Then again, Saunders made sure Wall got enough time to fill up the highlight reel. The rookie point guard played 38 minutes in his first preseason game. Research is now going on to see if Wilt Chamberlain even played that much in his preseason debut.
Wall's evening actually started with a lowlight as the NBA's No. 1 draft pick shot an air ball on a three-pointer. But he settled down in a hurry, finishing with 21 points, nine assists and four steals in Washington's 97-94 win over Dallas at the American Airlines Center.
"I missed a couple of shots at the beginning, but it's a process,'' said Wall, admitting being a little nervous at the start before he eventually got the best of his boyhood idol, Mavericks point guard Jason Kidd, who had seven points and five assists. "You got to keep going. It's a long game. ... I just kept my rhythm going and kept going hard and competing like (Saunders) wanted me to do.''
Yes, Wall did. And the highlights Saunders had promised earlier in the day soon came.
In the first half, Wall had a nifty steal for a layup and ran down Kidd for a block from behind. Never mind that it was called for goaltending, it sure was spectacular.
Late in the third quarter came the play of the game. Wall threw a lob pass from the three-point stripe to Washington center JaVale McGee, who rammed it home.
"That was a highlight play for me,'' said Wall, whose team blew a 92-79 lead after he left for the night with 5:14 left in the game but won when guard Lester Hudson drilled a three-pointer with 2.5 seconds left to break a 94-94 tie. "We call that 'Back Tornado.' "
Tornado also seems to be a good description of Wall streaking down the court for a layup.
"He had a few of of them,'' Saunders said of his predicted spectacular play. "I don't know, if you really look at TV, it didn't give justice to as fast as he was. A couple of times he got the ball at halfcourt and a couple of guys were, 'I'll kind of run with him.' And before you knew it, he was laying it in.''
While it's hardly common for an NBA coach to play anybody -- let alone a rookie -- 38 minutes in an opening preseason game, Saunders shrugged it off. He knows Wall will be counted on for big minutes so why not get started now?
"He ran the show,'' Saunders said. "What I liked about him is he competes. ... (Saunders played Wall minutes) similar to what I did when I had (Kevin) Garnett and when I had (Stephon) Marbury (both in Minnesota)... Getting them minutes in preseason facilitates their progress. He's a high-energy guy. I haven't seen him one time in practice where he's shown any signs of being tired.''
Saunders started a three-guard lineup with Wall at the point, Gilbert Arenas at shooting guard and Kirk Hinrich technically listed at small forward. Hinrich said it remains to be seen if the Wizards can start such a small lineup regularly.
But one thing seems to be much less debatable. That Wall being able to play at a consistently high level.
"Not too shabby,'' Hinrich said of Wall's debut. "He was real active. You know from John, he's going to play hard. ... He played very well.''
And filled up the highlight reel.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @christomasson