John Wall poses with his All-Star Game jersey with Washington owner Ted Leonsis (Getty Images)
Washington Wizards point guard John Wall will play in his first NBA All-Star Game on Sunday, netting the honor in his fourth year in the league. That’s usually the going rate for emerging stars, as they improve season by season to the point where they can be ranked amongst the best 12 players in their conference, but NBA drafts have seemed a little top-heavy over the last half-decade, in some incorrect ways Wall seems like a disappointment. To some, the 23-year old should have been dominating years ago, I suppose.
Wall, in some incorrect ways, apparently is aware of this. In an interview with CSN Washington, the Kentucky product doesn’t exactly sound like he’s feeling sorry for himself, but he does characterize his current status, as his game and Washington’s win totals slowly grow.
“I think they still see me as a skinny kid from Kentucky that got drafted No. 1, that hasn’t done nothing or proven nothing in this league. I think just making this first All-Star Game still doesn’t get me a nod.
I think I respect the coaches and those guys that give me the credit for seeing I worked on my game and I’m getting better.
But until I make it to the playoffs and win a series and keep improving, I haven’t done nothing in this league.”
Wall appeared to stagnate in his second season, following a 2010-11 rookie year that saw the point man rightfully lose out to Blake Griffin’s YouTube-enhanced Rookie of the Year campaign. The Rookie of the Year the previous season, Tyreke Evans, had already put together a 20-point, five-rebound, five-assist season for his Sacramento Kings, and by 2010-11 third-year point man Derrick Rose was already well on his way to an MVP award while leading the team with the NBA’s best record.
That remarked-upon sophomore slump, coupled with a frustrating third season that saw Wall miss the first two months of the season with a knee injury the team didn’t exactly enjoy discussing, clouded things. Wall didn’t disappoint with his play down the stretch last year, and nobody ever considered him a bust, but the accelerated rate of stardom for players like Rose, Griffin and the initial stardom offered to Evans turned John Wall into somewhat of a lesser light.
That’s changed, of course, in 2013-14. Wall won’t be winning any MVP awards this year, and his Washington Wizards are a decidedly mediocre 25-26 in the crummy Eastern Conference, but the stank of acting as the most prominent force on a playoff team helps change things.
Wall is actually shooting worse this season than he did in his abbreviated 2012-13 turn. His scoring, rebounding, assists and steals are up, but he’s also playing nearly 37 minutes a contest, up nearly five from last season. If anything, this has been the year that John Wall stagnated. In fact, his second year statistics, in comparison to his rookie year, were actually pretty favorable. Again, it’s all about perception. And even if the Wizards are, say, the league’s 13th-best team, they’re still the sixth seed in the East. That helps with the image.
This isn’t to discount the idea of John Wall as an All-Star. He is an All-Star – players averaging nearly 20 points per game with 8.4 assists while playing very good defense should always be All-Stars – it’s just to point out how unique a character he is. As a top overall pick, he doesn’t have Derrick Rose’s mantelpiece full of accolades or Blake Griffin’s fame, and he certainly doesn’t have their postseason record – as both Rose and Griffin were gifted with several All-Star teammates early in their tenure.
What he does have is a steadily growing team and reputation, a squad that in spite of many Washington front office missteps still has a chance to utilize flexibility this summer to possibly give Wall an All-Star teammate of his own.
That sort of pairing, combined with a potential perpetual turn on the playoff stage, tends to change perceptions. Until then, though, it’s good to read that John Wall is aware of his station. His current station, at least.
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