The Wizards have failed to launch since he arrived, but his long-awaited unveiling signaled a new start for Wall and his team. After using the first three quarters to get his “jiggly” legs under him, Wall gave the Wizards — and the fans — a reminder of the speed, excitement and flash that they’ve been missing. It added up to a 93-83 victory over the Atlanta Hawks.
“I hadn’t played in so long, four months, so it felt like we was miserable, but I kept fighting for my team,” Wall said after scoring 14 points with a team-high four assists and two rebounds. “Just excited to get back out there with my teammates, play in front of the D.C. crowd and help our team get a win.”
Using that breakneck speed to break down the defense and unleashing several months of pent-up passion, Wall didn’t appear to miss a step in the fourth quarter, when he took the suspense out of a close game with back-to-back layups. Then, after forward Kevin Seraphin made a jumper to force Hawks Coach Larry Drew to call a timeout, Wall marched back to the bench, nodding and shouting to the fans as they applauded what would end up being the first two-game win streak of the season.
“Obviously, it’s a long time sitting there,” Coach Randy Wittman said. “He’s been looking forward to this since the end of last year, of this day; not expecting it was going to be January 12. But the work that he put in this summer. . . . I think it had to give us a big lift.”
Wall was the difference in helping the Wizards (6-28) finally knock off a Hawks team that had won the previous six meetings, including two overtime games this season. He closed out the game with a nifty, behind-the-back pass to Trevor Ariza for a two-handed dunk, then talked some more trash to the Hawks as he made it down the floor on defense. He shouted to anyone who would listen, “I’m back.”
“I was just happy to be playing basketball, so anybody that was in my way, that’s what I was saying,” Wall said with a smile after the game.
Wall appears to have picked a good time to return, with several of his teammates starting to round into shape. He was in position to close out the game because point guard A.J. Price had a season-high 16 points after getting his first start since breaking his hand on Dec. 8 in a loss to Golden State; and because Martell Webster, who moved into a starting spot with Ariza out because of injury, scored 15 points and had an impressive dunk over former Wizard DeShawn Stevenson that led him to celebrate with a shoulder bounce.