John Wall Gets Dose of Reality from Magic in NBA Debut
There's not much to cha-cha about when your team is down by 35 points entering the fourth quarter. Orlando went on to wipe out Washington 112-83, all of which just drove home what we all knew.
Wall is good, and is going to be very good. But nothing the No. 1 pick does in the next three or four years will amount to more than top-10 plays on SportsCenter.
"We came out and didn't play together as a team," he said.
Wall will probably repeat some version of that about 60 times this season. Even if the Wizards play together, they won't make much of a team.
It's almost a shame the best rookie always ends up on the worst team, but that's how the draft works. Players like Wall give teams like Washington hope. But when you see the gulf between the Wiz and the Magic, you wonder whether Wall will eventually give up and try to hitch a ride out of town with Albert Haynesworth.
"We played scared at times," Wizards coach Flip Saunders said.
Playing Dwight Howard will do that to you. The NBA certainly could have given its top pick an easier place to start. It was the regular-season opener for the Amway Arena, an event so big even Tiger Woods showed up.
Tiger used to be a semi-regular at the old Amway Arena, but he wasn't spotted last year. Reportedly there were problems at home. He was in his new courtside seats Thursday night and doing a lot less texting than he used to do. If only they'd put Tiger on Kiss-Cam, it would have been a perfect evening.
Wall will probably not remember much of it. His final stats were 14 points, nine assists, three steals, three turnovers and zero dances.
Remember the little number he would do last year at Kentucky? Wall would raise his right arm, bend the elbow as if to flex his biceps, then twirl his fist to and fro. Throw in a little body shimmy and you had the John Wall Dance.
It became all the rage as he led Kentucky on a regular-season rampage. Now it seems destined to go the way of the Macarena, the Electric Slide, the Achy-Breaky and whatever dance Cloris Leachman did on "Dancing With The Stars."
"It was tough," Wall said of his debut. "It really taught me what I need to work on."
The most obvious thing is his outside shooting. Wall is a one-man fast break waiting to happen. But when the Wizards had to set up in half court, Orlando sagged off and dared Wall to shoot the 20-footer.
"He has to take those shots," Saunders said. "He has to make those shots."
In time, he might. On Thursday he missed 13 of his 19 attempts.
"Some nights you are going to make them. Some nights you're not," he said. "Tonight was a night I did not."
He could have been 19-for-19 and it might not have mattered. The Wizards are in the first phase of a massive rebuilding project. Their starting five was Wall, Andray Blatche, JaVale McGee, Al Thornton and Kirk Hinrich.
That sounds like a 20-win team. Twenty-five if Gilbert Arenas returns and doesn't threaten to shoot any of his teammates.
"We played scared at times," Saunders said. "We had 49 missed shots and only three offensive rebounds."
As for the No. 1 pick?
"We got beat by 29," Saunders said, "so he didn't do a very good job."
The new coach isn't cutting Wall any rookie slack. It's good that Saunders expects Wall to play like the best guy on the team. The scary part for Washington fans is that he is already by far the best guy on the team.
The Wizards will need a few more high picks and some shrewd trades to matter, but we knew that going into the season. Now that it's here you wonder if by the time John Wall is able to dance again, he'll even remember the steps.