John Wall wins Eastern Conference player of the week [UPDATED]

March 18, 2013
Take that, critics! (Photo by Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)
Take that, critics! (Photo by Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

John Wall often felt overlooked, slighted or ignored while he sat the first 33 games of the season because of a stress injury in his left knee. Even with the Wizards winning at a considerably better rate than when he was sidelined, Wall has still had to endure more criticisms about what he isn’t more that what he contributes.

“I hear it all,” Wall said recently. “So be it.”

Whenever asked about his predicament, Wall has said his play would serve as a better reply than his words. Wall responded in loud and emphatic fashion last week — averaging 24 points, 11 assists, 5.5 rebounds and 2.5 steals over four games — and his performance was recognized when the NBA honored him as Eastern Conference player of the week for the first time in his three-year career

“It’s great,” Wall said on Monday, before the Wizards (23-42) played the Charlotte Bobcats at Time Warner Cable Arena.  “A very humbling experience for everything I had to go through this season. I especially want to thank my teammates and my coaching staff for giving me the confidence in me playing at a higher level. I’m just making smarter decisions, smarter shots. Without my teammates making it easy for me, or them knocking down shots, or getting to open spots, I don’t have the ability to get to my spots. I’m just playing with a lot of confidence right now. I finally feel like I got my legs underneath me.”

The Wizards haven’t had a conference player of the week since Antawn Jamison won the award in the exact same week five years — from March 10-16, 2008. Wall actually assumed Jamison’s old stall spot in the Wizards’ home locker room at Verizon Center.

Wall managed to defeat other nominees LeBron James and Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat and Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford after leading the Wizards to to victories over Milwaukee, New Orleans and Phoenix. He had a season-high 14 assists in a loss to Cleveland, scored a season-high 29 points against the Hornets and had three double-doubles.

The most startling aspect of Wall’s performance was that he shot 61.7 percent from the field and made 4 of 5 three-point attempts. Entering the week, Wall had connected on just 41.4 percent of his shots (146-for-353) and was 2 of 18 from beyond the arc.

The Wizards are now 18-14 since Wall made his season debut and Coach Randy Wittman said the honor was well deserved, considering his journey back from an injury that sidelined him for the first three-plus months of the regular season.

“I’m happy for John,” Wittman said. “It’s been a process coming back from this injury and trying to work himself into where he can do the things he’s capable of doing and I think all of that, his ability to keep pace of the game, the way we need and want, his confidence in what he’s doing with his jump shot and finding people. He had a hell of a week.

Wittman actually informed Wall of the news via text message, which caught Wall off guard.

“I was very surprised,” Wall said. “I knew I had a heck of a week numbers wise but just looking at it, if we would’ve won four, it would’ve been easier to pick me. But 3-1 and we lost to Cleveland without Kyrie and I’m sure they looked at that. But LeBron, Wade and them guys are playing at a high level, winning 22 straight, so I was like, ‘It’s no way, you can win.’ But I’m thankful the NBA recognized me and it’s an honor to be the first person since Antawn did it five years ago.”

Michael Lee is the national basketball writer for The Washington Post.
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Michael Lee · March 18, 2013