It’s over the summer when we hear a lot of big talk from NBA players before the real grind of the season begins. After signing a max contract extension with the Wizards this summer, John Wall set about predicting new-found success for a Wiz franchise that was still reeling from Gilbert Arenas, guns an immmature roster and â€” you know the rest. After a 2-7 start to the 2013-14 season, it appeared to be the same underperforming Wiz despite Wall’s playoff pronouncements during the break. But an early team meeting changed Wall’s perception of Washington’s core and gave him an opportunity to step up as their leader.
Empathy can be a strange thing. When you step outside yourself and try and think from someone else’s perspective, it can lead to a new-found understanding and hopefully patience when things don’t go according to plan. That’s what Wall learned after the 2013-14 season started like the first few years of his still-inchoate career: with the losses mounting.
Wall elucidated his – and the Wizards’ â€” revelatory moment to Shams Charania of RealGM, and discussed what about the team meeting signified a milestone in this season’s turnaround:
Essentially, teammates gave Wall the room, centered him in a classroom setting and asked: What should our roles be? You’re the heralded franchise star, the organization’s maximum salary designation. How about you tell us?
“From that day forward, I knew I was the guy, the leader, and I knew that they trusted me,” Wall told RealGM. “I let everybody know what I thought about our state. I think we were passing the ball, but when you’re not playing good for a stretch, frustration sets in. So guys find a way to blame it on somebody else or something else. Nene told me to stand up in front of the whole team and told me, ‘You’re our leader, you’re our franchise guy, so tell us what you think everybody’s roles are.’
“My first few years, I didn’t have really great veteran leaders. It was tough on me trying to learn and trying to stay healthy at the same time to improve my game for the NBA. Trevor won a championship â€“ [Marcin] Gortat, Nene, guys who have been to the playoffs â€“ I’m trying to learn from them and be in their shoes.
“These past two years, I’ve had great veterans â€“ guys who see how hard I work and trust my talent. They want to see me progress.”
Since that 2-7 start and the team meeting, the Wiz have gone 31-23 and sit at the No. 5 spot in the East, just two games away from home-court advantage in the playoffs. They’ve got a 8.5 game cushion to make the playoffs with less than 20 games remaining, so Wall’s summer proclamations about returning to the playoffs for the first time since he was drafted No. 1 overall in 2010, weren’t just empty rhetoric.
Wall, too, has upped his game this season and continued the torrid pace he set in the final two months of the 2012-13 season. He’s at career highs in true shooting and effective field goal percentage, win shares, PPG and APG. Most importantly, though, the Wizards are winning and after their team meeting during those onerous opening weeks, they’re poised to make some noise in the playoffs, too.
What do you think?
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