Even crisscrossing the country as NBA players do, Kevin Durant monitors his friend, his "brother" John Wall. Before Saturday's game between the visiting and streaking Oklahoma City Thunder and the Wizards, the NBA's leading scorer stated he recognized the growth in Washington's leading scorer when catching games on TV.
Wall then gave Durant and the Thunder a live demonstration of his development into a newly minted and first-time All-Star.
The Wizards' point guard had 17 points, 15 assists and matched his career-high with six steals as Washington snapped Oklahoma City's 10-game winning streak with a 96-81 victory on Saturday night.
After missing all seven of his first half field goal attempts, Wall had 13 points and seven assists in the third quarter alone as the Wizards turned a one-point lead into a 78-64 edge entering the fourth.
"He controlled the game," Durant said postgame about Wall. "We did a good job on him early on he hit some shots in the second half. All star point guard like that, he got the ball in his hands all game, he should have 15 assists."
The notion that Wall, the No.1 overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, would control game hasn't always been true. There have been challenging stretches during his 3 1/2 seasons, but the progress is obvious.
Last season Wall returned from a knee injury to find Washington 5-28. The Wizards with Wall finished 24-25. In this campaign, the Wizards are in position for their first playoff appearance since 2008. Wall leads the effort with a team-high 19.8 points and 8.6 assists, the most by any player in the Eastern Conference. This pass week the conference coaches selected Wall as a reserve for the 2014 All-Star game.
"He's learned a lot from the point guard position," Durant said of Wall during his pregame Q&A with the media. "First of all he had a lot on his shoulders coming in here. He has to be the guy to resurrect the Wizards. As a number one pick, there is a lot of pressure and he's doing a great job."
Durant, famously a D.C. native, often ran in the same circles as Wall this past offseason. Both were in Las Vegas for Team USA workouts. Locally, the two showed at the Goodman League Classic.
"John is like my brother and I spent a lot of time with him this summer," Durant continued. "He worked his tail off and he's deserving of the All-Star nod. He's playing tremendous basketball right now. Just his overall game - his jump shot is getting better. Playmaking, he's being being more of a leader. You can see it just watching it on TV that he's grown."
Observing the live performance works as well.