John Wall(notes) of the Washington Wizards and Blake Griffin(notes) of the Los Angeles Clippers are the odds-on favorites to win the NBA's 2011 Rookie of the Year Award -- the oddsmakers at Bodog.net have Wall going off at 11-to-10 and Griffin listed at 9-to-4, followed by this year's second and fifth picks, the Philadelphia 76ers' Evan Turner(notes) and the Sacramento Kings' DeMarcus Cousins(notes), both at 7-to-1. In their respective preseason contests on Tuesday night, Wall and Griffin each gave fans a reminder of why their names top the freshman class.
Solid on-ball defense, blink-and-you'll-miss-it quickness, easy points and a bit of a flair for the dramatic (he didn't really have to go left, but he did) to finish it off. Nicely done. Add in President Obama doing the Sugar Shizz dance and the complete absence of anything that looks like, seems like or rhymes with "gun," and you've got pretty much exactly what Washington Wizards fans hope to see out of 2010's top pick.
Wall finished with 19 points, seven assists, two rebounds and the steal you just watched in 35 minutes of burn as the Wiz topped the Atlanta Hawks, 107-92, in the nation's capital. Flip Saunders probably wasn't thrilled with the University of Kentucky product's five turnovers or his 8-for-18 shooting from the field, but all told, I'm pretty sure the coach will take it.
It's easy to undervalue this play, especially without a commentary track featuring an announcer-as-hype-man extolling Griffin's virtues. Then you think about what Griffin had to do here -- recognize the transition opportunity and break into a dead sprint from his own foul line; beat Tony Parker(notes), Manu Ginobili(notes) and Richard Jefferson(notes) down the court; have the presence of mind to call for the ball as he streaked past the 3-point line toward the paint; take off from the dotted line; and spot, catch and flush Baron Davis'(notes) lob with Ginobili flashing in front of him. Then you remember that Griffin is 6-foot-10 and 250 pounds, and that he's coming off of surgery to repair a broken left kneecap, and he's getting up and off the floor like that. And then you go, "Holy cow."
Griffin also beasted on the glass, snaring 17 rebounds in 37 minutes to go with his 13 points (on 5-for-11 shooting), three steals and two assists in the Los Angeles Clippers' narrow 100-99 loss to the San Antonio Spurs.
When he heard that putting up 20 and eight in 22 minutes in the Kings' 116-97 victory over the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday hadn't officially (read: unofficially) bumped him above Turner (five points, six assists, four rebounds in 36 minutes in Philly's 103-92 winover the Boston Celtics), Cousins (probably) made this face: