John Wall Makes Pro Debut At Madison Square Garden Pre-Season Tilt

Published on: 17th October, 2010

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New York — It was the NBA introduction of John Wall to Madison Square Garden tonight and even though it was a pre-season contest, any game with John Wall deserves a little more attention than most.

Wall, the much-hyped rookie number one pick in the draft out of the University of Kentucky led his Washington Wizards team into the building he still calls “The Mecca of basketball” to face the Knicks, just a few scant days away from beginning his initial professional campaign.

Wall did what has been expected of him since he was a high school star in Kentucky. He filled an NBA boxscore with relative ease, scoring 19 points while collecting six assists, five rebounds, and two steals in 35 minutes of work. The Knicks won the game, 92-90 on two Toney Douglas free throws with 1.1 seconds left in the fourth quarter but one had the sense the Wizards, who sat most of their starters in the final quarter and played without the injured Gilbert Arenas, could have won this game had Wall and his mates stayed on the court. As it was, the rookie only played four minutes of the last 12 as Wizards coach, Flip Saunders decided to take a look at a crunch time backcourt of Lester Hudson and Nick Young. Something tells me Saunders won’t be going in that direction when the games really count.

Afterwards, speaking to Wall outside the Wizards locker room was like speaking to a grizzled veteran of the NBA instead of a nervous rookie.

“The Knicks did a good job, tonight,” he said. “The main thing is that we have to have a better third quarter. We really have to have the same focus we had at the beginning of the game in the third quarter.”

The kid complemented the opposition and broke down what the team needs to do. With all his individual talent, he appears to be a team-oriented guy.

“On offense, we executed better at the end,” he said. “We just missed a lot of open shots tonight. In the third quarter, we need to get back defensively. We just have to get better in the third quarters.”

Wall understands the leadership role he needs to play on this team, despite his being the equivalent of a college sophomore.

Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni was impressed.

“In the open court, he is unstoppable,” Said D’Antoni. “He has a lot of stamina. He is going to be a good player in the league, no doubt about that.”

I don’t think anyone in the league is faster than John,” said Saunders. I know what the travel rule is but I think he’s so fast, the refs can’t read what he does, as far as when he eats up a lot of floor with one dribble. I think some of our younger officials are calling some walks against him because they can’t figure out how a guy can get from point A to point B.”

As with most rookie point guards, they are turnover-prone as they try to force the issue instead of letting the game come to them. Wall has been no exception, so far.

“With our team, John has to make plays for us,” continued Saunders. “You don’t want him to make unforced turnovers. Steve Nash has always been one of the top turnover guys in our league but he makes plays. There’s a fine line. John will have the ball in his hands a lot. I’d rather have my point guard turn it over four times per game with the team turning it over 11 times in total than have John turn it over two times and the team getting 20 turnovers. We want the ball in John’s hands.”

It appears the Wizards, with their very tall, very athletic front line of JaVale McGee, Andray Blatche, and Yi Jianlian, each of them 6’11” or taller, and their backcourt of Wall and the steady Kirk Hinrich have a chance to win a lot of games this season. With a player of Wall’s caliber, it is safe to say this franchise is just about to turn the corner.

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