In case you hadn’t heard the news: John Wall — the bona fide superstar point guard of our beloved Washington Wizards — was named to his fourth straight All-Star game yesterday.
This news shouldn’t exactly come as a shock to anyone who watches the NBA, or pays attention to the NBA in general.
In the Eastern Conference, there were six guards who should’ve been in the conversation for making the All-Star team: Wall, Kyle Lowry, Kyrie Irving, Isaiah Thomas, Demarr Derozan, and Kemba Walker. All six of those guys made it. Thanks to the NBA’s new process of splitting the importance of fan voting, player voting, and media voting equally, they finally got it right. The fact that guys like Dwayne Wade and Derrick Rose — who, egregiously, got more votes than John Wall — will not be playing in the All-Star game gives this process SO much more credibility.
(And yes, we’ll conveniently overlook the fact that the NBA players made a mockery of this process with their third of the vote, providing world-class knucklehead JaVale McGree with four votes to start in the All-Star game, along with DC’s own Tomas Satoransky getting one vote to start in the game as well. Clearly, the process needed checks-and-balances against multiple audiences)
Wall is the heart-and-soul of a Washington Wizards team that’s now sitting in fifth place in the Eastern Conference. Take Wall off the Wizards, and you’re left with a team that’s competing with the Brooklyn Nets and the Phoenix Suns for the top pick in the next NBA Draft. The only guard in the NBA who has the same combination of breathtaking athleticism, baseline-to-baseline speed, slash-and-kick skills, and ability to make plays in transition the way Wall does, is Russell Westbrook.
Even with the Wizards miserable start to this season, Wall is near the top of most of the stat categories you’d hope your point guard would excel at. His 23.1 points per game puts him among the top 20 scorers in the NBA, ahead of guys like Klay Thompson, Carmelo Anthony, Karl Anthony-Towns, and Paul George. His 10.1 assists per game puts him neck-and-neck with Westbrook (10.4 assists per game) for second place, behind league-leader James Harden (who’s averaging a stunning 11.6 assists per game of his own). Wall’s 2.23 steals per game is also neck-and-neck with Chris Paul (2.25 steals per game) for tops in the NBA.
But you know what stat is most important? The Wizards are 19-9 since December 1st. Playing in a Verizon Center that’s often filled with moribund locals or bandwagon/poseur fans of the visiting team, the Wizards have the fifth-best home winning percentage in the NBA, including the second-best home record in the East. During these proverbial “dog days” of the NBA, the Wizards are one of the hottest teams in the league right now. Meanwhile, an increasingly cranky LeBron James looks ready to take his annual “LeBattical” sabbatical while his Cleveland Cavaliers have lost seven of their past 11 games, Toronto has lost five games in a row, and Atlanta is possibly a “dog days swoon” of their own away from trading away Paul Millsap and blowing things up for a rebuild.
Again, the fact that we’re talking about Wall being an All-Star really isn’t a surprise. But the fact that we’re talking about him — and the Wizards — in this context, IS a big surprise.
90 days ago, there was so much bad juju surrounding this team that they could’ve hired a witch doctor onto Scott Brooks’ staff. We were coming off an offseason where everyone couldn’t stop talking about the fact that he and Bradley Beal had a propensity to dislike each other on the court, and the whispers that Wall was jealous of the max contract Beal responded in the offseason. For those of you who still want to believe that’s a thing, here’s exhibit A in proving you wrong.
(Side note: if you think posts on Instagram are meaningless, try telling that to Rajon Rondo and the Chicago Bulls).
Then there was the (shockingly) under-discussed report, furthered by ace NBA reporter Brian Windhorst a couple of months ago, that Wall was seriously questioning the rest of his tenure with the Wizards, and wanted out of DC. I think Windhorst is one of the best — if not THE best — NBA beat reporters we have, but suddenly, that story doesn’t exactly seem to hold up anymore, does it?
In a city that’s been abuzz — positively or negatively — because of a certain guy with a ridiculous coiff and a bit too much orange pigmentation in his skin, Wall is making basketball fun again in the District.
So, congratulations to John Wall. This honor of being recognized by the media, your peers, and the (non-basketball ignorant) fans is much deserved. Keep making the #dcfamily proud.