Wall anxious for live game action
Even if all eyes during Wednesday's scrimmage were not already on John Wall, the Wizards' explosive point guard produced a trio of highlight making plays that eliminated all other alternatives.
There were the fast hands generating a steal, which created a solo fast break down the right sideline, outracing all others for the emphatic left-handed flush.
There was the vision and burst demonstrated on a controlled 360-degree baseline drive, culminating in deftly feeding Jan Vesely for a quality layup opportunity.
There was the confident full-court foray down the middle of the defense with a space creating behind-the back dribble. Defenders intervened on Wall's soaring attempt and the truly full-contact play dropped the 6-foot-4 guard returning from a knee injury straight to the court. The 22-year-old rose up, dusted himself off, and took his free throws.
"That’s just how I play," said Wall during his first media availability since returning to a full-go practice last Thursday. "I play with a lot of excitement, and I try to get my teammates involved and try to make the game easy."
The No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft missed the opening 33 games with a stress injury to his left patella. Despite the hard tumble, going all out is exactly how the Wizards coach wants to see his star play.
"It would concern me if that's how the injury happened. John's hit the floor a 100 times. He knows how to hit the floor," Randy Wittman said. "I want him playing that way. That's who he is. So does it scare me, no. That's how John plays. Actually, I like seeing that, that's he's not tentative, not thinking about going to the basket and getting hit. That's a positive."
Washington is off until Saturday when they host Atlanta. Wizards owner Ted Leonsis hinted on Tuesday that game could double as Wall's season debut.
Wittman said the doctors "ultimately have to clear" Wall. Asked what needs to occur for him to play against the Hawks, the point guard said, "Just no pain and just keeping going through these full practices without no pain, and waking up the next day and can do it all over again."
Wall said to date he has not experienced any pain or setbacks since returning to full-contact drills.
"It’s great... I hope everybody understands the situation I had to go through and make sure everything was right because knees are something serious," Wall said. "I just took my time and made sure everything is right. Hopefully everything will keep going well so I can be back out there with my team on Saturday."
Whenever he returns, the coach anticipates initially bringing him of the bench and limiting minutes early on.
"We got to be patient in this whole situation also with him," the coach said. "I'm sure there is going to have to be some kind of monitoring with minutes. He's conditioning isn't near where it needs to be at this time. I don't want to put him in a situation out on the floor where a conditioning is going to have a tendency to cause another injury. I have to be careful with that on my own without a doctor telling me that."
Wall said he did not require any breaks during Wednesday's practice. At this point, he just wants in.
"I’ll just be happy to play five [minutes] if I can do that."
Fine, enough with the concern talk. What about the rim-to-rim action?
"Our guys that haven't played with him before mentioned today," Wittman said. Today was really the first day that we really went live in game like situations. You hear the Bradley Beal's, the A.J. Price's say [wow], is he fast. The first time you see it, it's an eye-opener."
The Wizards drafted Beal with the third pick in the 2012 draft, envisioning a dynamic young backcourt tandem with Wall. Beal has been making his own starry plays lately, including the game-winning basket in Monday's stunning upset over Oklahoma City. Now he's on the verge of finally playing a game Wall. Playing together is one thing, keeping up Wall is another.
"He's just so fast with the ball," Beal said. "He beats you down the floor. Sometimes, you think you're ahead of him and [zoom sound] he's right by you. But that's going to help us a lot, because the way he pushes the ball is going to create open opportunities for us."
Outside of shocking wins over Oklahoma City and Miami there has been little for fans to cheer about inside the Verizon Center this season. Wall anticipates his return would change that.
"I think they’ll be very excited. Some people seem like they’re very excited so I just hope I get a warm welcome when I come back and play. I miss playing for this city of D.C."
Knowing he would be in suit mode on the sidelines for the start of the season, Wall said he "stepped it up this year," with the wardrobe. He's had enough of that.
"I’m tired of suits. I want to put on a jersey."