Sidelined since September because of stress injury in his left patella, John Wall hasn’t had much else to focus on beyond getting healthy, studying the game by sitting next to the Washington Wizards’ coaching staff and displaying a keen fashion sense with a colorful and stylish array of suits, jackets and ties.
“I stepped it up this year. You got to step it up from time to time,” Wall said after Wednesday’s practice while flashing a grin, before concluding: “I’m tired of suits. I want to put on a jersey.”
The Wizards (5-28) have struggled in Wall’s absence, off to the worst start in franchise history, but the former No. 1 overall pick provided a boost with his blazing speed to an already energized practice coming off an impressive 101-99 victory over the defending Western Conference champion Oklahoma City Thunder.
Wittman joked that several players unfamiliar with Wall have cursed in awe at how fast he gets up and down the floor. He urged his players to push the tempo in practice, with Wall’s presence bringing an end to the walk-it-up phase of the season.
“Sometimes, you think you’re ahead of him and ‘pyoooon!’ He’s right by you,” said rookie Bradley Beal, who anxious to finally share the floor with Wall. “It’s going to be an opportunity for us to show that we’re going to be one of the best back courts, from this year and years to come as well. I really look forward to it.”
Wall, 22, invested a lot into improving his game last summer and has had a hard time sitting out while his team languishes in the NBA cellar and his star remains diminished or overlooked despite averaging 16.3 points and 8.2 assists in his first two seasons. His patience has been tested with the delay to his third season, but he views his his pending return as a belated holiday gift.
“That was my Christmas present. I didn’t want nothing for Christmas but just to go home and see my family for a couple days and just play basketball again,” Wall said. “That was my new year’s resolution and my Christmas present, just to play basketball again. Hopefully, my dream comes true soon.
“I’m even more motivated because I had to sit out so long,” he said. “God just tested me, and things happen for a reason, and I’m just sitting back and taking my time.”
Wall expects to get a nice ovation from the home fans whenever he makes his debut.
“I think they’ll be very excited,” Wall said. “Some people seem like they’re very excited so I just hope I get a warm welcome when I come back and play. I miss playing for this city of D.C. I’m just ready to put on a jersey, the real jersey – and play – instead of the practice one.”
And certainly not a suit.
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– Bog: evaluating Wall’s torso.