Wall Wonderful in Second Summer League Game | The Afro-American Newspapers | Your Community. Your History. Your News.
Wall Wonderful in Second Summer League Game | The Afro-American Newspapers | Your Community. Your History. Your News.
The Draft is Dead, And the Miami Heat Killed It | The Afro-American Newspapers | Your Community. Your History. Your News.
Kwame Brown, Oleksiy Pecherov, Jarvis Hayes and Jared Jeffries. Underachievers in the NBA but promising draft picks at the time to the Washington Wizards. The Wizards have a chance at draft redemption on Thursday when they drop their selection card into the hands of NBA commissioner David Stern. A chance at building a winner. A chance at becoming relevant again. A chance at wiping the slate clean and starting anew. And it all starts with Thursday’s NBA Draft and two simple words; John Wall.
But the 19-year-old Kentucky point guard has a few history hurdles to overcome in his race to first. Only two point guards have been drafted with the top overall selection since 1979 when the Los Angeles Lakers made Magic Johnson the first pick. Critics suggest that championship teams are best constructed with imposing big men, which explains why either a power forward or center has gone No. 1 eight times over the last 10 years.
Although the 6-foot-4 Wall may not be the biggest prospect in the draft, he certainly has some of the biggest qualities. The biggest name. The biggest upside and plays a position that allows for the biggest impact. The media circus that has surrounded the North Carolina native the past two years continues to grow by the day. And was never more apparent than his pre-draft workout last week when more media filled the halls of the Verizon Center to cover a Wizards’ event than at any point over the last few seasons.
All for a player who hasn’t even been drafted yet.
However, there’s something special about Wall and basketball browsers know it. Maybe it’s the quickness or the smooth handle. Maybe it’s the pass first mentality or the leadership. Whatever it is, it’s something that’s not present in Washington but could be packaged on the first train smoking come draft day.
The Washington franchise doesn’t have the golden touch of organizations like Boston, San Antonio or the Lakers to stockpile rosters with capable talent. But as seen with teams like Cleveland, Miami and Oklahoma City, all it takes is one dynamic wonder to make a franchise relevant again.
The Wizards had that in Gilbert Arenas before he shattered his knee then later his reputation after being indicted on gun charges. Now Washington is in the hunt again for a player to breathe life back into a listless franchise and restore interest into a team that’s rapidly moving behind the Redskins, Nationals and Capitals in terms of importance amongst the city’s pro clubs. And for a brief moment on the day of Wall’s workout, the Wizards became relevant again. A renewed interest was born and headlines were graced.
All for a player who hasn’t even been drafted yet.
After Wall’s workout, new owner Ted Leonsis stood outside the Wizards’ locker room and answered question after question from hungry reporters. During the session, Leonsis talked about building a winner and not trading away his top selection. He mentioned how sometimes a team has to endure a miserable season in order to reap the benefits of a plentiful one. He also raved about Wall’s talent and gushed when discussing how the point guard position is an excellent start to building his masterpiece.
Cornered by media, Leonsis had the look of an owner savoring the taste of the new life that Thursday’s draft is scheduled to bring. He saw the masses of news coverage stationed throughout his building and the mass hysteria that made headline news even on the day of the NBA Finals game seven. It was exciting, it was invigorating and it was unexpected.
And it was all for a player who hasn’t even been drafted yet.
He hasn’t even been drafted yet but Kentucky point guard John Wall is quickly becoming one of the most popular pro athletes in Washington, D.C. The Washington Wizards hosted a private 30-minute workout for the Freshman of the Year on Thursday with hordes of front office execs and media hounds on hand for his every move.
With cameras flashing and presidents and owners nodding their heads in approval, Wall showcased the trademark quickness and athleticism that has him projected to become the Wizards’ No. 1 overall selection in the first round of the NBA Draft on June 24.
Following instructions from Wizards head coach Flip Saunders and assistant coach Sam Cassell, Wall raced up the court doggedly as he nailed runners in the lane and sliced through the air for dunks. A few free throws here, some ball handling drills there and Wall had the look of a top prospect as he completed each drill smoothly with effortless flair. The only thing easier than Wall’s workout was the endless amount of questions he answered calmly and at times jokingly from a large media turnout.
“If the Wizards pick me I’ll come in and try to help the team the best way I can,” Wall said when asked about his expectations for next season. “Your first year you have to learn a lot. I know that I’m not going to come in and be the best player in the world and come in and not have [any] ups and downs. I’m just preparing myself for that. You [have] to be mentally prepared for that type of stuff.”
While Washington general manager Ernie Grunfeld and new team owner Ted Leonsis have yet to give any indication that Wall will indeed be the top selection, their presence on Thursday went a long way into providing some type of premonition. Considering that Evan Turner— the draft’s projected second overall prospect—refused to workout for the Wizards this past week, the chances of Wall becoming the top selection increases by the day.
“He is certainly a very talented player and there is consensus if you go across the board that he would be the first pick,” Leonsis said.
Despite a tumultuous season for the Wizards, Leonsis admitted that earning the draft’s top selection is just part of the process that helps teams turn their fortunes around.
“Sometimes you have to be bad to be good,” he said with a smile.
If drafted first overall, Wall will join Derrick Rose and Allen Iverson as the only point guards taken with the top overall selection in the last 30 years. Ideal company for the 19-year-old who grew up idolizing Iverson and mentions Rose as one of his favorite players in the league.
“Growing up, everybody liked Allen Iverson,” Wall recalled. “Little kid with braids, tough, had a crossover. Now, I like guys like LeBron (James), Derrick Rose [and] Chris Paul.”
Wall will get a chance to join the likes of heroes on June 24 when the highly coveted prospect will be a trendy name even if Washington elects to go in a different direction. The popular Wall has gained so much acclaim over the last few years that it would be amazing if he’s not chosen No. 1.
Although Wall isn’t sure himself of where he’ll land come draft night, he’s just enjoying the moment at this point.
“It’s a dream come true,” Wall kept repeating during a 20-minute press conference. “Three years ago I didn’t have any of this. I was just a regular basketball player.”
Judging by Thursday’s media turnout, it’s safe to say no one in Washington will be expecting Wall to be ‘just a regular basketball player’ next season.
Kevin Durant showed up for his Washington, D.C. Goodman League summer debut on Sunday with lots of people to please but little to prove. After all, the NBA’s reigning scoring champion did give spectators at Barry Farms something to remember last summer with a 62-point outburst.
Topping that feat would’ve been difficult for even the modest NBA 2K champion, let alone the NBA’s leading scorer. But fans didn’t withstand the sweltering heat and bypass the first half of Sunday night’s NBA Finals to see the extreme; they just came to show support for one of the best home-grown ballers in the league do his thing. And Durant answered their wishes.
His performance wasn’t 62-point-esque but Durant’s 35 points raised enough ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ from a packed crowd to grade his Goodman League debut as a success. Playing alongside the Washington Wizards’ Andray Blatche, Durant and Blatche dazzled at times “inside the gates” for their 3rd Eye ball club. The Oklahoma City Thunder forward launched the first shot of the game; a three-pointer that grazed off the rim before executing a spin move on his next possession and finishing with a one-handed dunk. That would turn into an ongoing theme for much of the night for the 21-year-old nicknamed “KD.” While his normally reliable jumpshot wasn’t falling, KD was busy attacking the rim and finishing strong with two-handed and one-handed rim rattlers. Clapping his hands after explosive finishes and face-flexing to the crowd.
“KD is officially here at the big show,” announcer Miles Rawls bellowed whenever Durant would throw down one. Watching the 6-foot-10 scoring machine glide up and down the court with his smooth handle and crossovers galore made a few onlookers shake their heads in disbelief but if you’ve been watching Durant emerge as one of the NBA’s best players over the last three seasons then the display came as no surprise.
Durant wasn’t the only NBA specimen impressing. Much like his Wizards’ responsibilities, Blatche did a little bit of everything on Sunday. Rebounding, passing and scoring, Blatche recording a few ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ on his own courtesy of some slick crossovers and a few athletic finishes. But while NBAers Blatche and Durant were starring, it was Team Cricket’s pair of And 1 superstars Hugh “Baby Shaq” Jones and Lonnie “Prime Objective” Harrell that stole the show. Following along the lines of his And 1 exploits, “Baby Shaq” made play after play during the evening’s twilight game, scoring at will and swishing the final shot in overtime that sent Durant and his 3rd Eye team home losers on the night.
Despite the defeat, Durant’s presence alone made winners out of the neighborhood kids who arrived by the masses to come see him. With their fingers pointed in amazement and juice stains decorating their shirts, star-struck youngsters applauded Durant’s every move and grinned in excitement with his every dunk. Durant didn’t have to top 60 on the evening; he just had to show up. And for local D.C. residents on Sunday night, that’s all anybody could ask for.
When the Washington Wizards won the NBA draft lottery on Tuesday night, AFRO sports writers Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley went into full John Wall mode. Both Riley and Green believe the Kentucky point guard would be a welcomed addition to the Wizards as Wall should represent new life around the nation’s capital after a disastrous season.
But while both writers are set on the Wizards selecting Wall, they remain torn over what Washington should do with current point guard Gilbert Arenas. Should the Wizards jettison their once –loved star or should they hold on to him? The AFRO sports desk debates.
SDR: Forget the Cherry Blossom Festival or walks alongside the National Mall, the best scene in D.C. next year is going to be Wall and Arenas blasting down the court on fast breaks. Arenas has the size to move over to shooting guard and his experience should lead for a smooth transition for Wall as he adjust to the pros. Arenas was never much of a great floor leader but the addition of Wall might actually help D.C.’s favorite gunner (no pun intended) become a more efficient player. Wall was part of a two point guard backcourt during his tenure at Kentucky so joining a starting unit with Arenas should be a seamless transition.
PG: There’s little doubt that John Wall could co-exist on the court with a prolific scorer like Arenas. But it’s the off-court relationship between the two that I would avoid. No disrespect to Gil, but the man is a notorious jackass. He has a long reputation for being a practical joking attention-whore willing to push the line between humor and outright disrespect. His often offensive behavior led to the breakup of the team last season, so I don’t know how wise it would be to keep him around during the rebuilding process of a new team. Everybody deserves a second chance, but Gil’s shouldn’t be here in Washington.
SDR: Good point but maybe Arenas has learned his lesson. He’s been suspended, imprisoned and ripped apart by the media. I can’t vouch for Arenas’ behavior but if the Wizards were set on dumping him then they should’ve done so already. The past is the past. Washington could eat Arenas’ contract but that would be more for proving a point than making a smart basketball decision so holding onto the controversial star might be in their best interest. Arenas is still the best scorer on the roster and his ability to play both point and shooting guard makes him a vital piece in Washington’s attempt to regain respectability.
PG: If the mission is to gain respectability, keeping Arenas around is the last thing Washington should do. The Wizards already traded away two members of the “Big Three” so you mean to tell me you’re going to keep around the one player who has been the least productive for you during the past three seasons? Sure, trading away Gil’s contract may be very difficult, and eating the contract by simply releasing him is a bold move to make but it’s been done before. The New York Knicks reached a buy-out agreement with troublesome star Stephon Marbury just two seasons ago. They ended up eating nearly $20 million dollars in one season just because they wanted him away from their new rebuilding process. The Wizards may be able to do the same thing by simply convincing Arenas that he has a chance for a fresh career start somewhere else in the league.
SDR: It was nothing for the Knicks to eat Marbury’s contract in 2009 because he only had one year left on his deal. Washington still owes Arenas four years and $80 million which makes him pretty tough to move. Arenas may be a lot of things but let’s not make him out to be some notorious thug who has a history of league fines, violations and suspensions. He made a mistake and paid for it. Aside from being an infamous prankster, he’s also a tireless worker who built his game up from a second round pick into one of the league’s more marketable stars before he shredded his knee. A guy with that kind of work ethic would provide a great example for an incoming wide-eyed rookie.
PG: But see, John Wall doesn’t need Arenas to show him how to work hard. Perhaps the greatest point guard of all time, Magic Johnson, already vouched for him being a true gym rat with crazy work ethic. Wall also doesn’t need Gil around trying to haze him as most rookies are when entering the league. There are stories swirling around the Wizards locker room that Arenas once dropped a load of human feces in forward Andray Blatche’s shoe when he was a rookie.
Another story has him stealing the rims and tires off of one of his teammate’s car during a road game, and we all saw the fruits of his latest prank. And 2009 wasn’t the first time Arenas saw legal trouble. He also had a gun charge in California in 2003. When it boils down to it, Gil simply plays too much off the court and hasn’t played enough on the court when they’ve needed him the most. So how can you trust him to not disappoint, again? If I’m in charge, I sit Arenas down, offer him half of what he’s owed from his contract, and set up another team interested in his services to pay the remainder. We still got love for ya Gil, but it’s time to move on!
So John Wall it is! After winning the NBA draft lottery on Tuesday night, Washington should waste no time running to the podium on June 24 and slapping a Wizards’ cap over Wall’s head. But what about Gilbert Arenas you ask? Well, what about him? No matter if Arenas stays or goes, Wall is the pick. The type of athletic point guard reminiscent of Rajon Rondo that can run team and control a game isn’t necessarily a bad thing to have.
Ohio State’s Evan Turner might be the more polished player and perhaps even a better fit with his size and playmaking ability but he’s simply not the headliner that Wall is. Wall’s catlike quickness, speed and leadership skills were on full display during his lone year in Kentucky’s run and fun scheme last season. Anticpated by the feats of John Calipari disciples Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans, Wall’s freshman year at Kentucky was laced with expectations but closed under the name of “Blue Jesus,” a nicknamed dubbed for Wall at local barbershops, an indicator of the success of his one year Kentucky trial. The 6-foot-4 point guard often made fools out of would-be defenders while outshining nearly every player in the country on his way to Freshman of the Year honors and finishing just behind Turner for the Player of the Year award.
Far from a finished product, Wall could use some work on his shooting and improve his decision making. A five-turnover, 7-of-18 shooting performance in Kentucky’s Elite Eight loss to West Virginia magnified that. But improving his game shouldn’t be a problem for Wall, whose work ethic scouts have raved upon. And for a player that knows he has a ways to go, results should be expected sooner rather than later.
“I’m doing everything I need to right now,” Wall told ESPN inside the home of his agent, Dan Fegan, on Tuesday night about improving his jumpshot. “You just got to get a lot of reps in, that’s all it’s going to take. I think my techniques and my mechanics [are] straight, all I [have] to do is get a lot of reps up and just keep working on it everyday.”
An improved jumper might push Wall into future All-Star considerations but his speed, passing ability and athleticism will be put to use right away in the District. Wizard fans haven’t had a player to fawn over since Arenas injured his knee three years ago and with the return of a healthy Arenas coupled with the arrival of Wall, things could be on the up and up in Washington.