Another March, another chance for Wizards’ John Wall to elevate his game


Couldn’t do it by myself. (EPA/MICHAEL REYNOLDS)

John Wall had never had a better month in his career before March 2013, when he had finally regained his conditioning and confidence after recovering from a stress injury in his left knee that cost him the first 33 games of the season.

After spending the first two months of his comeback easing his way into a rhythm, Wall caught fire and recorded some of his best performances, including a career-high 47 points in a win over Memphis last March 27. He finished the season on a tear and was eventually rewarded with a maximum-salaried extension.

A year later, Wall has reached all-star status for the first time in his career and has gotten off to another solid start this month, averaging 20 points and 12.5 assists in the first two games. On Monday, Wall became the first Wizards player since Gilbert Arenas in 2006-07 to be named Eastern Conference player of the week at least twice in the same season. He has won conference player of the week honors three times, with the first award coming last March.

“It’s great,” said Wall, who averaged 25 points and 10.7 assists and led the Wizards to three wins to claim the honor. “I wouldn’t be there and have that opportunity if wasn’t for my teams and those guys weren’t out there playing and giving me the opportunity to excel as a point guard and be their leader. You won’t get 10.7 assists if you don’t have guys making shots and knocking them down and our big men setting screens and giving me the opportunity to make plays with the basketball. It’s a great honor and I have more goals that I set for myself, but definitely our ultimate goal is to fight for that third or fourth spot.”

In Monday’s 110-104 loss to Memphis, Wall had nine assists and also became the sixth player in franchise history to record 2,000 assists with the team, joining Wes Unseld, Rod Strickland, Kevin Porter, Kevin Loughery and Arenas. Wall is the 14th fastest player to 2,000 assists (244 games) and has 2,001 for his career. He currently ranks first in the NBA in total assists with 524.

Wall averaged 22.7 points last March, which was the highest scoring month of his career until last April, when he averaged 23.9 points in just nine games. This season, Wall has averaged at least 20 points in two of the first four months of the season.

When asked where he is now, compared to this time last season, Wall chuckled and said, “I’m not coming off injury, so I feel a little better. But it’s kind of the same situation, where last year, I was coming off injury, but this year, we have stars down. One of our best players in Nene down, another opportunity for me to raise my game and help this team win as many games.”

Since Nene has been sidelined, Wall is posting averages of 24.5 points and 10.3 assists while shooting 56.9 percent from the floor to help the Wizards go 3-1. “When you’re doing those kind of numbers and you’re not winning, it don’t mean nothing,” Wall said. “The main thing for me is to play the right way and let it keep coming to me in the offense and I’m having big games and winning. That’s a big plus for us.”

 

Michael Lee is the national basketball writer for The Washington Post.
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