The John Wall Moment: Second Best In the East

John Wall is at his best when he has a chip on his shoulder. In Wall’s case, a mad player is not a bad player. Wall’s current level of angst is being excluded from the NBA’s marketing, touting a new season There are the usual suspects. There  is Steph and Durant and LeBron and Kyrie. Russ made the cut, of course, he’s the MVP. Damian Lillard has his face everywhere, even rookie Lonzo who has not played one minute of one second of a NBA regular season has his face plastered on the advertisement. The tagline is THE NBA IS BACK. The NBA might be back but Wall is in his same place as underrepresented. He called it on social media “jokes”. 

It’s not new for Wall. He should be used to it. He is considered to be a star but only after you go through the litany of other stars, kind of like an honorable mention star. But to be real about it, what the NBA thinks of Wall is irrelevant. He has a great opportunity to make everyone pay attention. Gordon Hayward went down with a gruesome injury. The Celtics are now hobbled. Enter the Wizards and John Wall.

Because NBA fate is unfair and Hayward is done for the year probably, it bumps the Wizards up to second place. And that means it bumps John Wall to MVP candidate if he can figure out a way to get his team the second seed. A few years ago, that seemed a little far-fetched when everything Wall was doing wrong was documented backwards and forwards.

Wall was the #1 draft pick in 2010 and from that point forward he was judged, dissected, criticized, railied around, adored, slaughtered and everything in between. There was never a John Wall gray area, from Colin Cowherd who despises Wall and Stephen A. Smith who expects John Wall to elevate the Wizards to NBA contenders.

On the subway platform, after a Wizards loss in 2015 to the Raptors, a Corey Joseph three set up by two missed John Wall free throws, a fan yelled out, “I love John Wall but I’d rather have Paul George.”

Who would rather have Paul George now? George’s season is in limbo as he will be a free agent at the end of the year while Wall has been trusted by the Wiz to get them where they all want to go: the Eastern Conference Finals.

Regardless of the shade, Wall always had confidence in himself, but last season his game caught up with his self-identity. He was a true star.

2016-17 was a year in which Wall had to produce to finally earn the coveted All-NBA nod and get his fat extension by being a Designated Player. Now all Wall has to care about is being a leader.  You lead by inspiration. You lead by achieving.  You lead by carrying your team.

On Tuesday night there was benevolence and three parts luck. When fate happens and someone is crying, someone else is the recipient. And so the Wizards got a gift, one that was not planned.  Wall now has to prove that he can earn it, that he can achieve with so much expectation on his shoulders.  Frankly, he is supposed to get his team far. Anything else will be considered a failure.

But the Wizards have issues even with Wall. Their bench is a little bit suspect and has to deliver when Wall is off the floor. They don’t have many defenders on the second unit. Their improvement has to be drastic. Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre have to have excellent seasons, not to mention Jodie Meeks coming in and making shots.

But how the Wizards perform comes down to John Wall. There is still skepticism. Out of all the point guards in the NBA and there are a bunch of them who are dynamic, (Steph Curry, Chris Paul, Damian Lillard, Russell Westbrook, Kyrie Irving) Wall often is put into that bunch as an afterthought. Oh yeah, John Wall. He’s alright.

A couple of summers ago Wall made big noise about being the MVP and there was a lot of jokes. Now it is a reality. Guide your team to the top record in the East. Be a leader. Carry them one day, listen to them the next. That’s how you get your  MVP.  You can’t go out and win it by planning. You win it by doing. And doing it big.

The Hayward injury was gruesome. It could have happened to anyone. But it didn’t happen to John Wall. A door closes, a window opens. That window is the Eastern Conference Finals.


photo via llananba