has been a force of nature since arriving in Las Vegas, an astonishing package of speed and athleticism who has routinely had his way against legitimate NBA players.
Wall didn’t disappoint in the closing seconds. He helped bring the Wizards back from a 10-point second-half deficit, and with the game tied at 98, darted to the basket for a three-point play the hard way. Then, Wall pulled for a three-pointer to give his team a six-point lead. JaVale McGee closed out the game when he intentionally missed a free throw, throwing it hard off the backboard and rim, and waltzed down the aisle to rebound and dunk.
“Even though it’s summer league, we fought back. That’s what we need to do in the regular season, win close games,” Wall said after finishing with 37 points, 10 assists and six rebounds as he claimed his first win in Las Vegas.
But Wall wasn’t finished. He had so much left in reserve that he suited up for the next game – and scored 37 again.
Before the tip-off for Wall’s second game of the afternoon, Jordan Crawford walked by and asked him why he wasn’t going to play a double-header. “It ain’t AAU no more,” Crawford said with a laugh, then grabbed a seat in the stands.
Crawford, who had 20 points in the “G” team win, got to see yet another show from his teammate. Wall reeled off 10 straight points during one stretch in the game and showed a decent, back-to-the-basket, low post game when matched up against the diminutive T. J. Ford. Though he did miss a potential game-tying three-pointer at the buzzer, he left an impression, as Indiana Pacers guard Brandon Rush wrote on his Twitter account, “John Wall is gonna be a problem this year. Got that stroke going.”
Wall played two games in less than four hours, finishing with 74 points, 16 assists and 13 rebounds — an even more startling performance when you consider that the teams played 32-minute games.
Through five games, Wall has posted some ridiculous scoring numbers, combining to put up 204 points, for an average of 40.8 per game. Of course, Wall’s beelines to the basket are easier when there isn’t an opposing coach devising a strategy to shut down the lane, but Wall is also starting to make opponents pay for giving him space to shoot his jumpers.
Wall worked out with Crawford and Rashard Lewis before both games and planned to do the same on Thursday. “I’m just working on everything. Making jump shots and feeling more comfortable with it. That’s something I really been working on,” Wall said. “Each day, that’s what I come here for. I know I can get to the basket, and those things. I do it when the game gets tight, but if people are leaving me open, I got to make those shots. If I miss a couple, it’s not that I’m mad. It’s keeping the confidence. That’s one thing I learned last year, if I miss a couple, my head went down and I didn’t want to shoot it no more.”
His gaudy stats in Las Vegas – where opulence is encouraged anyway – are easy to dismiss since the defensive intensity hardly comes close to what he’ll see in an NBA game. But they remain impressive if you take into account that his first three games were just 40 minutes. Wall is also gaining confidence from these performances and learning from playing against veteran NBA guards such as Chauncey Billups.
“I always said that’s one of the toughest matchups I had, as a veteran guy. There’s no explosiveness, nothing fancy to his game,” he said. “I’m trying to learn different things to lead my team. I know it was going to take time to get trust from them, but I did enough.”
And he appears to be trying to do more.