Monday, July 12, 2010 1:06 p.m.
By Joe Glorioso
The long journey ahead for Washington Wizards 1 draft pick John Wall began in earnest on Sunday night at the Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Being my first time out here for the NBA Summer League I wasn't quite sure what to make of the crowd but when we arrived towards the end of the Knicks game there were plenty of empty seats on both sides of the gym.
As we got closer to game time, the gym started to fill and you could tell the fans were there for a reason. We even managed to spot a few recognizable faces:
Noticing that the atmosphere was changing, Asad and I took to the crowd to find some John Wall supporters. What we found was that we didn't have enough time to spot them all.
What the fans ended up getting from Wall was pretty much what you should have expected. A slightly above average performance with many flashes of brilliance mixed in with some "teachable moments".
Look, let's not overreact, yes John had 8 turnovers but 5 of those came in the first half and as Flip pointed out after the game, more than a couple of those were guys missing balls they should have had, they just need to get used to playing at Wall-Speed.
Throughout the game the things that stood out to me about John were the fact that he looked as though he was in control of the offense, was communicating very effectively with his teammates and he was constantly talking to Cassell whenever there was a break.
This led me back to a question we asked John after the Wizards final practice before Summer League where he talked about the importance of having Sam here and how much it reminded him of having Rod Strickland around at Kentucky.
The more I watch of these two interacting the more confident I become that this is going to not only work out fine, but this may be a match made in heaven. For those who don't get to see the behind the scenes work that we get to, there is no doubt that Cassell is the link between Flip and his PG's.
Watching Sam and John you almost get the sense that the two of them are enjoying this process more than we do. There seems to be a true bond, a trust if you would, that is growing between the two and there is nothing but positives that can come out of that.
Another exciting development from tonight would be the chemistry that looks to be growing between Wall and JaVale McGee. The two of them combined for numerous alley-oops and highlight reel plays that brought the crowd to their feet a couple of times.
Those of us who have watched this team long enough can only hope that as the summer continues that bond will continue and only become more potent when you add Blatche, Arenas and the rest of the real 10-11 roster to the mix.
Now that we've thrown tons of praise at Wall let's talk about two points I'd like to see Wall improve on before we fly back to DC on Sunday.
For starters, he simply has to see more screens so that he can get used to taking the best angles to fight through them. There is a huge difference between fighting through a college screen and trying to do the same with NBA players.
These NBA players are built like tree trunks and they know that the only way they can slow Wall down is by putting a wall in front of him. I believe he'll watch the tape, learn from it and continue to get better and better with each game.
I'd also like to see John do a better job of picking his spots to turn on the burners and when to turn the pace down. As I mentioned earlier, he showed that he is very capable of this, limiting his turnovers to 3 in the second half after 5 in the first and showing more of calmness to his game once the team came out of halftime.
There was much more of a controlled tempo to the game in the second half and a lot of that had to do with the fact that Wall was orchestrating the offense effectively.
This week is going to provide us with a very small glimpse of what this potential superstar might be able to do for the Wizards but I fully expect him to get stronger and stronger by the day.
Over the next 4 games, the Wizards players will all have a chance to get to know John just a little bit better. They will understand that he really does play at one speed the entire game and that is full speed.
This will be a welcome sight for Wizards fans as it is going to force the rest of the team to play to his pace not the other way around.
That is the sign of a leader, and even at the ripe age of 19, John Wall is starting to prove yet again that he is worth all the hype that is continually thrown his way.
This process is surely going to take some time and some important lessons are going to have to be learned but with the help of his coaches and a little patience by us, the fans, we could see something very special in the near future.
Wizards fans, you have every right to be optimistic after tonight. The equation for success seems to be just right. You have the teachers in Saunders and Cassell and you have a willing student with the skills in Wall.
Don't take it from me, take it from Coach Cassell.