Wizards’ John Wall discerning with his blocked shots: ‘I don’t want to get dunked on’

March 12, 2013

I’m not going to try to let you dunk on me. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

The chase-down block has become one of John Wall’s signature plays of late, with the speedy and athletic point guard playing fast-break rim-protector and using his physical gifts to catch an unsuspecting player from behind to snuff out potential easy layups.

In the third quarter of the Wizards’ 104-87 win on Saturday over the Charlotte Bobcats, Kemba Walker sprinted out ahead and thought he had an easy layup before Wall tracked him down to pin the ball on the glass. Wall then tip-toed along the baseline to save the ball and the Wizards got an Emeka Okafor put-back layup on the other end.

The night before against Brooklyn, Wall caught Nets reserve point guard C.J. Watson from behind and volleyball-spiked his fast-break layup off the glass and out of bounds.

This season, Wall is second on the team in blocks, averaging 0.9 per game, which would rank first among NBA point guards if played enough games to qualify (his college teammate Eric Bledsoe averages 0.81). Wall ranks sixth among point guards with total blocked shots (24) despite appearing in just 28 games. He has recorded at least one rejection in each of the past five games.

“I used to do it a lot in high school,” Wall said, “but in college, guards use to make me foul them because they didn’t want you to block their shot. Here, I have an opportunity to go get-it and I just try to read and do what I’m used to. I’m blessed to be able to block shots, so I just try to find the right time to do it.

“You don’t want to see him go down there and score, so you have to do a great job of trying to get back on defense,” Wall continued. “It shows your hustle. Gives your teammates a little excitement.”

Wall has also had three game-saving blocks this season — one against Evan Turner in a win against Philadelphia and two against Ty Lawson in wins over Denver. Turner had his late jumper blocked in a one-on-one situation and Wall came over to help with those late blocks on Lawson. The 6-foot-4 Wall prefers to pick those close to his own size.

“I have to think about who is going to dunk it. I don’t want to get dunked on,” Wall said, flashing a grin. “You just try to take your angles and if you know somebody is athletic, you’ve got to jump a little earlier.”

Detroit guard Brandon Knight provided some affirmation for Wall’s reasoning on Sunday, when he tried to thwart a lob between Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul and center DeAndre Jordan and became an Internet sensation for all of the wrong reasons — and for the second time in three weeks.

Jordan, an athletic, 6-foot-11 big man with a propensity for powerful dunks, cocked back with his right hand – he’s a lefty – and flattened Knight, who came late on a rotation. The dunk was forceful, violent and vicious and was made worse when the ball ricocheted off his head when he landed on his back.

“Yeah, that’s what I woke up to. That’s why you don’t help side sometimes,” Wall said.

When asked if he felt bad for Knight, a fellow Kentucky Wildcat, Wall said, “I feel for anybody that’s in that situation. You’re doing what you’re supposed to, but he just got caught in a bad situation.”

Wall said he has no problem contesting shots as a help defender but he also doesn’t want to end up on a poster. He learned as rookie when he tried to jump with Blake Griffin and had to pull back once he realized the dunk was going down, no matter what. Lesson learned: you don’t always rush to help with the Clippers.

“Not against that team. That team, you can’t help,” You know they got [Jordan] and Blake that’s jumping. You can’t help against those guys.”

Okafor leads the Wizards in blocked shots, at 1.1 per game and has been on the receiving end of a few posters in his nine-year career. But Okafor said Knight shouldn’t feel too bad, since he gave up eight inches and 80 pounds to Jordan.

“The fact that he’s a guard saves him. If he was a big man, then I think it would’ve been a little bit more embarrassing,” Okafor said. “You remove Knight from that dunk, and it’s still an amazing dunk so the fact that he just got caught, it’s the game. Everybody has been dunked on. I’ve been dunked on, and then you can go on down the line so that one just happened to be very, very impressive.”

Coach Randy Wittman had nothing to offer on Jordan’s dunk. “I’m not on Twitter, so I didn’t see any of that,” he said.

Michael Lee is the national basketball writer for The Washington Post.
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