Before he reclaimed his throne, John Wall announced his intentions. He warned all who needed to be warned: the Toronto Raptors, the Capital One Arena crowd, the detractors who felt safe roaming the streets during his flaw-exposing, injury-plagued regular season. The point god was back. Not just the all-star point guard. D.C.’s point god, as he is declared before every home game. He started with a wicked crossover to ditch Kyle Lowry and a ferocious left-handed dunk over Jonas Valanciunas early in the first quarter. “This is my city!” Wall barked in celebration. “I don’t play that [expletive]! I don’t play that [expletive]! I don’t play that [expletive]!” Wall is as loud as he is fast. He does not do subtle. For most of this season, as he suffered through knee problems, missed a career-high 41 games and seemed to impede the team’s progress when he did play, it became popular, even necessary, to wish Wall would tone down his game and his big-dog act. Bradley Beal had graduated to all-star. The entire team had improved. The Wizards didn’t need a savior anymore. They needed Wall to be a better leader and distributor. He scoffed at the notion that his style was suddenly a problem. Then the Wizards ended the regular season dragging, exhausted from having to qualify for the playoffs without Wall and in need of his exuberance. Through four games of this first-round series with Toronto, Wall has given the Wizards that jolt and reiterated his importance to the franchise. He is averaging 26.8 points, 13 assists, five rebounds and 2.8 steals against the Raptors. If you watch Wall regularly, you can see that he is still rusty. He didn’t return to action until March 31, and he played only four warm-up games before the postseason began. His feel is off just a tad, and you see it during shaky moments dribbling and missed shots that are normally easy for him. Nonetheless, Wall is playing at an elite level, and with every game, he is becoming more of a force. In Game 4, he provided the quintessential “Wall is back” performance. He had 27 points and 14 assists. He posterized Valanciunas and backup Raptors center Jakob Poeltl. He barked, he scowled, and despite playing all 24 minutes of the second half, he had more energy than anyone on the court in the final five minutes. The Wizards needed every ounce of stardom from Wall after Beal fouled out with 4:58 remaining. The game was tied at 92 then, but Wall had eight points and an assist during a game-closing 14-6 run. Wall’s smooth baseline jumper with 58.1 seconds left proved to be the dagger in a 106-98 victory. “Just go in attack mode,” Wall said of his mentality after Beal fouled out. “Even when Brad’s in the game, he’s telling me, ‘Be aggressive.’ At the same time, I’m trying to find him. I’m trying to keep him going and play my game. That gets my teammates involved and makes the job easier for those guys. They are knocking down cuts and cutting for me, and I’m going to get my opportunities to score the ball. When Brad went out, I knew I had to do whatever it took: guarding DeMar DeRozan, making plays, scoring the ball and passing the ball. I just wanted to do whatever, so that we could advance to Game 5, tied 2-2.” Despite his defiant exterior, Wall has done some deep thinking this season about what he can do better or differently to elevate the Wizards. He wants to remain the biggest star on the team; he always will. But he’s starting to see that his impact can be greater than averaging 20 points and 10 assists. He’s starting to buy into the obvious: Beal is clearly the team’s best scorer, and Wall should be doing everything possible to enhance his teammate’s effectiveness.
John Wall has regained point god form, and it’s just what the Wizards need
Washington Post | Apr 23