Wall, Wizards limp out of Chicago
Monday, November 15, 2010
John Wall's first regular season game against Derrick Rose didn't end the way he probably had hoped. His Washington Wizards lost to Chicago, 103-96, and needed a vintage Gilbert Arenas offensive outburst to avoid an embarrassing deficit. And Wall exited the United Center on Saturday with his left shoe in his black backpack and his left foot in a walking boot after he sprained his arch trying to defend Rose.
The morning before the highly anticipated matchup of the last two point guards to be drafted No. 1 overall, Wall admitted to Coach Flip Saunders that he was tired as he prepared to play three games in four nights for the first time in his career. But afterward, Wall said fatigue wasn't a problem during a game in which he had to chase around Rose, who attacked the rookie with crossover dribbles and forceful yet acrobatic finishes at the rim.
"I just missed too many layups," said Wall, who missed three shots at the rim, at one point hopping up and down in frustration when one didn't fall. "I think I need to do layup drills again."
The Wizards are anxious to see when Wall can run up and down the court without discomfort again. Wall got hurt in the third quarter, left to have his foot taped and returned for a late rally, and was optimistic that the pain in his foot would subside with some rest and treatment. "It's swollen a little bit," he said after Washington (2-6) lost consecutive games for the third time this season.
Saunders said the Wizards would have to "wait and see" how Wall's foot reacts over the next few days, with the team set to host Toronto at Verizon Center on Tuesday and travel to play defending Eastern Conference champion Boston the next night. They will have to take a similar approach with Andray Blatche and Yi Jianlian, who both succumbed to knee injuries against the Bulls.
Blatche, the team's second-leading scorer and leading rebounder, said he has been dealing with soreness in his left knee all week. It became unbearable on Saturday, when he missed 2 of 10 shots and he was unable to do much in a 41/2-minute stint in the fourth quarter, when he didn't score or grab a rebound. When he helplessly watched Joakim Noah streaking down the lane for a fast-break dunk, Saunders sat Blatche for good.
"I just tried to be a warrior. I tried to fight through it," said Blatche, who had scored 20 points in three of his previous four games before scoring a season-low four points against the Bulls. "It just gave out on me. All the pain came, in every different way. Soon as I got here, I knew it was going to be a problem."
Yi was injured in the third quarter, when Luol Deng knocked over Wall and sent him crashing into Yi's right knee. Yi may miss some time with a hyperextended knee and a bone bruise but said that tests after the game revealed that there was no ligament damage. With Blatche and Yi ailing, Saunders relied more on rookie Trevor Booker and Hilton Armstrong, who helped the Wizards come back from an 18-point deficit and may have earned more playing time.
"They deserved to play, the way they played," Saunders said of Booker and Armstrong. "Our guys have to understand that there is not entitlement. You have to produce."
Before Wall was injured while defending Rose on a jumper, Rose said he wanted to make sure that he put some pressure on the fellow John Calipari product. Rose caught an inbounds pass near the Wizards' bench in the third period, but broke out a trick play on Wall. When he caught Wall cheating in front him, Rose whipped a behind-the-back dribble and Wall chased him as Rose split Blatche and JaVale McGee for a whirling left-handed layup.
In the Wizards' past four losses to New York, Cleveland, Charlotte and Chicago, Wall has either lost or come up with a draw against point guards Raymond Felton, Mo Williams, D.J. Augustin and Rose.
"It's not going to stop," Rose said. "He's going to have to answer every call, every matchup. Every point guard in the NBA has a matchup. It's kind of like a faster game now, so the point guards are dominating the ball and really almost like the best players on the team. So every night he's going to have someone coming at him."
Arenas, who made seven three-pointers and scored a season-high 30 points against the Bulls, spoke to Wall in the locker room afterward to ask him what he had learned playing against Rose. Arenas said he talks with Wall after every game to make sure he is taking notes and making progress. Arenas said he could see Wall improving each game.
When asked who was faster between Wall and Rose, Arenas said: "John Wall's faster. But at that speed they're going, it really doesn't matter."
Wall said after the game that there is a simple explanation for why the Bulls have been successful. "Look at the point guard. You got a point guard that's that talented, he puts a lot of pressure on the defense. He can score, and he does a great job."
When told that the same description could work for the Wizards, Wall chuckled and hobbled out of the locker room. He understands his team has some room for improvement - and needs to get healthy as well.