Late in the season, a reporter walked up to Wizards assistant coach Sam Cassell as he signed autographs and asked him why John Wall was struggling in his second season. Cassell shrugged and responded, “He just needs some more pieces.”
The Wizards will certainly need some roster upgrades this summer if they intend to make significant improvements from this past season, but they are also going to need an improved Wall. With that in mind, Cassell brought Wall with him to attend Games 3 and 4 of the Los Angeles Clippers’ first-round series with the Memphis Grizzlies at Staples Center.
Wall said his offseason homework included watching Chris Paul to see how he runs a team during the postseason. Paul had 27 points, nine rebounds and seven assists to lead the Clippers to a 101-97 overtime victory that gave his team a three-games-to-one lead over the Grizzlies.
But according to a league source, Cassell actually wanted Wall to watch Memphis Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley Jr. even more.
Conley is less heralded than Paul, but like Wall, he is a noted speedster. He had 25 points, eight assists and seven rebounds in Game 4, his best performance of the series.
The son of former Olympian gold medal-winning triple-jumper Michael Conley Sr., Conley also ranked third behind Toronto’s Jose Calderon and Paul in assist-to-turnover ratio in the regular season at 3.21-to-1.
Wall is attempting to understand the best way to use his speed as a weapon, since he often had difficulty keeping it under control this season, when he finished second in the NBA in turnovers at 3.9 per game.
Cassell, a former all-star, has worked closely with Wall since Wall was drafted, taking him through shooting drills before each game. But Cassell lacked quickness and athleticism and relied on his craftiness and mid-range shooting to guide him through a 17-year career.
After Game 3 of the series, Cassell explained to Yahoo! Sports why he wanted Wall to see Paul.
“Chris just understands situations,” said Cassell, who led the Clippers into the playoffs in 2006. “He understands time. He understands score. He has had a knack since college of making the right play. That’s Chris Paul. People ask me to define Chris Paul. He makes the right play. He makes average guys good.”
Wall has always been impressed with his fellow North Carolina native Paul. Paul is averaging 22.3 points and 9.3 assists in the series and Wall told Yahoo! Sports, “He dictates what he wants to do with the ball and gets everyone involved.”
With Wall spending time this summer in Los Angeles, he might have an opportunity to see Russell Westbrook if the Lakers defeat Denver and advance to play Oklahoma City in the second round. Wall would also like to study San Antonio Spurs all-star point guard Tony Parker, who led his team to a first-round sweep of Utah and would face the winner of the Clippers-Grizzlies series in the next round.