As the Washington Wizards play their final home game of the season Friday against Philadelphia, fans will get one last in-person glimpse at the player who has firmly established himself as the bedrock of the franchise — John Wall.
It hasn’t been easy for the point guard out of Kentucky since the Wizards drafted him No. 1 overall in 2010. He’s had to work his way through terrible teams, a coaching change, injuries, high-level criticism, poor shot selection and his own foibles during his time as a pro.
But in the 46 games since coming back from a knee injury that forced him to miss the start of the year, Wall has proven himself to be one of the most invaluable players in the NBA.
“He’s in a good state of mind right now,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said.
Since his returned to the lineup on Jan. 12, Wall has shown he’s coming into his own.
He’s averaging a career-high 18.3 points, with 7.6 assists and 4.0 rebounds while shooting a career-high 44.8 percent from the floor
Since March 1, only Wall, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James have averaged at least 23.0 points, 7.0 assists and 4.8 rebounds.
Wall appears rejuvenated and has given fans and the front office reason to believe he is the player that can help lead Washington back to the postseason.
“Whenever you are feeling good and playing good, you’re more into the game,” he said. “You’re enthused, you’re happy. That’s the good thing about us winning — it all equals having fun with your teammates. They’re all behind me and helping me out as much as possible.”
Wall faced a great deal of scrutiny, both for his injury, which was announced suddenly on the verge of training camp, and for the mediocre start to his career.
Most notably, NBA agent David Falk teed off on Wall, saying, “He doesn’t have a good enough feel for the game to be an elite player.” Former NBA coach Stan Van Gundy also chipped in, saying, “I don’t see [Wall] as a franchise player.”
For the most part, Wall has answered his critics on the court.
“It feels good when you’re playing the best basketball since you’ve been in the NBA,” he said. “After all the stuff I’ve been through with injuries and missing so many games and having people say what they say about me, it means a lot to me.”