In Year 2, John Wall says he knows ‘what it takes’
As Day 1 of Year 2 in the NBA for John Wall drew to a close,
Wizards coach Flip Saunders awarded the point guard a construction
helmet symbolizing the hardest worker in the first practice of
post-lockout training camp.
”You can keep it,” Saunders told the No. 1 overall pick in the
2010 draft, ”or you can give it to someone else.”
Wall plopped the white hard hat with the team’s new red-and-blue
”dc” logo atop his own head, then sat for a chat with Saunders in
a corner of the gym Friday night, while other players shot free
Later, looking ahead to his second season, Wall said: ”I kind
of know what it takes to win games. I know what it takes to lead a
team. I know what it takes to control things. I think it’s going to
be a little easier, but it’s still going to be tough going against
top point guards every night and trying to lead a young team.”
Washington figures its inexperienced group – more than half the
roster is 23 or younger – will need to rely on top-flight effort
and energy from everyone, along with a healthy Wall, to improve on
last season’s 23-59 record.
”John hustled today. He was on the floor, got a great steal in
the backcourt and got dirty. For this team to be good, we’re going
to have to have guys get dirty,” said guard Roger Mason, who
signed a one-year contract Friday to return to the Wizards, a team
he was with in 2006-08. ”We’re going to have to have guys on the
floor, blocking shots, getting rebounds, loose balls. That’s where
the game is won a lot of times, and I think Flip sent a message,
Saunders called the hard hat ”a little bit of a carrot” and
acknowledged that ”it’s maybe not original” – although he said he
wasn’t aware that the Washington Capitals, the NHL team that shares
an owner and an arena with the Wizards, have handed out such
helmets after victories.
It also fits with the slogan Saunders came up with on the fly
when asked by reporters what the theme of training camp is this
”Work in progress,” he said.
Wall is about as polished a player as the Wizards have. Wearing
the blue jerseys of the potential starting lineup at Friday’s
practice were Wall, Rashard Lewis, Andray Blatche, JaVale McGee and
Jordan Crawford (who appears to be slotted for the shooting guard
spot that would be vacated if Nick Young doesn’t re-sign).
”Our main thing right now is defense and rebounding. This whole
practice today was about defense and rebounding,” Blatche said.
”There was nothing about offensive sets, really. It was just
mainly about focusing on defense.”
Saunders echoed that, emphasizing that his team’s best chance at
overall improvement will involve getting better at that end of the
He also knows that having Wall around for as many of the
shortened-season 66 games as possible is vital.
As a rookie, Wall dealt with right knee and left foot injuries,
and he missed 13 games. He wound up averaging 16.4 points, 8.3
assists, and 4.6 rebounds.
Asked what he’d like to see Wall improve, Saunders began by
saying: ”His biggest thing is staying healthy.”
Continuing, Saunders pointed to Wall’s ”ability to be able to
finish at the basket. He gets there a lot, he scores a lot, but I
think he can score a lot more and not turn the ball over and just
kind of lead the team. And then defensively, just be in a situation
where he can pick up full court and use both his speed, his
strength, his length and his quickness.”
Diving for loose balls wouldn’t hurt, either.
Notes: Mason has averaged 6.9 points and 1.8 rebounds in 372
games over seven NBA seasons with five clubs since being drafted in
the second round in 2002. … The Wizards signed their three draft
picks Friday: Jan Vesely, Chris Singleton and Shelvin Mack. They
also signed three other players, bringing their training camp
roster to 14: Mardy Collins, Mike Wilks and Aaron Pettway.