The Washington Wizards returned to action this week, fresh off a mini hiatus courtesy of All Star Weekend. Despite a 1-2 finish on the week, Washington played up to its young potential, dropping two games by a combined eight points. As the calendar winds down on another spoiled season in D.C., the continued evolution of the team’s younger players will be under a heavy microscope.

With a roster littered with twenty-somethings, the “goal” at this point is to continue to develop the current talent while adding some more in the summer. The AFRO recaps the week that was and wasn’t for the Washington Wizards.

Feb. 28, Wizards, 118 – Milwaukee, 119— After making the playoffs just two seasons ago, the Milwaukee Bucks have reverted back to their old form. But the makings of a solid team still reside in Milwaukee and the Wizards found that out in a hard-fought loss. Guard John Wall led the team with 19 points, 15 assists and five rebounds and appeared to have the game’s MVP award locked up after his running floater made it 118-117 with just under seven seconds to go. But Milwaukee forward Ersan Ilyasova tipped in a missed basket with 2.2 seconds left to sour the night for the Wizards. Washington battled back from a 14-point deficit despite interim coach Randy Wittman benching starting center JaVale McGee and guard Nick Young for most of the second half due to what he characterized as a lack of effort. Washington placed five players in double figures including guard Jordan Crawford (19 points), rookie forwards Chris Singleton (16 points, nine rebounds) and Trevor Booker (20 points, 11 rebounds).

Feb. 29, Wizards, 95 -Orlando, 102— Washington returned to the Verizon Center to battle divisional nemesis Orlando and gave the visiting Magic quite a scare before falling short in the final quarter. Washington trailed by just a point heading into the closing period with Orlando, fueled by Wall’s 33 points. The young floor general didn’t receive much help from his teammates however as the rest of the Wizards starters combined for just 35 points. Backup power forward Kevin Seraphin received the start in place of McGee but the size mismatch was evident against the Magic center Dwight Howard. Orlando held a 48-36 edge in rebounds and Orlando sprayed the home team with 15 three pointers as numerous shooters were left wide open as the defense was forced to collapse on Howard.

March 3, Wizards, 101- Cleveland, 98— Wall paced the team early, Crawford led them late as the Wizards erased an initial double figure deficit to outlast the Cavaliers. Wall (24 points, five rebounds, five assists) squared off with Cleveland guard Kyrie Irving (20 points, six assists) in a matchup of the last two No. 1 overall selections. The battle was worth the price of admission. Wall may have had his best game of the season in terms of the spectacular. With 3.9 seconds left in the third, Wall raced down the court for a layup that barely beat the buzzer, showcasing his league-renowned speed. In the first quarter, Wall put on a dribbling display, splitting a double team by putting the ball behind his back before dishing a no-look pass to a cutting teammate for a dunk. It was a great night for Wall but even he had to take a backseat to Crawford’s 31 points, highlighted by five three-pointers.

Wall, a Star in the making: Reviews of the second year guard from Kentucky has been mixed throughout the NBA and around the D.C. area in his year and a half tenure in the Association. Some fans and critics have sided with his potential, suggesting the makings of a superstar are obviously embedded with the slender lead guard. While others have cited his lack of a consistent jumpshot and probability for turnovers and major black eyes on his still developing game. Wall’s relative slow start on the 2011-2012 season did nothing to quiet his critics but a solid February has him back atop the basketball world. Wall and New York guard Jeremy Lin were the only players to exit the month averaging over 18 points, eight assists and over four rebounds.

Not only have Wall’s numbers increased but his turnovers have also dropped, his leadership has arisen and his flair for the spectacular has slowly increased the traffic inside the Verizon Center. His increased development has taken off under Wittman and should Washington elect to hire a new coach in the summer, Wall’s progression will be the key component for any selection


Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO