With plenty of hype surrounding him as the No. 1 overall pick, John Wall made his professional preseason debut against future Hall of Fame point guard Jason Kidd in Dallas, where the Wizards defeated the eventual NBA champion Mavericks, 97-94. Three years later, Kidd is a rookie coach set to make his debut against Wall when he brings the new-look Brooklyn Nets to Washington on Tuesday at Verizon Center.
“That is funny. I remember we went to Dallas, we played him, and I played a lot,” said Wall, who had 21 points and nine assists in 37 minutes in his first NBA exhibition game. “Now I’m going against a guy that’s coaching now, so that’s pretty different.”
This time around, Wall is assured that he won’t get such a heavy workload in the Wizards’ preseason opener.
“I remember my rookie year, I played every minute and I was about to pass out,” Wall said with a laugh. “As a rookie, you can’t say too much. But my main thing is, just have fun. Bascially try to do a great job running the team while we have the opportunity to be out there during that time period, and if it’s 15, 20 minutes or whatever it is, you’ve got to go out there and compete.”
Coach Randy Wittman said he plans to use the game as an opportunity to evaluate his main guys, but he has no intention of wearing them down at the start. So, don’t expect Wall or Nene to play regular season minutes.
“No. I don’t plan on doing that with any of them,” Wittman said after Monday’s practice.
After 10 days of preparation time and practice battles, the Wizards will finally face a different opponent. The Nets were one of the busiest teams last summer, making a blockbuster deal to acquire future Hall of Famers Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett from Boston and signing Andrei Kirilenko as a free agent. They also hired Kidd only a few weeks after he retired from a 19-year NBA playing career in which he finished second all-time in assists.
Point guard Deron Williams will not be available because of a sprained right ankle, but the Wizards will have another reunion with Andray Blatche, who re-signed with the Nets last summer.
The Wizards will be without Trevor Booker (right knee), Otto Porter Jr. (right hip), Chris Singleton (left foot) and Emeka Okafor (neck). They will look to find out how they will replace the rebounding and defensive presence of Okafor, while newcomers Eric Maynor and Al Harrington will make their debuts.
“They’re probably ready for it,” Wittman said of his players. “They’ve been going over a week now against each other. I’m sure they’re ready for some live action. Obviously, see what we’ve put together, where we’ve got to improve, and what the next steps we’ve got to take. The first game is always a crap shoot. The excitement of the start of another year. Hundred miles an hour offensively. Throwing the ball all over…let’s hope not, but you never know.”
Wall expects the first game will be about testing what works, in addition to getting a win.
“Main thing is getting your chemistry down pat. Make sure you know,” Wall said. “Just get a feel for guys and coach is trying different lineups and seeing where you can play guys together, maybe me and Eric together or having Trevor [Ariza] or Martell [Webster] play the four or Al. Then it’s a great opportunity for guys that we’re taking into preseason to see how they play in different situations and see if they have the opportunity to make the team or not.”
The Wizards were given four extra days to prepare for the upcoming season since they will catch a flight immediately after the game to Rio de Janeiro to take on the Bulls on Oct. 12 in the first NBA game in Brazil. After missing out on this time last season with a stress injury in his left knee, Wall is not complaining about having a few more practices.
“I think it’s really great for us, because my second year was like a lockout, so we didn’t have training camp and last year, I didn’t have a chance to experience training camp,” Wall said. “So this is very big for us, especially adding a couple of new guys in and then trying to see which way you can switch up and play different guys in different situations and positions, since you know we lost Emeka, our defensive anchor. So it’s pretty good just to go hard…and prepare yourself for preseason and the trip to Brazil.”