NBA associates will be the first to caution about not getting overly excited with summer league performances. But the hype surrounding Washington Wizards’ top selection John Wall would garner praise if the rookie merely flashed his signature muscle-flexing dance in front of TV cameras. So after the Wizards’ new point guard exploded for 24 points and eight assists in his summer debut on July 11, we should expect the hype to continue – at least until his next game.

The 19-year-old bounced back from some early game jitters to lead Washington to an 84-79 victory over the Golden State Warriors. Although Warriors forward Reggie Williams led all scorers with 34 points, Wall led all players in camera time, crowd reaction and name references.

In front of a packed house at Las Vegas’ Cox Pavilion, Wall showcased the trademark speed and quickness that flattered NBA scouts during his lone season at the University of Kentucky. He attacked the rim relentlessly—shooting 11 free throws—charged down the court on fast breaks and got everyone involved from his teammates to the baseline camera crew.

His errant pass in the early moments of the game missed a wide open cutter on the right wing and struck a cameraman in the face out of bounds. Wall did finish the night with eight turnovers, a trend that plagued him at times last year at Kentucky. But when he wasn’t turning the ball over, Wall was busy being an absolute force on the offensive end.

“You better get back because he’s as fast as anybody I’ve seen,” former Georgetown coach John Thompson said in a televised interview.

Wall and Wizards center JaVale McGee hooked up three times for alley-oops with McGee on the receiving end on each occasion. McGee finished with 21 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks, pairing with the highly-touted rookie to give the Wizards’ coaching staff a foundation to work with for the rest of the week-long exhibition.

“I felt good,” Wall said about his first ever NBA action. “After my jitters got away, I started playing and finding my teammates and I think I had a great performance.”
Before the start of the game, Wall teased onlookers with a few windmill dunks. His first shot of the game was a fadeaway that clanged hard off the glass before bouncing against the rim. Wall then sprinted down court a few moments later and dazzled the crowd with a spin move but his layup was pinned against the backboard by Golden State’s Williams.

When asked about his eight turnovers, Wall responded with: “I’ll go back and watch a little bit of tape and I’ll do better tomorrow.


Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO