When John Wall was in Los Angeles for all-star weekend, the player he was most looking forward to meeting was Dwyane Wade. The connection never happened there, but Wall and Wade did get together and chat when the Wizards traveled to Miami last month.
“He told me, ‘It’s been a tough season so far. Keep working hard and don’t never stop leading your team,’ ” Wall said. “Never stop leading, that’s what he told me.”
Wall had several reasons for wanting to speak with Wade, but he mostly wanted to pick the brain of 2006 Finals MVP to figure out how he could be such a dominant force despite being relatively undersized for his position at shooting guard at roughly 6-feet-4. Wall is the same height -- which is considered large for point guard -- but he often attacks the basket with the fearlessness and ferocity of Wade and crashes to the ground more often than not.
Wade, though, has the ability to finish with more authority, preferring powerful dunks to the layups that Wall uses. “He plays bigger than what his position is,” Wall said. “He plays above the rim and is fast. I want to learn how he stayed off the floor in the beginning his first couple of years.”
Wall is having a rookie season that fares favorably with Wade, who averaged 16.2 points, 4.5 assists and 4.1 rebounds. And after the Wizards (18-55) play the Heat on Wednesday, Wall will have played more games than Wade, who was limited to just 61 in his first season.
Wade has played at least 70 games in five of his eight NBA seasons, but lost significant time to various injuries for two seasons after winning the championship. He is on track to play 78 games this season. He said that the change, and his ability to handle more of a pounding, began when took his physical well-being and preparation more seriously.
“You’ve got to dedicate yourself to the training room,” Wade said. “For me, over the last two years, I’ve lost a lot of weight because I’ve dedicated myself. I know certain things I don’t eat, but I have to hire a chef to take care of some things for me, health wise. So it’s just about taking care of your body and investing in your body. Alonzo Mourning told me this a long time ago to make an investment in my body. He broke it down for me. The investment you make in your body might be $150,000 -- if you do everything with chefs and massage therapists, trainers -- and the reward from that, with the contract that you have, is not even close.”
Wall said he appreciates Wade’s journey to stardom, since he didn’t arrive in the league -- or college, for that matter -- as an anointed savior and worked his way to the top. “How he came in, nobody really talked about him until he got to Marquette and he just exploded, won a championship. He’s just an unbelievable player and he’s an all-star. He’s got a lot of talented guys around him, but their team is tough because other guys know their roles but those two guys, they know when they can take over and when to do it.”
Wade was flattered when told how Wall respected what Wade does at his size. When asked how he could be so successful despite giving up inches to most of his opponents, Wade said, “I play with my heart. This game is not just about height. It’s not just about speed and athleticism. Sometimes, good old heart helps and it works. If you look around, some guys in the league are not as talented, but they are very effective in this league, because they have this right here.”
He added that he’s not sure most casual fans recognize what he has been able to accomplish at his height. “I don’t think a lot of people look at me and say, ‘He’s 6-3, 6-4.’ And the things that I’ve accomplished and do in the games,” Wade said. “Hopefully, when I’m done playing, people will look at me and say, ‘He wasn’t that tall.’ Maybe I’ll get a little credit then.”
As for Wall, Wade said that he impressed by what he has seen. In the Wizards’ 121-113 loss to the Heat on Feb. 25, Wade had 41 points but Wall blitzed Miami for 24 points and 12 assists.
“He’s a great young talent,” Wade said, “and yes, we are about the same height. I would just tell him that being not as big as everyone else and having a game where you’re a penetrator, you’re going to get knicked up and banged and how do you recover from it. I would love to give him that advice. He’s one of the good young players in our game. Has the potential to be great. We would want that. We would want him to be great.”