John Wall isn’t shooting well, he’s turning the ball over at an alarming rate, and his attitude isn’t quite the same. The Washington Wizards franchise player spent most of the fourth quarter on the bench during the team’s latest loss, a game marred by complaints about playing time while it was in progress.
”He’s just in a funk right now,” teammate Chris Singleton said Thursday.
The player whose return had been a bright spot in an otherwise dismal Wizards season has hit a skid. In the five games since the All-Star break, Wall is shooting 29.6 percent from the field and has had three games with six or more turnovers.
Yet he seemed to absolve himself of any blame for his seven-turnover, four-assist performance in Wednesday night’s 96-95 loss to the Detroit Pistons.
”I think it was great passes. I just think some of my teammates (didn’t) catch them, and some of them got tipped away,” he said following the game, ”so just got to deal with it.”
The Wizards kept Wall under wraps Thursday. They didn’t allow reporters to watch any of practice – a move contrary to the team’s own stated media policy – and Wall was gone by the time the gym doors were open. The team said he would not be available for interviews, leaving others to try to answer what might be wrong.
”I think he’s trying too hard sometimes,” coach Randy Wittman said. ”I think John loses sight of it – as well as people on the outside – the effect that he still has on the game and our players with what he brings to the game, his speed, his ability to find people.”
Wittman agreed that Wall’s demeanor hasn’t been exactly positive lately.
”That’s human nature,” the coach said. ”We all want to play our best, and when we don’t, we all have a sense of self-whatever, self-critical, down, whatever it may be. And that’s the thing you’ve got to watch and try to protect (him) from. That’s why I want him to understand he could go 3 for 12 and still have an impact and we win the game.”
The Wizards’ Martell Webster said that can be a tough lesson to learn.
”There’s a lot of pride in this game, especially with the pressures of a point guard and a high-level point guard like John,” Webster said. ”Being young and having that pressure, it can get to you sometimes.”
Wall’s slide is all the more surprising because of the lift he had given the team since returning from a knee injury. The Wizards were 5-28, threatening to have the worst season in NBA history, before Wall came back on Jan. 12. They’ve since gone 13-10.
But Wittman went with backup A.J. Price at point guard as the Wizards were rallying in the fourth quarter against the Pistons before finally reinserting Wall with 3:38 to play. Then, without naming names, the coach said afterward that players were complaining about minutes while on the bench.
Wittman was still irked by it Thursday, and he addressed it with his players.
”I revisited it with the whole team, not just John,” Wittman said. ”It’s the whole team. Because at some point it might be John going through it today or yesterday or the day before, and somebody (else) is going to be faced with that tomorrow or the next day.
”’Til the earth stops spinning, there’s going to be guys concerned about minutes,” the coach said. ”That’s the nature of our business, but there’s a time and a place to be concerned and have that question about minutes, and it’s not during the game. If there’s a question, come into my office the next day at practice, we can sit and talk about these things.”
Singleton is one of several players who have experienced extreme swings in playing time this season, including a long stretch where he essentially dropped out of the rotation altogether. He said his advice to Wall is to stay positive. It also helps to know the right time to discuss things with the coach.
”Coach has an open door policy,” Singleton said. ”If you want to go talk to him, go talk to him. It’s on you. … It’s not something you do during a game.”