Likely No. 1 pick works out for Wizards
The seemingly inevitable selection of John Wall as the No. 1 overall pick in the draft came to bit closer to fruition Thursday when the Kentucky point guard worked out for the Washington Wizards.
Wall showed his dribble-drive ability with both hands, hit pull-up jumpers and threw down dunks during a 30-minute session run by coach Flip Saunders and observed by general manager Ernie Grunfeld and new team owner Ted Leonsis. Wall was given the special privilege of a solo workout, unlike the other six draft hopefuls who followed in a later session.
"I felt I could have shot the ball a little better, but my back started tightening up," said Wall, who was named a first-team all-American after averaging 16.6 points, 6.5 assists and 4.3 rebounds in his lone season at Kentucky. "I think I did a good job."
The Wizards, winners of the NBA lottery last month, have the first selection in the June 24 draft, and they have done nothing to indicate that Wall will not be their choice. They have not announced any plans to work out Ohio State forward Evan Turner, the other possible No. 1. Wall said that he has not worked out for any other team and that his pre-draft plans are to return to his current Los Angeles base to work on his drills.
"He is certainly a very talented player, and there is consensus if you go across the board that he would be the first round pick," said Leonsis, who also owns the NHL's Washington Capitals. "But the scouts, the coach, the staff, they all have to weigh in. I won't make the first round pick just as I never made the first round pick for the Capitals. I will tell you that we won't trade the first pick in the draft because that would be against the strategy that we laid out, which is we want to rebuild through the draft."
As a young fan, Wall said his basketball hero was Allen Iverson, who is one of only two point guards since 1996 to have been selected with the top overall pick. Now Wall is on the verge of joining Iverson and Derrick Rose, who, like Wall, played his one year of college basketball under coach John Calipari, in that elite category.
"My dream growing up is to be the No. 1 pick, but (the Wizards) haven't told me I was going to be the guy and I don't know if I'm going to be the guy yet," Wall said. "I just come out, working out, trying to impress them and hopefully they pick me."
With the Wizards, Wall would be paired in a backcourt with Gilbert Arenas, who would likely move to shooting guard when both are on the floor. Wall said he has not spoken to Arenas, but the two have traded cursory messages.
"Talented player and a great scorer," Wall said. "I feel like if I get picked here, the coach will figure out a way to put us on the court together and let it work from there. I feel like I can play with anybody."
While acknowledging that he has much to learn about the Washington sports scene, Wall is already aware of one of the city's other recent No. 1 overall picks — Stephen Strasburg of baseball's Washington Nationals.
"I've seen the debut of Strasburg. It was a big time debut," Wall said. "Fourteen strikeouts is a lot. He got pied in the face."
There was more name-dropping from Wall as he invoked words of wisdom he said he received from former No. 1 overall pick LeBron James.
"The one advice LeBron told was don't try to live up to all the hype," Wall said. "Just go out there and play basketball. Enjoy the game, be happy to be out there and play."
Wall also said he previously challenged President Barack Obama to a game when the two met last season, but the commander in chief politely declined.
"Hopefully I'll get picked by the Wizards," Wall said. "And if I do, yeah, I want (Obama) to come to the games. But before that, I want to play him in that game of H-O-R-S-E. I challenged him to a game of one-on-one and H-O-R-S-E, but as the president, I guess he backed down. He didn't want to play, so I'll convince him into that first and then invite him to some games."