By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 4, 2010; 12:03 AM
John Wall goes end-to-end on the court so quickly that he often seems out of control - until you realize that he is totally composed. He offered an example in the fourth quarter of the Washington Wizards' 116-115 overtime win over the Philadelphia 76ers, when he batted the ball away from Evan Turner underneath the 76ers' basket. After leaping to recover it, Wall sprinted and surveyed the floor.
Wall left Turner and Marreese Speights in the dust, then darted around Thaddeus Young, who hopelessly flailed for the ball, connecting only with Wall's shadow. By the time Wall hit half court, only two defenders were in front of him- and both were waiting in the paint. So he sped into the lane and looked to the right corner, where Nick Young was camped out.
Wall zipped out a pass to Young, who buried an open three-pointer. The entire sequence took less than 10 seconds. "The whole time I was pushing it, my eyes was up. Used to be when I was pushing it, my head was down and I couldn't see nobody," Wall said, explaining the sequence. "I'm pushing it at a pace that looks like I'm going real fast, but I'm not. I'm just trying to put pressure on the defense and every time I see a gap or something, I have another gear to get there. I basically thank God for the kind of speed I have."
After Wall's incredible performance in his home debut on Tuesday - when he became the first player in NBA history to ever have a game with 29 points, 13 assists and 9 steals - the Wizards are thankful that they won the lottery this past May and took with the No. 1 overall pick a track star disguised as a basketball player with uncanny court awareness.
"Dude's a rocket," said 76ers reserve Lou Williams, one of several Wizards opponents who have been dumbfounded by Wall's speed.
"He is a point guard," Philadelphia Coach Doug Collins said. "When I say that, a lot of guys get brought up where they say they are point guards, where really they are not. John Wall is a point guard. He's a leader and a winner. Speed. Strength. Size. He's going to be an amazing player if he stays healthy, and let's hope he does."
Wall has quickly joined some elite company. He became just the fourth player in NBA history to have at least 20 points and 10 assists in his home debut, joining Hall of Famers Isiah Thomas and Oscar Robertson and former NBA champion Norm Nixon.
And through his first three NBA games, Wall has 71 points and 31 assists, which makes him the only player besides Robertson to have at least 70 points and 30 assists through three games (Robertson had 72 and 30 as a rookie for the Cincinnati Royals in 1960-61).
"That's a great accomplishment, to be honest, but Oscar Robertson's the only player to ever average a triple-double in a season so that's something that's hard to do. It's great to be in a category with him, but he already proved himself on this level and did everything," said Wall, who is averaging 23.7 points, 10.3 assists and league-leading four steals. "I'm still working, the first three games, that really doesn't mean anything. I still have 79 games, so I have to prepare myself for every game."
Wall also moved into a three-way tie with Damon Stoudamire and Jamaal Tinsley for the most assists after three NBA games. He tied Gus Johnson and Michael Adams for the franchise record in steals on Tuesday, when he had six steals in the third quarter alone (six NBA teams don't average six steals per game).
"I think that when we took him, we knew that he was very dynamic. We knew he had the ability to do those things," Coach Flip Saunders said. "I'm more impressed with his ability to never say die, his competitiveness to win games."
Wall refused to let his team lose on Tuesday, and he also displayed his showmanship, as he performed the popular dance "The Dougie" for more than 30 seconds in pregame introductions to ignite the crowd. He admitted that he had planned to do those moves a few weeks ago. "Doing it the whole time was fun, bringing excitement back into the building," said Wall, adding that he switched gears from entertaining to focusing on winning the moment he got in the huddle and his teammates shouted, "Family."
Andray Blatche said he was surprised to see Wall dance but had a message for him in the huddle. "I told him, 'If you do that, we better get this win.' You can't Dougie out and then you lose."
Wall leads the Wizards in scoring and field goal attempts (52) through the first three games, but said his shooting has been more out of necessity than preference."
"When I feel like it's going to be a tough night, I have the ability to get to the basket, draw fouls and find my teammates for easy baskets. I told my team, I don't like shooting more than 12 to 13 shots. That's not me, I'm looking more to pass," Wall said. "I like to get my teammates involved. If you see, I'm more excited when my teammates score than I am. It's great to score, but it's better for me to have my assists."
Wizards note: The New York Knicks announced on Wednesday that Madison Square Garden will be ready for Friday's game against the Wizards. The Knicks were forced to postpone a game against Orlando on Tuesday when debris fell on the court.