When Eric Bledsoe left the Los Angeles Clippers’ practice facility and walked to his car on Saturday morning, his first objective was to pick up his phone and call John Wall to engage in some playful trash talk before the former Kentucky back-court mates and good friends duel at Staples Center.
“We just going to see what happens,” Bledsoe said with a laugh when asked what he was going to say.
As the foundation of the Washington Wizards’ rebuilding efforts and an offensive focal point, Wall generally leaves with the statistical edge over Bledsoe when the two go face-to-face, but Bledsoe’s team has always come away with the victory. Wall is looking to end a four-game losing streak to the Clippers since he entered the league, but he also wants to win on a more personal level.
“It’s always great to play against my brother. Me, him and DeMarcus [Cousins] are like the three amigos. I’m 0-and-1 on the trip against one brother,” Wall said with a laugh, referencing Washington’s loss on Thursday to Cousins’s Sacramento Kings. “So hopefully, I can get a win there.”
The Wizards (8-29) are 3-1 since Wall returned from a left patella injury and the former No. 1 overall pick has thrived despite playing limited minutes, averaging 13.5 points and eight assists. But after securing a win over Denver with a block on the speedy Ty Lawson, Wall will have to contend with either all-star point guard Chris Paul or Bledsoe.
Paul is a game-time decision Saturday after missing the past three games with a bruised patella, but Bledsoe is beginning to blossom in his third season and has averaged 11.7 points and 3.7 assists while filling in for Paul.
“I know it’s going to be a tough matchup, even if it’s Chris Paul or Eric Bledsoe,” Wall said. “They are two different players but they all got a different aspect of their game that you have to respect.”
Bledsoe started to make a name for himself last postseason, especially in the second-round loss to San Antonio as he consistently entered the game and led a charge of momentum. This offseason, Bledsoe focused on shooting with more confidence and he is averaging career highs of 8.7 points on 46.4 percent shooting.
“It’s been fun,” Bledsoe said. “I’ve just been capitalizing off the playoffs I had last year. Then, just the confidence coming into it and then my teammates, helping me out as I go. …I played a lot of pickup and I was just pretty much focused on catch-and-shoot. And play without thinking so much.”
Bledsoe is excited to see Wall back on the court and offered his support while Wall was forced to sit out.
“John, he just a terrific player,” he said. “I talked to him a lot. I told him to stay focused, because this is probably the best learning opportunity you’re going to get. Just by observing while not playing. He’s playing great basketball right now.”
Wall will play his first set of back-to-back games since making his debut and was feeling good after Friday night’s win over the Nuggets.
“I feel like I’m getting better day by day,” he said. “I’m just doing whatever my doctor and my coach is doing. I think I moved up five minutes to 25 and that’s really helping me to play longer and allowed me to play a lot more minutes in the fourth to close out the game. I’m feeling healthy and doing a great job of getting my team involved and take the shots my teammates was giving.”