Wizards’ John Wall talks about how he bounced back in March

March 20, 2013

I’m holding my head high right now. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

In the final month of his rookie season in 2011, John Wall averaged 19.4 points, 6.0 assists and 5.9 rebounds while shooting 45.4 percent from the field. In the second full month of last season’s lockout-shortened campaign, Wall averaged 19.2 points, 8.6 assists and 4.6 rebounds and shot 48 percent from the field.

If he maintains his current pace for the next seven games, Wall would turn March into the best statistical month of his professional career.

In 10 games this month, Wall is averaging 20.1 points, 7.7 assists and 4.5 rebounds while shooting 52.4 percent. Wall has failed to record at least six assists in only two games, with three games of 10 or more helpers. He has scored in double figures in each game and tallied at least 23 points in four of his past five games.

“I just give credit to my teammates because they make things easier for me, being able to find spots and knock down shots and get me easy opportunities to score,” Wall said. “My teammates are getting open, [I’m] finding them and I was able to get free throws and layups.”

Wall said that it is no coincidence that his inspired play came immediately after one of the worst funks of his career led to a visit from his mother, Frances Pulley. Pulley provided some encouragement and home cooking, making his favorites – fish, shrimp and corn – and serving up the sweet tea and Kool-Aid.

“Right after the all-star break, I felt like I didn’t play well,” Wall said. “I might’ve had one good game. I was having a lot of turnovers and not playing with a lot of confidence. Forcing things, not taking good shots, trying to find my rhythm and just her coming up and seeing my family really gets you back to a calm level.”

Wall has also been aided by improved health and conditioning following a more than three-month layoff with a stress injury in his left knee. He also had a recent sit-down with Coach Randy Wittman to discuss what he expects of him running the offense.

“It’s a situation where there is not a lot of practice time at this time of year. So a lot of film work with him, sitting him down, having him have an understanding of the process of doing it and he’s really taken it to that level,” Wittman said. “He utilized and took what the defense gave him. That’s the most important thing. If they want to stop him, then that’s going to leave opportunities for other people.…It’s been a process coming back from this injury, trying to work himself back into doing the things he’s capable of doing. His ability to keep the pace of the game the way we want. His confidence with his jumper. And finding people.”

Wall’s field goal percentage has picked up the past six games, as he’s shot 58 percent (51 of 88) since going just 6 of 19 in a road loss against the Brooklyn Nets on March 8 – when Deron Williams set an NBA record with nine first-half three-pointers. Wall missed his first four three-point attempts this month, including one in the loss to Brooklyn. Since then, Wall has worked out more with assistant Sam Cassell and made 6 of 7 from long distance.

“I was really disappointed with myself in the Brooklyn game even though Deron Williams had a heck of a first half, if I would’ve made a couple of those mid-ranges, we would’ve been closer into the game,” Wall said. “I felt like I was shooting on the way down. I just went back in the gym, restructured stuff and seen how I wanted to shoot. My main thing is coming with a lot of speed and shooting on the way up. That’s something that we always talk about. Once I had that good game, I felt like I was in a rhythm and a zone. When you get a lot of confidence and you make your first couple of shots, the basket gets bigger and bigger.”

After Wall claimed his first Eastern Conference player of the week award on Monday, Wittman said he believes the third-year point guard can sustain his level of play. “Sure, I wouldn’t be surprised,” Wittman said. “You hope, when a guy plays like that, he continues to have that belief and confidence.”

Michael Lee is the national basketball writer for The Washington Post.
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Missy Khamvongsa · March 20, 2013

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