HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — He’s going to write it on his shoes before every game, and for his sake let’s hope that adds up to 82 times during the regular season. He’s going to speak it into existence every time someone sticks a camera, microphone or tape recorder in his face.
If can do anything about it, John Wall is going to will the Washington Wizards into the playoffs one way or another.
It’s an ambitious goal for someone who has never known anything but the lottery during his brief career. It’s also a courageous thing to do in this day and age, when anything you say can and will be held against you on social media at some point. I think Wall is right to repeatedly mention the word “playoffs” where his Wizards are concerned. That’s what a leader does, identify the goal and then fight, claw and scrap until that goal is reached.
So when Wall opened up to Howard Beck of Bleacher Report recently, he expanded on what he and Wizards owner Ted Leonsis have been saying for months since before Wall signed that five-year, $80 million extension … it’s playoffs or bust this season:
“I should be in the playoffs,” Wall said.
Don’t just talk about it, be about it. And from all indications that’s exactly what Wall is doing. He’s no longer the young point guard playing strictly on instincts and raw talent. He’s refined his game a bit and his confidence is soaring:
“My first two years, I wasn’t really confident,” Wall said, “because I didn’t believe in myself and some other people didn’t believe in me. But that was just me not being confident in my own ability.”
With another offseason of training and shooting drills behind him, Wall said, “My confidence level is at an all-time high.” He added, “This is the most comfortable I’ve felt with shooting the ball. So I don’t care if I miss 12 straight. I still will shoot an open shot without no hesitation.”
Despite everything, Wall averaged 18.5 points and 7.6 assists last season and is the sixth-fastest player in NBA history to reach 2,000 points and 1,000 assists in a career, hitting those marks in just 124 games.
With a better jumper and a little more judicious passing, Wall might yet threaten to break the top tier of point guards. Early reports from training camp were positive.
“I think he’s taken a step,” coach Randy Wittman said. “Direction and being a leader, and vocal, and being the guy that kind of gets everybody where they need to be.”
We’ve been saying it for months now, the renaissance in Washington starts and ends with Wall and the grand investment Leonsis has made in the now healthy face of his franchise. The talent is there (his backcourt mate Bradley Beal is a budding young talent that is ready for prime time as well). So is the drive. The leadership is still a work in progress, but he’s clearly on the right track.
The only thing left to do … did someone say “playoffs?”
Write it down, take a picture, do whatever you need to young fella.
Set the bar yourself!