John Wall's been huge for the Wizards, but is he a franchise player? (Ned Dishman/NBA/Getty Images)
The Washington Wizards took down the New York Knicks, 106-96, at the Verizon Center on Wednesday night, upsetting the East's No. 2 seed behind scorching shotmaking from the likes of Trevor Ariza and Martell Webster (a combined 10 for 16 from 3-point land), strong-enough fourth-quarter defense against Knicks star Carmelo Anthony and a strong performance from starting point guard John Wall. The 2010 draft's No. 1 overall pick scored a team-high 21 points, dished nine assists and grabbed five rebounds in 39 minutes; he looked like an explosive, dynamic whirlwind on both ends of the floor in leading the woeful 13-35 Wizards to their ninth win over a playoff-caliber team, and their fifth over a division leader.
Three of those division-leader-toppling victories — against the Knicks, Los Angeles Clippers and Chicago Bulls — have come since Wall's return from a knee injury that cost him the season's first 33 games; the Wizards were 5-28 without him, and are 8-7 with him in the lineup. The turnaround in the Wizards' fortunes doesn't exactly have the team's fans thinking about the playoffs, as they were before Wall went down a month before the start of the season, but it has led to some supporters rekindling their beliefs that the 22-year-old triggerman could actually be the kind of franchise-changing centerpiece many believed him to be coming out of Kentucky. Stan Van Gundy, it seems, isn't one of them.
The former Miami Heat and Orlando Magic head coach recently drew some DMV ire for saying in a D.C.-area radio interview that the Wizards, even with a healthy Wall, have no foundational pieces: "He’s certainly got talent, but I don’t know that even John Wall is a great player to build your franchise around [...] I think there’s a lot of people in the league — I’d certainly be one that would share this opinion — I don’t think John Wall’s good enough to be the guy that you build around." With Van Gundy in D.C. last week to call a college basketball game for NBC Sports Network, CSN Washington's Ben Standig caught up with the coach to see if anything had changed. It hasn't:
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