LOS ANGELES – John Wall isn’t sure where he will be when NBA all-star reserves are announced at 7 p.m. on TNT Thursday night. The Wizards are expected to arrive from Los Angeles at Dulles International airport around 6 p.m., so he could still be commuting to his Potomac home and might miss it live.
But if he manages to get back in time, Wall will grab a comfortable seat to find out if coaches have selected him as one of the seven Eastern Conference backups for the NBA’s annual showcase on Feb. 16 in New Orleans.
“It’s something exciting to watch and see what guys they pick and hopefully, I’ll be one of the people called,” Wall said. “It’ll be a blessing. One of my goals I set for myself, and a dream come true to be an all-star, to be mentioned as one of the top, best players in the game.”
Wall has certainly made a solid case in his fourth season. Averaging career highs in points (19.8), assists (8.5), steals (1.9) and three-point percentage (32.5), Wall also has the Wizards in contention for a playoff spot for the first time since he was selected first overall in 2010. He leads all Eastern Conference guards in assists and double-doubles (16) and is one of just three players in the NBA averaging at least 19 points and eight assists, along with all-stars Stephen Curry and Chris Paul.
“I think there is no doubt he’s an all-star,” Coach Randy Witman said. “I’d be very disappointed if that’s not the case. He’s worked, improved. The team has improved. I think it’s a foregone conclusion, to be honest with you. I don’t know anything, but I’d be really disappointed if that didn’t happen.”
Wall’s value to the Wizards (22-23) goes beyond just his individual production. He is the only player to start every game this season and the team is dramatically different when he is on and off the floor. The Wizards outscore opponents by three points per 48 minutes when he’s in the game, but are outscored by 12 points per 48 minutes when he sits.
“I think he’s deserving,” teammate Martell Webster said. “He’s worked his butt off and it’s time for all that hard work to pay off. His consistency has surged. Being able to play at a level for this many games, shows the consistency. He’s capable of taking over a game at any time and through the stretch of this year, he’s continued to get his teammates involved and still have the confidence in his teammates to knock down shots and that’s big. He has his eyes on a bigger picture and that’s getting his team to a higher seed and into the playoffs. He’s going to have to continue to have that confidence and faith in his teammates in order to get there. It’s never going to be a one-man show. He’s got a great group around him and he realizes it.”
Wall would become the first Wizard to be selected for an all-star game since Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler were selected as reserves in 2008 – when the game was also held in New Orleans. That was also the last year that the Wizards were in the playoffs.
“It would be an honor for the Washington Wizards organization, because they haven’t had somebody for a long time,” Wall said. “If it happens, I thank my teammates and coaches for being supportive and helping me reach those goals.”
In his time in Washington, Wall has absorbed plenty of criticism for failing to quickly elevate the franchise – especially after signing a five-year, $80 million extension last summer. He was recently left off Team USA’s 28-player pool for international competitions through 2016 and doesn’t expect the doubters to stop if he finally makes the all-star team.
“It still will happen. No matter what decision gets made. Until I make the playoffs and start winning games, it’ll be the same way,” Wall said. “It’s just more motivation for me. All the things I’ve been through in my life and tough times and people underestimating me. I’m going to use everything as motivation and step up to the challenge. I’m one of those guys that likes to compete and I will take on any challenge that anybody gives me. Just show my hard work and dedication is paying off.”
Wall has earned the respect of several opposing coaches, who have to game plan to stop him in order to slow down the Wizards. The challenge has been tougher than past season.
“This is not the same John Wall that came into the league; he’s worked on his game,” Golden State Warriors Coach Mark Jackson said. “He does a great job. He’s a one-man fast break. He has an improved jump shooter. He’s playing with confidence. Made big plays. Down the stretch, the ball is in his hands. They are a better basketball team than they’ve been in the past. I think he’s playing with an edge and he gives confidence to that basketball team. He deserves to be an all-star.”