SACRAMENTO — Yes, John Wall has heard the criticism of his cold shooting to start to the season. But, no, Wall says he is not shooting 13 percent (3 for 23) from the three-point arc because he has subscribed to the Bartolo Colon workout routine.
“It’s funny because everybody is . . .,” Wall started, before imitating a nagging voice: "‘Well, you’re not in shape!’
“I’m in shape. I’m doing everything I’m supposed to do but some days are going to be good, some days are going to be bad,” Wall said. “Sometimes you get off to a great start shooting the ball, sometimes you don’t.”
On Friday, neither Wall nor his Washington Wizards could find the mark in a 116-112 loss to the Sacramento Kings. While Washington attempted a franchise high with 42 three-pointers, making only 14, Kings forward Nemanja Bjelica made timely triples.
In the fourth quarter, Bjelica (24 points) made three from beyond the arc before his shooting opened the interior. Late in the game, after hitting a 27-footer, Bjelica found Buddy Hield on the next possession for a driving layup to extend the Kings’ lead to 108-101 with 2:45 remaining.
Even so, the contrast in late three-point shooting wasn’t the only reason the Wizards fell to 1-4 on the season. When Sacramento went up by eight points, the Wizards scattered three turnovers in their closing possessions. As Washington trailed 110-109 with 23 seconds remaining, Bradley Beal, who missed 8 of 11 from the arc, lost the ball out of bounds.
Wall fouled out after making his lone three-pointer late in the game. He made one of his six three-point attempts, 9 of 20 overall, and finished with 26 points.
Wall, honest to a fault, probably didn’t do himself any favors during the Wizards' preseason when he said he was “just trying to push myself to getting in more shape. I mean, game shape. I’m in shape, but just more game shape.”
Wall showed up at training camp visibly bigger. As he looked back over his summer routine Friday, Wall said he targeted adding more muscle mass to be able to absorb the contact he takes on drives to the rim. Even so, he had to curtail the weightlifting because one month into the offseason, Wall didn’t like how much his upper body was expanding. So, he switched to only lifting with his legs.
“That’s why I don’t like to lift upper body,” Wall said.
Statistically, there appears to be little causation between Wall’s additional mass and his shooting. Though he looks different, Wall started slowly each of the past two seasons.
Through the first four games into his ninth NBA season, Wall made just 26 of 63 shot attempts (41.3 percent). In the same four-game window from a year ago, Wall shot poorly from the three-point arc (2 for 14) and connected on 28 for 75 shots (37.3 percent) overall. Two years ago, Wall started 2 for 10 from distance and 31 of 70 (44.3 percent) overall.
“It takes time. It is what it is. I know I’m putting in all the work in and preparing myself for every game,” Wall said. “You’re not going to make every shot. You just got to go there and be confident. That’s one thing I have. I don’t … lack confidence.”
Wall’s trend of slow starts is not easily explained. Coach Scott Brooks hasn’t noticed anything that might connect the past three early-season shooting numbers. Brooks, however, is keenly aware that his entire team’s shooting has spiraled during this 1-3 start.
“The thing that I didn’t anticipate that we would shoot the ball so poorly from three,” Brooks said. “We have guys that can shoot the ball well that are not shooting the ball well right now. So hopefully that all evens out.”
The Wizards have continued their preseason pledge to launch more threes. But they’re missing more threes as well. After Friday night, Jeff Green has made only 3 of 17 three-point attempts, Otto Porter Jr. shot 5 for 21 and Austin Rivers is just 8 for 25. Entering the matchup with the Kings, the Wizards owned the sixth-highest average in three-point attempts in the NBA — and yet, the team had the eighth-worst shooting clip (32.6 percent).
Wall might be visibly bigger, but he knows better is only a matter of time — for his teammates and himself.
“Right now we’re just not making shots. That’s the way we want to play: making passes, getting shots, getting good looks that we wanted. Just haven’t been making them,” Wall said. “So we just got to keep shooting it. Same with myself. I’ve been getting good looks, shots I’ve been working on all summer and going every day with [assistant coach Robert] Pack before and after practice and I’m just going to keep taking them and hope the guys keep taking them. There’s going to be a point in time where we just start making them.”
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