John Wall‘s breakout season is continuing at NBA All-Star Weekend. Not long before he was named Dunker of the Night during the NBA’s Slam Dunk Contest, he took some time to sit with us at the adidas suite in the French Quarter. His growth as a NBA professional transcends the basketball court and has been on full display as adidas has maked him one of their featured athletes. Wall opened up about his thoughts on the dunk contest, his career season, the Washington Wizards and the new shoe he is rocking this weekend.
[RELATED: John Wall’s Top 15 Dunks]
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Dime: You are part of the new breed of elite point guards in the NBA but do you think this All-Star selection solidifies your standing in this group?
John Wall: Yeah definitely. I think we have a great group of talented point guards in the league even though some of them have been diagnosed with injuries lately. But we still have some young, talented point guards and I think this is a big step for me to move my career forward. I believe in myself and need to set my goals because I believe I can be one of the top point guards in the league.
Dime: A lot of people were surprised that you are participating in the dunk contest. Did the NBA contact you about being in the dunk contest or did you ask them?
JW: They have been asking me since my rookie year but I wasn’t really healthy enough to participate. So I just took my time and basically said if I make the All-Star Game that I’d get in the dunk contest. So I threw myself in there this year.
Dime: As a kid growing up watching the All-Star Weekend from home, did you always dream about being in the dunk contest?
JW: Yeah but the bigger dream was making the All-Star team, first of all. But I like all those things; the skills challenge, three-point contest, the dunk contest… whatever you can do. Those are the dreams you set after you make the NBA.
Dime: What was your motivation for taking part when so many others with your level of status decline to participate? What makes you say yeah, I am going to go ahead and do that?
JW: Basically because like you said, it’s a dream come true. I’ve been watching all those guys like Vince Carter and Kobe (Bryant) who have been in it. And it’s just an opportunity for me to go out there and have fun.
Dime: What are your thoughts on the new format?
JW: I like it, I think it’s cool. The first round is basically a freestyle layup line and is about having fun. The second round is when you break out your best dunks and go toe-to-toe with a guy from the other conference.
Dime: So did you get a chance to talk with your teammates for the competition and develop a strategy?
JW: Yeah, we had practice [this week]. So we had an opportunity to go through some routines and dunks that we felt comfortable with and to try to make it as easy as possible for us to get a win.
Dime: Transitioning from All-Star, your actual team has been doing a lot better this season. What’s been the biggest difference in the locker room culture this year compared to last now that the team is winning?
JW: I think the biggest thing is just having leadership, especially me stepping up and becoming a better leader and also having a lot of veteran guys around as well. Our team is taking things more seriously. All of it is just buying in and being one team. We all know we can only play one way and that’s playing hard for 48 minutes. We need to be a defensive-minded team and move the ball offensively. We have six or seven guys that can score and average double-figures and we need to take advantage of that.
Dime: You are enjoying a career year, personally taking and making more threes. Is that a result of the offense, just your work as a professional or a result of having bigs who are a threat down low?
JW: Just knowing what I needed to do to work on my game. My jump shot and three is something that I needed to work on and it’s something I put a lot of time into developing throughout the summer. I also watched a lot of film to just add pace to my game so I can play at different speeds. I think those are the two biggest things I needed to learn and work on.
Dime: A lot of guys talk about the game slowing down for them after a few years in the league. Is that what’s happened for you that you just see things clearer?
JW: Definitely because the first couple of years I was dealing with injuries. So when I came back, I came with that adrenaline rush just trying to get back to a certain pedestal. But it takes time and throughout this summer I paced myself and that’s why I am having the season I am having now.
Dime: So with the playoffs as the obvious goal for your team, do you think you guys need another player to push you over the top? Or do you have enough as is?
JW: I think we are good where we’re at but every team can probably always add another piece. Unless you win the championship, I think you can always add an extra piece and we haven’t even made the playoffs. So I think we could maybe use an extra piece but I have faith in our organization. All of the front office people do a great job of adding whoever they think fits our team best.
Dime: With a busy second half of the season ahead, how will you relax here in New Orleans before taking that on?
JW: Just enjoy myself with my family and friends. I have some events with adidas and we are just going to enjoy ourselves, building the brand and team that we have marketing wise.
Dime: As you mentioned, the adidas brand… what are your thoughts on the Crazyquick 2s? Did you have any input on the design?
JW: I think it’s a great shoe. It gives you more traction on the bottom of your feet and it makes you feel more comfortable. It’s more flexible and it reminds me of the Crazyquicks and I am excited for the opportunity to wear it. They did everything with the design and it was a perfect way to do it, adding the New Orleans colors and having Mardi Gras with it. I think a lot of people are going to like the shoe.
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