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Wizards' Wall is finding his groove as he adapts to his new surrounding

By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 18, 2010; 1:26 AM

TARRYTOWN, N.Y. - His energy level oscillated all day, as he dribbled, danced, posed for pictures - and yawned. He was asked to look mean, to smile, to flex. He was asked to sign autographs, to fill out questionnaires, to sit down for interviews, to stand for interviews. He was asked to take photographs while throwing the ball between the legs, while tossing it over his shoulder, while dunking with two hands, then with his right hand and later just his left hand.

For more than seven hours, with a short break for lunch, John Wall was all over the New York Knicks' training facility Tuesday fulfilling his duties for the NBA rookie photo shoot with the league's trading card partner, Panini. And it was obvious that he was starting to wear down - an hour before lunch. As several rookies, including Washington Wizards teammate Trevor Booker, shot jumpers during a break in action, Wall grabbed a ball and slid behind a basket support to hide and have a quiet moment. "I'm tired," Wall said, "but I can keep going."

As the No. 1 overall pick, Wall was in high demand. But nearly every time it seemed like Wall was spent, he found the energy to engage in an impromptu dance contest with rookies DeMarcus Cousins of the Sacramento Kings and Tiny Gallon of the Milwaukee Bucks, and later a spontaneous dunk contest.

Wall took care of his business, even signing an exclusive trading card and memorabilia deal with Panini, but he mostly showed that he is a 19-year-old who simply wanted to have some fun. After taking some photographs with his former Kentucky teammates Cousins, Eric Bledsoe, Patrick Patterson and Daniel Orton, Wall hopped on Cousins's back and went on a piggy-back ride before Cousins playfully brushed him off his shoulders.

"It means a lot to get back with guys who went into the draft the same as you, and reach their dream the same time as you," Wall said. "It means a lot to stay cool with them and have fun."

The Wizards will begin training camp in about six weeks, and Wall has already started to settle into his new home town. Wall said he took about two weeks off after summer league to rest his knees after developing some tendinitis. He arrived in Washington last week and worked with head athletic trainer Eric Waters to get his knees stronger, while assistant coach Sam Cassell helped him work on developing his game.

Wall said he also met with Gilbert Arenas, who was in town receiving treatment on his left knee. "I talked to him a little bit. He knows a lot about the game. You can tell he's a smart player. I can't wait to get on the court with him and get it going," Wall said. "He just says he's going to do as much as he can to change and play the way he knows how to play, helping us win. I feel like you got two guys who can attack the basket and also Gilbert can stretch the defense, it helps out a lot."

Before leaving Saturday for New York City - where he sat courtside for Team USA's win over France at Madison Square Garden and hung out with rapper Bow Wow - Wall finally settled on an apartment. He said he plans to move in this weekend once he completes the NBA's rookie transition program, which begins on Wednesday. "No more hotels in D.C.," Wall said with a smile. "It's good to have my own bed to lay in."

Wall also attended the Washington Redskins' first preseason win over Buffalo on Friday, when his friend and fellow Raleigh, N.C., native Brandon Banks returned a punt for a touchdown and celebrated by doing Wall's signature dance in the end zone. Wall attended the same high school for two years with Banks and visited with him after the game. "We was in town, no reason not to show him some love. It was great to see him have the opportunity to live out a dream and play in the NFL," Wall said, adding that he enjoyed the atmosphere at FedEx Field. "That was my first real NFL game. Imagine when they play the Cowboys on opening night. I'm going to try to go to that game."

But Wall sounded somewhat conflicted about which team he would pull for. "I like the Cowboys, because of my mom. People aren't going to like me because of that," Wall said, laughing. Wall said he witnessed first-hand how intense the rivalry is, as he saw someone at the game get heckled and challenged to fights for wearing a Cowboys jersey. "I got to stay with the Cowboys because I can't switch teams, but I'm going to support D.C. no matter what. I'm in between. I'll be cheering for both of them, but I won't let anybody know."

When Wall wasn't occupied with a photographer, reporter or autograph-seeking fan, he was seemingly clowning around and cracking jokes with other NBA rookies. He said he realizes that the relationship will change some when they actually go head-to-head this season. "When we step on the court, we don't have friends," Wall said. "We not friends on the court, no matter if we brothers or not. But off the court, we can be as cool as we want to be."

At the conclusion of the afternoon, several of the players watched in awe as Detroit rookie Terrico White performed an impressive 360-degree, between-the-legs slam. Wall did a few dunks of his own, but before he could follow White, Wall was pulled aside again. He begged off, claiming that he was done. Then he left behind the fun to sign some more trading cards. As he worked the marker afterward, Wall was asked about White. "Nice dunk," Wall said, then turned to his stack of cards.

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