John Wall has not been shy to voice his thoughts about his place among Team USA’s hierarchy. He was initially left off the preliminary 28-man roster for the 2014 World Cup of Basketball before he was added four days before camp started in Las Vegas. Then he was among the first cuts. And after participating in USA Basketball’s minicamp last summer, the Washington Wizards’ point guard bluntly said he doesn’t expect to make Team USA for the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro this summer.
But last week, Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul withdrew himself from Olympic consideration, citing the toll and time required to participate in the tournament. Paul, who turns 31 next month, won gold in Beijing in 2008 and in London in 2012. He was a shoe-in to make Team USA again for the chance to win gold a third time. His absence creates an open spot in the back court, where a logjam of talented point guard candidates include Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving, Russell Westbrook, and Damian Lillard. Could Wall step in and seize it?
“I don’t know,” Wall said last week. “There’s still other guys out there. Steph’s out there, Kyrie’s out there, that played in it. Russ is still out there. So you have to wait and see.”
Wall, along with teammate Bradley Beal, was named among the finalists for the Olympic team in January. The final 12-man roster will be revealed later this year. Like Paul, Wall is a pass-first point guard and he ranks third in the NBA in assists (10.2) in his sixth season.
But Westbook has improved in that department and ranks second in assists (10.4) after winning the scoring title last season. Curry has ascended to become the undisputed world’s best player, Irving played under Coach Mike Krzyzewski at Duke, and Lillard has taken his game to another level this season. Irving, Curry and Lillard are also better shooters than Wall.
“Everybody would always want to win a gold medal,” Wall said. “But I feel like there’s a lot of guys in it that’s already been on the team. I’d rather have my summer to get better and work on my craft if I don’t have a real shot at going to it.”
Wall said believes he proved himself worthy of earning a spot on the team with his individual the last two seasons, but Washington’s disappointing season probably won’t help his chances.
“It’d be big,” Wall said of the opportunity to play in the Olympics. “It’d be huge. It’d probably be one of the biggest honors that I’d ever have if I ever have the opportunity to play and win a gold medal. It’d be my biggest honor other than going to the elite eight.”