As John Wall stepped to the free-throw line late in the fourth quarter of Monday’s game against Memphis, his new career high and the Wizards’ sixth straight home win in hand, faint chants of “M-V-P” arose within the Verizon Center.
When asked about it later, the third-year guard shrugged off the praise.
“Nah, I’m not no MVP, man,” Wall said with a grin. “I’m just glad to finally be able to play good, be healthy, help change things around. Like I said, if this team’s healthy from start to finish, we’d easily be a playoff team. That’s how we feel.”
With the way the Wizards have fallen prey to injuries, especially of late, that’s something fans will never know this season (Five players missed Monday’s game with injury or illness). But with the way Wall has played, especially of late, one can’t help but wonder “what if” about this resilient group.
After recording a career-high 47 points in Washington’s 107-94 win against playoff-bound Memphis, Wall is now averaging 25 points and 9.3 assists during his past nine games. The Wizards have gone 6-3 during that stint and are now 21-16 since Wall’s return from a leg injury.
“I believe in my ability,” Wall said. “I’m very confident and I think whenever you’re in your zone or you’re in a great rhythm like I’ve been in the last couple months, you don’t feel nobody can guard you no matter who it is.”
Wall’s 47 points against a strong defensive team like Memphis puts him on a short list with Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry. They’re the only two players to score more points than Wall in a game this season, with 54 and 52, respectively.
Before and after Monday’s game, Wizards Coach Randy Wittman touched on how he felt many have underestimated the transition Wall had to go through after missing the first 33 games with a knee injury.
“I think he’s showing you right now what he can be,” Wittman said when asked if Wall was a franchise player. “You don’t really understand what he went through this year. It’s tough to sit for three and a half months and not do anything. And then I get him, the doctor says I can play him and I throw him to the wolves.
“Everybody goes, ‘Why is he up and down?’ It’s hard,” Wittman continued. “I had to be patient, too. I had to make sure he was patient.”
Wall has also shown patience with his jumper, steadily working to eliminate the hitch in his shot and add another dimension to a skill set built on speed and flash. By doing so, he also seems to be indirectly addressing the questions surrounding his value as a franchise and max-contract player.
“The work that he did all summer leading up to his injury in September is starting to pay off,” Wittman said. “And he’s continuing to do that work now. He’s 22. I think we’re beginning to see who John Wall can be.”