Wizards’ John Wall feeling free to flex during another spectacular performance


You know y’all can’t guard me, right? (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

John Wall’s confidence no longer can be measured simply by the jump shots he’s willing to take, the chase-down blocks he’s willing to make, or the fearless way in which he blows by defenders, in complete control, and consistently finds a way to finish or find a teammate.

Wall has added another element in recent weeks – one that he kept buried until he finally regained his legs after a three-month layoff – and it was on full display as he scored a game-high 37 points in the Wizards’ 104-85 rout of the Indiana Pacers. With members of the 1978 championship Bullets team in attendance and an enthusiastic crowd anxious to witness a show, Wall provided more than enough theatrics to keep them entertained – after each spectacular play.

He beat his chest after splitting David West and Lance Stephenson and make an off-balanced floater over Paul George. He flexed and glared at the crowd after he plucked the ball from Roy Hibbert, darted up the floor, cocked the ball behind his head and got fouled as he dunked. The stage was Wall’s and he kept his audience captivated.

“Whenever you are playing good and feeling great, you are more into the game, more enthusiastic, more happy. That’s the good thing about it when we win, it equals having more fun with your teammates,” Wall explained. “I think whenever you’re feeling good and you play the best basketball since you’ve been in the NBA and after all the stuff I’ve been through with injuries and missing so many games and having people say what they say about me, it means a lot to me.”

With the season winding down, Wall is getting stronger and better and he is guaranteed to provide a jaw-dropping performance at home in recent weeks.

He scored a career-high 47 points against Memphis, had a solid effort against Toronto, nearly had a triple double against Chicago, and was a one-man wrecking crew against an Indiana, which had won nine consecutive games over Washington – including the first three this season as Wall was sidelined. In his last four home games, Wall has averaged 32.3 points, eight assists, 6.3 rebounds, 1.8 blocked shots and 1.5 turnovers.

“John Wall is becoming a very sensational player and he was too much for us to handle,” Pacers Coach Frank Vogel said. “Wall has a similar progression to what Derrick Rose experienced a couple years ago. It was his first year in the league he played hard and in the paint, but when he added that jump shot he was unstoppable. When playing against him, you have to get your whole team back on transition defense.”

Wall shot 16 of 25 from the field, and the Pacers were unable to keep him out of the painted area. He probably would’ve finished with at least 40 points, but he only made five of 10 free throw attempts.

Vogel tried to warn his players about what to expect from the improved Wall, but it was hard to prepare for the ambush of ridiculous shots and breathtaking drives. Wall started out early, making a difficult-to-describe runner off the wrong leg and then he made Hill look foolish on a fastbreak. Hill made a valiant effort to track down Wall but Wall whirled the ball around his waist and left Hill frozen as he made a layup.

Wall later drew a foul and shot the ball across his body while falling away. He scored 26 points in the first half, matching his career high for points in a half set on March 25 against Memphis. But Wall even added an incredible block on the 7-foot-2 Hibbert, elevating before Hibbert attempted his shot to stun the all-star center.

“He is an explosive player, and is definitely someone that knows how to put the ball in the hole,” George said. “He is a confident player as well, and he has worked on his game. Now he is a problem, you have to defend his jumps shot and drive.”

Wall has only scored 35 points or more four times in his career, but three of those games have come in the past two weeks. Since March 1, Wall is averaging 23 points, 7.8 assists, five rebounds and 1.6 steals. He has had 10 games of 20 or more points and six double-doubles.

Coach Randy Wittman certainly had no complaints that his once maligned point guard has decided to flaunt his success with some preening and posing.

“If he’s going to give me 37, he can flex all he wants — and a win,” Wittman said with a chuckle. “You’ve got to let kids have emotions, just as long as we don’t lose our emotions.”

Michael Lee is the national basketball writer for The Washington Post.
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Michael Lee · April 6, 2013