Though his play often suggests otherwise, John Wall is adamant that he doesn’t get sidetracked by individual duels when he goes head-to-head against some of the best players at his position.
“I don’t get caught up into it,” Wall said recently, “because when I play these guys, everybody wants to say, ‘Who is going to win the matchup? But I don’t see the matchup as who’s scoring the most points, it’s about who gets the win at the end of the night and how did I help my team get the win, or what did I do wrong to lose the game?”
Wall has gone up against five current or former all-star point guards this season. He is 3-3, claiming two wins against Brooklyn’s Deron Williams and one against Kyrie Irving, with losses against Irving, Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook. He is 1-2 at home, where Irving and Paul both upstaged him at Verizon Center. Irving matched his career high with 41 points in the Wizards’ 103-96 overtime loss to the Cavaliers on Nov. 16 and Paul put on a clinic by scoring 38 points – on just 14 shots – and handing out 12 assists in the Wizards’ 113-97 loss to the Clippers on Dec. 14.
Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry has yet to reach all-star status but he is certainly on the verge by averaging 23.3 points and 9.6 assists, which ranks second in the NBA behind Paul. Curry exploded to stardom in the playoffs last season, when he led the Warriors to the second round.
“Another tough point guard. I think he should be deserving of an all-star. He should’ve been last year,” Wall said of Curry, who averaged 22.9 points and 6.9 assists last season.
Curry is shooting 40.9 percent from long distance – which is actually a career low – but is a threat from almost anywhere on the floor. He made eight three-pointers and scored 36 points on Thursday in a win over the two-time defending champion Miami Heat and the Warriors extended their win streak to eight games the next night, when the Hawks left Andre Igoudala open for the game-winning three-pointer in order to double-team Curry near half-court.
“Every time he pass half-court, you should be guarding him from there,” Wall said. “Nothing you can say about it. He can shoot the ball effortlessly. It looks like sometimes he shouldn’t shoot it, but he still makes it. And if you stop him for one half, it don’t mean nothing because he can come back and get you in the second half. That’s how good he shoots the ball.”
Wall has never claimed a victory over Curry or the Warriors, losing all five games.
The Wizards famously traded the fifth overall pick in 2009 rather than using it on Curry and he has admitted that he thought he would start his career in Washington. Curry has made the Wizards pay almost every time he sees them. In seven career games against the Wizards, Curry is 5-2 and has averaged 23.1 points, his fourth-highest average against any team. Curry has also shot 52.3 percent from the field and 46.8 percent from long distance against Washington.
Curry had 35 points in just 32 minutes to lead the Warriors to 101-92 victory at Oracle Arena last March, when Wall was ejected in the third quarter after getting into a heated argument with Golden State guard Klay Thompson. Thompson committed a hard foul on Wall, then bumped him to the ground after the whistle was blown 11 seconds later as Wall tried to get a loose ball. Wall then threatened Thompson by shouting, “Go to the basket and I swear to God, I’ll knock your … out.”
Wall and Thompson were reunited during Team USA minicamp last July and said that there weren’t any lingering hard feelings. “He was cool,” Wall said of Thompson back then. “That just happened in the moment, in the game, when we was competing against each other and ever since we’ve been cool.”
The Wizards also passed on Thompson to take Jan Vesely in 2011.
Coach Randy Wittman has challenged Wall to commit more to becoming a defensive stopper if he wants to make the next step toward becoming an all-star. Wall added that his defense often fuels his offense but he will certainly have his hands full with Curry.
“I think one thing he’s got better at, is, he could always handle the ball but he can get in the paint,” Wall said of Curry. “He’s doing a great job of getting his teammates involved and scoring. I think they have a very talented team.”