John Wall, Evan Turner talk to Washington Wizards officials

By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 22, 2010; D03

CHICAGO -- While John Wall and Evan Turner prepared for their agility drills at Attacks Athletics gym during the NBA draft combine, they found themselves at half court with a basketball. Turner made a long jumper, then Wall grabbed the ball and Turner ran up to defend him. Suddenly, the top two prospects were playing a lighthearted game of one-on-one.

"We was just joking around," Turner said later in a ballroom at the Sheraton.

Neither kept score on Friday, since the only contest they are really trying to win is being the person Commissioner David Stern introduces as the Washington Wizards' choice as the No. 1 overall pick on June 24.

Wall and Turner both met with Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld, Coach Flip Saunders and other personnel on Thursday and likely will be the only two players to work out for the top slot at Verizon Center. Although he is considered the prohibitive favorite to go first, Wall said he didn't receive any assurances from the Wizards in his 30-minute meeting.

"Nah, that's what I'm waiting for, to see if I'm their guy," Wall said. "It's up in the air."

Turner said he came away with a similar sense of ambiguity. When asked if the meetings helped sway him one way or another, Grunfeld refused to publicly acknowledge his leaning. "They both were really impressive young men. Very serious, focused. They really know what they want out of their careers," Grunfeld said, without getting into specifics.

The Wizards, who also have the 30th and 35th picks in the draft, met with 18 players while in Chicago, including Syracuse's Wes Johnson, Kentucky's DeMarcus Cousins and Georgetown's Greg Monroe, who are expected to go high in the draft.

The 6-foot-4 Wall said his conversation touched on his ability to play with Gilbert Arenas, a three-time all-star who plays the same position. Wall said it shouldn't be a problem for him -- so long as Wall doesn't have to change positions. "If they pick me, if they want me to be the player that I want to be, I have to have the ball in my hands, as a point guard and lead the offense," said Wall, who averaged 16.6 points and 6.5 assists while earning Southeastern Conference player of the year honors at Kentucky. "I asked, 'How would you work with us together?' They gave me an answer. If that's my team and I go there, [they'd] play him at the two-guard position. It's tough. Gilbert likes to have the ball in his hands. He's a great player, a talented player and he can get buckets in bunches. We just have to wait and see.

"If [Grunfeld] needs a point guard or if he feels comfortable with Gilbert being the point guard and might need a shooting guard or a big man, he has to do what's best for his organization and what's going to help him out. The key for me is giving him the best chance to pick me, show him I'm a good character person. They already know I'm a good basketball player."

Turner, a 6-7 junior small forward from Ohio State, swept every national player of the year award and averaged 20.4 points, 9.2 rebounds and 6 assists. He said his versatility makes him an ideal match for any situation. "I don't have a problem playing anywhere as long as I can get better," Turner said. "I think if everybody is committed to winning, committed to getting the job done and being professional, what more can you ask for? If the Wizards want me, I think I can fit in with Mr. Arenas. I just want to go in and fit in."

Wall said the Wizards made it clear to him that their goal was to "start fresh" after making deadline deals to ship out all-stars Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison, and center Brendan Haywood.

While many have slated Turner to go second to Philadelphia, he continued to make his case to the Wizards. "You don't want to pass up on me," Turner said. "People unknowingly try to shortchange my sights, to not shoot for the stars. I'm trying to be one of the best ever. I don't know what other people are trying to play for. If you're not trying to do that, why play?"

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