“I’m going to be anxious and super excited, so I’ll probably get tired in probably 30 seconds, because I haven’t played in so long,” Wall said, wiping sweat from his brow after Friday’s practice. “It’s exciting to be out there with my teammates, have fun and play with the team I wanted to play with all season.”
Wall understood the challenges he faced when the Wizards drafted him No. 1 overall in 2010, but he was unprepared for a prolonged rebuilding effort or the backlash that he would receive for the team’s shortcomings. He is also motivated because his name is rarely mentioned among the league’s promising young point guards despite averaging 16.3 points, 8.2 assists and 4.6 rebounds in his first two seasons.
“I think people know who I am, but I think they forgot,” Wall said. “I’m used to that anyway. I feel like ever since I got drafted, I’ve been under the shelf so I’m not worried about none of that. I’m just happy I’m getting the opportunity to play basketball again. I’m not really focused on what anybody is saying or what anybody think about my future or my career.”
Wall’s third season represents a new beginning, stripped down from all of the hype and outsize expectations. He no longer has a signature sneaker after ending his 21
-year business relationship with Reebok and switching to Adidas. And he has no plans of introducing himself to the home fans with any spirited dance moves.
“Nope. Just chilling. Coming out cool,” Wall said with a grin.
Coach Randy Wittman, whose team is off to the worst start in franchise history (5-28), said Wall’s return would allow the other players to return to their rightful positions on the floor and keep them from assuming roles that exceed their skill sets. But the challenge will also be keeping Wall from being too excited about being back. Wall concluded Friday’s practice by throwing down a windmill dunk.
“The thing he has to temper a little bit is he’s going to be going a 100 miles per hour knowing John,” Wittman said. “I don’t want to pull back on any of that. But hey, it’s a good problem to have.”
Forward-center Nene missed the Wizards’ last-second upset of the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday with right knee tendinitis, an injury he blamed on compensating for his sore left foot, but he hopes to play with Wall — if he can keep up.
“That dude fast. He look like a little bull,” Nene said with a laugh. “I’m excited to see him run, to jump and I hope the big men watch out because if they don’t help on him, he going to dunk, he going to [put them in a] poster.”