Following the most disastrous season any NBA team has faced, on and off the court, John Wall returned an entire city’s focus back to basketball.
The John Wall Era Begins
During his first exhibition game against an NBA opponent, Wall led the Wizards to a 97-94 victory over the Dallas Mavericks, posting 21 points, nine assists and four steals in 38 minutes. The win will be forgotten once the regular season begins but what transpired is more significant than many realize.
Immediately, the entire Wizards franchise established the 20-year-old rookie as the focal point.
As much of a success as he was in the first game, why Wall proved he will be great is because of how he handled some adversity in his second game.
Missing his first nine shots from the field, Wall showcased his all-around game. By deciding to become more of a distributor, dishing out nine assists, Wall proved he doesn’t need to score to lead his team to victory.
Along with the assists, Wall stole three passes and still managed 12 points on 5-0f-16 shooting from the field.
His ability to recover from a poor start is really what sets him apart from everyone else.
Even on a horrible night, Wall can still be the catalyst to victory.
The Wizards will need that, the team spent most of last season looking for leadership and couldn’t even find it from a player they resigned for more money than anyone else in franchise history.
For the past seven years, Gilbert Arenas has been the key for Washington. The most significant free-agent signing in the teams history, Arenas immediately paid dividends, leading the Wizards to the playoffs four consecutive seasons and staging epic battles with the Cleveland Cavaliers along the way.
Arenas was awarded with a six-year $111 million deal, the seventh-largest contract in NBA history.
Wall takes over the point guard duties previously held by Arenas, now the Wizards starting shooting guard.
Following a dismal 26-56 finish a year ago, Wall has emerged as the player Washington expects to carry them to prominence.
Arenas declared himself Robin, showing his intention to sacrifice his role with the team for Wall, playing the role of Batman.
Wall is the third point guard drafted first overall since the NBA Draft switched to a lottery system in 1985. Philadelphia selected Allen Iverson first overall in 1996 and Chicago took Derrick Rose in 2007.
All three players instantly became the top player on their team as Iverson and Rose both went on to win Rookie of the Year honors.
While their individual accomplishments were impressive, neither led their team to winning records during their rookie season.
Wall is different.
Washington hasn’t selected an impact rookie since 1993, when Tom Gugliotta was the last player in franchise history named to the All-Rookie First Team.
The 17-year drought will come to an end this season.
At every level, Wall has proven to a level above his competition.
As a sophomore in high school, Wall dropped 28 points against Brandon Jennings during a 2007 Reebok All-American Camp game.
During his senior year, Wall lost the North Carolina 1A state championship on a 40 foot heave at the buzzer. Quickly moving past the disappointment, Wall agreed to play college ball at Kentucky, as the last highly touted recruit to commit in 2009.
Even with five players selected in the first round of the NBA Draft after the season, there was no question the Wildcats were Wall’s team.
Against Miami of Ohio, Wall sank the game winning shot with .5 seconds remaining in his college debut.
Named an All-American and SEC Player of the Year, Wall entered the NBA Draft knowing he would be the first overall selection.
John Wall Era Begins
When the Wizards were awarded the top overall pick, Wall instantly became the featured player in Washington.
Immediately following his selection, the Verizon Center, home of the Wizards, lined banners with Wall’s name all over the arena.
Making his professional debut in the NBA Summer League, Wall did nothing to disappoint.
Over the course of five games, Wall quickly proved he was the most dominant player in Las Vegas, becoming the first player ever to lead the Summer League in points and assists.
Without hesitation, Wall was named the Most Outstanding Player averaging 23.5 points, 7.8 assists, 4 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game.
In a survey of NBA general managers, Wall was chosen to be the Rookie of the Year, the best player in his class five years from now and the most athletic.
All that’s left is for Wall to prove it on the court.
He continued his dominance in his pre-season debut Tuesday. With a more talented team around him than Rose and Iverson had during their rookie seasons, Wall can quickly turn the Wizards around.
Maybe the picture up top has it right, we are all ready to witness the John Wall era in Washington.