“You can’t shoot on that goal regular style, you’re really going to miss,” Wall said with a grin, noting how some of his opponents, and his even best friend, Ty Williams, launched shots over the entire contraption. “We had a couple people win, but then I kind of got serious and won.”
The mini-hoop interaction with fans will have to help satiate Wall’s competitive drive for the time being, with a stress injury in his left knee keeping him sidelined for the next six weeks. Wall would like to be back in time for the Washington Wizards’ game in New York on Nov. 30 but that will require a few more maddening days and patience because he still “can’t run, can’t jump. Can’t do nothing.”
The Wizards (1-4 in the preseason) want to keep Wall around and engaged. He has traveled with the team for road games to receive treatment on his injured left knee, watch games and practices, and learn Coach Randy Wittman’s system. He wears his game warmups — not a sport coat — on the bench, offers tips to teammates based on his observations and cracks jokes in the locker room to maintain that connection.
Practices are perhaps the hardest, and Wall admits that he sometimes has to leave to go to the training room, “so that I don’t have to think about it.” Wall is always around for the conclusion to shoot free throws with his teammates and he recently started working on stand-still dribbling drills with assistant coach Ryan Saunders.
“It’s very tough being injured. Frustrating. I don’t like it, but I like the way my team is playing,” Wall said. “They are playing hard and they are competing. It’s a great opportunity for a lot of guys to step up, so they can build their confidence up. So if I come back, or Nene come back, or Kevin [Seraphin] come back, a lot of guys have confidence so nobody is stepping on toes and they feel more comfortable in those situations. In the four games they lost, they gave themselves chance to win in about three of them and lost by two or three.”
Reebok is ushering a new campaign this week for Wall Season 3 ZigEscape, which is available at Foot Locker and Reebok.com for $115. And in many ways, having his own shoe and a logo have been cathartic for Wall, giving him a constant reminder of how far he has come. It’s still only been five years since he was that unknown rising high school junior with an awkward Mohawk from Raleigh, N.C., who showed up for a Reebok camp in Philadelphia and left on a skyrocket to becoming the No. 1 overall pick.