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John Wall: ‘I see ourselves getting to the Eastern Conference finals’

Bradley Beal and John Wall celebrate on the court during a game earlier this month. (Geoff Burke/USA Today Sports)
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On the night he became the first player in franchise history since Elvin Hayes to be named an all-star at least four times, Wizards point guard John Wall joined TNT’s “Inside the NBA” pregame show from Atlanta, where his surging squad will take on the Hawks on Friday.

In addition to discussing the Wizards’ “funeral” game against the Celtics earlier this week, Wall explained how his team managed to dig itself out of an early-season hole and put itself in position to challenge for one of the top four playoff seeds in the East. Washington is 23-12 since a 2-8 start and is 1.5 games back of Atlanta for the fourth seed.

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“We just figured it out,” Wall said Thursday. “We all looked ourselves in the mirror and said we all got to do better individually. Our coach held us accountable, and when I lock in on the defensive end, everyone else follows my lead.”

TNT host Shaquille O’Neal asked Wall where he sees the Wizards at the end of the year.

“I see ourselves getting to the Eastern Conference finals,” Wall said. “That’s our goal.”

That’s a place the franchise hasn’t been since 1979, when Hayes made the 11th of his 12 career all-star game appearances and the Bullets lost to the SuperSonics in the NBA Finals.

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Asked to name his biggest all-star game snub, Wall mentioned his backcourt mate.

“Bradley Beal,” he said. “He’s having a heck of a year. Like I told everybody, not just because he’s my teammate, but I told everybody let him earn his money this season. He’s been healthy. After any other shooting guard than DeMar DeRozan, he’s putting up big numbers in the East. He has seven games over 30 points.”

Beal joined ESPN 980’s “Inside the Locker Room” on Thursday before the all-star reserves were officially announced and was asked what he thought about his chances of being selected.

“At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter,” Beal said. “I’m all about winning games. I’m all about having fun and just trying to win the championship. I definitely want to be an all-star. If I am, that’s great; if I’m not, it’s still great and I’m still focused on the goal at hand. And John, of course, he definitely deserves it. Heck, I think he deserves to start, but hey, it is what it is, and I know he’s going to continue to get better, and it’s amazing just to be a part of his growth and just to see his success as well and be a part of it.”

Beal credited Coach Scott Brooks and improved camaraderie for the Wizards’ turnaround.

“Our chemistry is constantly getting better, on and off the floor,” Beal said. “Not even just, outside of the funeral thing, when you win games, your spirits are high, your confidence is going, so we’re all jolly, we’re in a great mind-set, we’re confident in our game and we’re winning games. At the end of the day, we realize what it takes. We knew we got off to a slow start, and we knew the reason why, and we just challenged ourselves individually and as a team, and each and every night we just come out and play our hardest and leave it on the floor.”

“You guys look like you’re having a lot of fun, too,” host Scott Jackson said. “A lot of fun.”

“I don’t know why people keep thinking we don’t like each other,” Beal said.