Wizards notebook

John Wall, JaVale McGee shine as Washington Wizards rally past New Orleans Hornets in NBA Summer League

By Dan Steinberg
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 17, 2010

LAS VEGAS -- In the regular season, the Washington Wizards will not inbound the ball for a last-second shot to Lester Hudson. They won't likely call on Trevor Booker to set a last-second screen. If they do hit a last-second game-winner -- as Hudson did Friday night in a 90-89 NBA Summer League win over the New Orleans Hornets -- the resulting dogpile won't include names like Corsley Edwards, Kevin Palmer and Aaron Pettway.

But let the record show -- to the extent that the summer league produces a lasting record -- that Friday night showed some hair-raising possibilities for long-suffering Wizards fans.

After a lackluster first half, John Wall was dynamic in the third quarter, scoring 18 points, including 11 straight at one point, to single-handedly erase a double-digit deficit. JaVale McGee was the athletic, mistake-free 7-footer fans have dreamed about, dribbling straight to the basket, dancing underneath the rim, and earning roars for four rim-shaking dunks.

Wall finished with 31 points. McGee had 29. The Wizards improved to 4-0 this week and will attempt to finish off their first-ever undefeated trip to Las Vegas on Saturday afternoon. And the potential was impossible to ignore.

"We made some changes, but those two guys are big pieces for us," Coach Flip Saunders said. Wall "just kind of basically took the game over in the third quarter. . . . JaVale had about seven unbelievable plays."

Wall struggled with his jump shot in the Wizards' last outing, and he did again Friday night. He hit his first three-pointer of the week in the first half, but he missed several jumpers from the elbow or free throw line, sometimes while fading away. At halftime, he had made just 8 of his last 33 shots.

Wizards assistant Sam Cassell, who's leading the summer league squad, told Wall to be more aggressive, but the 19-year-old already knew that's what he needed to do.

"None of us were making shots, including myself, so I felt like I had to start scoring a little bit until they started picking me up," he said. "I felt like every time I got it I had a chance, and I was taking my angles and not playing around with the basketball and just getting to the basket."

And thus began the most memorable stretch of his brief pro career. Almost halfway through the third quarter, the Wizards trailed by 13 points and looked lethargic on offense. Wall started the comeback by driving the length off the court, making a layup and getting fouled as three seconds ran off the court.

He soon went the length of the court again and drew another foul. Then he dunked home a pass from Hudson off the backboard, had another coast-to-coast drive in five seconds, and made two more free throws before finding McGee for an alley-oop dunk.

"They couldn't stop him," McGee later marveled. "He got to do what he had to do. He was unstoppable. They couldn't figure out a way to stop him."

"An unbelievable third quarter," Saunders said.

"The third quarter, that's how we want to play this year, that's how the Wizards want to play," Cassell said. "We want to pick up full court, we want to shadow the ball and [we want] the energy level that we had in transition. It was unbelievable what John was doing out there."

The Hornets went ahead with 2.2 seconds left, before Hudson's last-second heroics. The Wizards' reserves sprinted the length of the court to mob a player that most Wizards fans have likely not heard of. And yes, repeat to yourself that this was just a summer league game, in mid-July, in Las Vegas. Still, Saunders was glowing at what he said was Wall's refusal to lose.

"The best thing is the win," the point guard said. "Everything else was okay, but the main thing I liked today, we kept our undefeated record."

Sheppard eyes Hornets

Tommy Sheppard, the Wizards' vice president of basketball operations, will interview with the New Orleans Hornets for their vacant general manager position, a source confirmed. Sheppard, who recently completed his seventh season in Washington, has made it clear he has ambitions to be a GM, interviewing with Seattle in 2007. The story was first reported by NBA.com's David Aldridge. . . .

Sun Yue, a star with the Chinese national team, left the Wizards to join the Milwaukee Bucks' summer league team. The 6-7 Yue considers himself a point guard but was serving as a wing player for the Wizards; he left with the team's blessing.

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