LOS ANGELES — Point guard John Wall was named an Eastern Conference all-star starter for the first time last week as reward for his stellar play over the first half of the season. Through 45 games, Wall leads the Washington Wizards in scoring (17.2 points per game), tops the NBA in assists per game (10.2), is second in steals per game (2.1), and is masterfully steering the ship for the second-best team in the Eastern Conference.
“He’s a good player and he’s been proving that, continuing to work on his game, add things to his game, and continuing to be a leader on and off the floor,” Coach Randy Wittman said before the Wizards’ win over the Denver Nuggets Sunday. “And those are the things that he’s done and continues to do and that’s what he’s being rewarded with.”
Wall was a lock, but center Marcin Gortat nearly joined Wall in the starting lineup, finishing 77,000 votes behind Carmelo Anthony for the final front-court spot. Gortat admitted he was surprised by the final tally, but Wall insisted he thinks the Wizards, because of their second-place standing in the conference, deserve a second all-star in New York City next month.
Whether a teammate joins Wall will be up to the coaches, who select all-star reserves. The two best candidates are Gortat and shooting guard Bradley Beal. Gortat is averaging 12 points and ranks 20th in the NBA with 8.2 rebounds per game. His 13 double-doubles are 21st in the league. Beal is averaging 14.8 points and is seventh in the league in three-point field goal percentage at 44.1 percent. He missed the Wizards’ first nine games due to a fractured left wrist and came off the bench for four games upon his return. Beal is in his third season, but is still the youngest player on the Wizards at 21 years old. For what it’s worth, analyst Shaquille O’Neal thinks both Gortat and Beal should join Wall.
“Right now it’s up to the coaches, but if I end up losing it then I think it’s going to be more about politics,” Gortat said with a smile.
The Wizards haven’t sent two players to an all-star game since Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison represented the organization in 2008. This year, Gortat and Beal face stiff competition. Gortat will be up against Chris Bosh, Kevin Love, Joakim Noah, Nikola Vucevic, Paul Millsap and Al Horford in the frontcourt. In the backcourt, Dwyane Wade, Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Butler, Derrick Rose and Jeff Teague are among the choices.
“I think someone else from my team should be in there with me,” Wall said. “And it’s crazy that if [Anthony] had surgery, if his knee didn’t get better, then [Gortat] would’ve been a starter. That would’ve been the funny part about it. But yeah, I think someone from my team, whether it’s him or Brad [Beal], is well-deserving of another spot from my team.”