Basketball coaches believe in the value of a hard foul, both for intimidation purposes and to nix the possibility of the offensive player turning the play into an and-one opportunity. Players know this, and if they don't do it right they're likely to hear it from the bench.
On Friday night at Verizon Center, Chicago Bulls forward Mike Dunleavy did his job on a fast break against John Wall of the Washington Wizards. Unfortunately for Dunleavy, Wall pulled off the sort of play that defies all logic.
With less than four minutes remaining in the third quarter, Wall forced a steal off a Dunleavy pass, took the outlet from Trevor Ariza, and sped to the hoop in the hope of a fastbreak bucket. Dunleavy executed a fairly textbook open-court foul, but the agile Wall managed to spin 180 degrees and throw a shot attempt over his shoulder. Somehow, it banked off the glass and in.
There's really no explanation for a basket like this one. While it took a lot of talent and athleticism, it all involved a pretty good amount of luck. A player can practice taking shots at weird angles, but an amazing number of things have to occur for something like this to work out. If anything, it's just a reminder that intentionality doesn't have to be the primary factor in a top-shelf highlight.
It does, however, provide an opportunity to discuss Wall's terrific season with the Wizards. When Wall signed his max-level extension this summer, most pundits — even those who found it sensible — considered it a risk. In his first three seasons, Wall progressed slowly, looking like a disappointment after entering the league as a No. 1-overall pick with the potential to become the best point guard in the sport.
This season, Wall looks like a near-lock to make his first All-Star team. In Friday's 96-93 win, he notched 23 points (9-of-15 shooting), 11 assists, and four rebounds, impressive numbers that are becoming increasingly common for the Wizards star. Whether intentional or not, the guy knows how to make an impression.
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