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Posted at 12:13 PM ET, 01/20/2011

John Wall accepting fines, taking advice from Brandon Jennings

By Michael Lee

Thanks for the tips, Brandon. (Getty Images)


Recently, while John Wall was going over game film, Wizards assistant Ryan Saunders pointed out that the No. 1 overall pick was walking nonchalantly into his jump shots instead of consistently stepping into them and jumping. Saunders also noticed that Wall displayed a defeatist attitude -- frowning, tugging at his jersey and rolling his eyes after poor plays.

Saunders showed Wall so many instances that eventually a fed-up Wall asked Ryan to have Coach Flip Saunders fine him any time he does those things.

And from there, it was established that Wall would pay $50 for every time he visibly expressed his frustrations, with Wall believing that negative reactions from a team captain would cause his teammates to lose focus and confidence. It might have come off as an extreme measure to be held accountable for mistakes, but Flip Saunders believes that it is a sign of just how much Wall is literally willing to pay the price to be great.

"It's not a negative. It's something that he knows. He's such a perfectionist. He wants to play right. He wants to do the right thing and he knows after the fact when he makes mistakes," Flip Saunders said. "Body language is very important to me because I learned, playing under Bill Musselman and playing in the Big Ten, playing against Bobby Knight, you never want to let opponents think they are getting to you somehow by their body language. I always try to keep that positive body language."

Ryan Saunders will keep track of the times that Wall ducks his head and tell him, "See that's a fine."

Wall added that the fine isn't too large, but said, "It might get to be 10 times a game. Fifty times 10, that's a lot, right? Got to watch it."

Since the calendar year began, Wall hasn't scored much, but he has focused on trying to help the Wizards win games and setting up his teammates. In January, the Wizards are 4-5 and Wall is averaging 11.1 assists a game. He has had at least 10 assists in seven of his past 11 games. At his current pace, Wall could join Mark Jackson, Oscar Robertson and Damon Stoudamire as the only rookies to average at least 9 assists.

Wall credited his newfound focus on getting his teammates more involved to a conversation he had with Milwaukee Bucks second-year guard Brandon Jennings, one of the few players in the league outside of his former Kentucky teammates that he has reached out to for advice in his rookie campaign.

"I look up to him. Before I ever got known, he was always one of the young guys I looked up to who was talented. He told me, 'Just keep playing, getting better and try to learn as much you can,' " Wall said. "He told me, don't try to live up to the hype, if you win rookie of the year or you don't; if not, just worry about your team winning. That's what he did last year and made the playoffs last year."

When Jennings broke his left foot last month, Wall sent him get well wishes through Twitter and Blackberry messenger and encouraged him to take his time before coming back. "That's something I wish I would've did, took a little time with my injuries a little bit, but it's going to take time," Wall said.

Jennings said he remembers his most recent conversation with Wall, in which he told him not to try to get into a competition with Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin, who has been running away with the rookie of the year competition. "I told him to separate yourself. Blake Griffin is getting all the hype right now," Jennings said. John's "main thing is, you want to be winning, because right now [Blake's] team is winning, too. To me, it's all about making the playoffs your first year or at least progressing every game. To be great in this league, you've got to win and I truly believe that."

Much like Wall, Jennings had an incredible start to his rookie season, and was the favorite to win top rookie honors after scoring 55 points against Golden State. But Tyreke Evans had a historic campaign, and Stephen Curry got hot in the second half of the season and Jennings finished third in rookie of the year voting. "I think it was about the numbers to win, or something like that, to win rookie of the year," Jennings said with a sly grin.

Flip Saunders said that Wall has exceeded his expectations in many ways and is pleased with his progression. "He's been great," Flip Saunders said. "There's only three guys in the history of our league to average nine assists, he's the fourth guy that's doing that right now. He plays very aggressive, considering he's had to fight some injuries and hasn't been fully healthy doing that. He has some things to improve on, as all young point guards do. But he's not afraid to accept the challenge.

"He's such a perfectionist," he said. "He gets down on himself when things don't go well. He wants to be perfect and we want to help make him great."

By Michael Lee  | January 20, 2011; 12:13 PM ET
Categories:  John Wall  
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Next: Rashard Lewis battling knee injury

Comments

Fine him 100x that and it might be worth curbing your behavior. Everything is relative. Look at it this way, would you curb your behavior if you had to pay 1 penny every time you did something you shouldn't do? Probably not. $50 to him is like a penny to the average person.

Posted by: Barno1 | January 20, 2011 12:27 PM | Report abuse

It's not about the money being a deterrent. It's about him letting his coaches know that he wants to be held accountable and have his mistakes pointed out to him. The fact that he asked to be fined is the key point here.

Posted by: kalo_rama | January 20, 2011 12:52 PM | Report abuse

In an effort to help to motivate and keep professional athletes on track, I've agreed to allow my NBA clients to pay me a fine of $50 every time they mess up.

Posted by: randysbailin | January 20, 2011 12:56 PM | Report abuse

John Wall is more clever than I thought.

As a rookie, if he went to the rest of the team and criticized their body language and defeatist attitude, they would either cringe, get defensive or tune him out.

So cleverly, he makes it seem as though it's about him but really it's about THEM. The body language of Wizards teams has been poor and defeatist for years.

Smart kid.

Posted by: ArmchairGM | January 20, 2011 1:31 PM | Report abuse

Although Flip Saunders is awful, the one constant all these losing years is
Ernie G. He is the absolute worst. Thornton, Heinrich, Blatche, no players left from our 5th pick last year. Terrible draft picks this year. Absolutely nothing for Jamison, Butler and Haywood.
Grunfeld has bankrupt this team.

Posted by: skins_fan_22 | January 20, 2011 1:36 PM | Report abuse

I think this is a smack in the face for Andray Blatche because he does this all of the time.

As a matter of fact, it's rubbed off on everyone. Players guilty of blowing defense when an offensive play doesn't go their way and complaining in general: (percentage in time played, not team numbers)

Andray Blatche = 85%
John Wall = 70%
Kirk Hinrich = 30%
Rashard Lewis = 20%
JaVale McGee = 65%
Nick Young = 80% (maybe just uber-expressive?) lol
Al Thornton = 10%
Yi Jianlian = 5%

I decided to throw in a few bench players to show the disparity between the starters and them.

The bottom line, ALL of the starters complain way too much and don't just play the game. They act like they should be getting star treatment but can't even act like men on the court!!!

If I was a coach, I would whip these BOYS into to shape so fast they'd either hate me or learn life's lesson in under a week!

So all this "fine me $50 bucks for every expression I make from now on" is going to show a lot of people up on this team. I wanna see how this goes.

Posted by: cbmuzik | January 20, 2011 1:53 PM | Report abuse

skins_fan_22 Then who should had Ernie drafted that are playing more than the players we drafted (other than J.Wall of course). But yea, it's time for Ernie to go as well as Flip. I don't get how some people can defense these two.

Posted by: demonj21 | January 20, 2011 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Its good that the fines are only for frowning and not for missed defensive assignment, rotation and TO. Boykins and Dooling have Wall and Hinrich's numbers all game long. Terrible team defense but moreso on the backcourt.

Posted by: Dave381 | January 20, 2011 1:59 PM | Report abuse

Year 2 of the Wall regime needs to have him light into those teammates that cause his frustration. For instance, when Andray Blatche tries to dribble behind his back and drive to the basket from 20 feet like he's the 6-2 fast point guard. Since flip won't curse him out, Wall needs to say WTF Blatche. Wall also needs to tell McGee there's more to dunking being the only way he can score.

Posted by: oknow1 | January 20, 2011 2:03 PM | Report abuse

now there's a good competitor, sportsman, and teammate

Posted by: j762 | January 20, 2011 2:09 PM | Report abuse

What’s John message? He wants drastic changes! John getting fined would have had greater impact because you commented about the poor level of play on the team.

Are rookies allowed to talk, share their observations and offer input?

Improving the quality of play is the responsibility of the coaches. They are too cavalier and casual with the horrible play of the team. I guess if the coaches were upset, at the caliber of play, after the second game they would have burned out.

Posted by: gvaway | January 20, 2011 2:35 PM | Report abuse

i wish they woulda looked for NY more in the 4th q. Towards the end of the game AB had 4 straight possessions where he got the ball and tried to create something for himself off the dribble. I think he ended up with 1 bucket and 2 or 3 turnovers in that stretch. It seemed like once NY started heating up in the 4th everyone else wanted to prove they could score too. Kirk had an awful turnover down the stretch where he just dribbled the air out the ball and then threw it away. it's like they refuse to get him the ball in the 4t quarter. everyone wants to be the hero.

Posted by: lilhollywood10 | January 20, 2011 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Although Flip Saunders is awful, the one constant all these losing years is
Ernie G. He is the absolute worst. Thornton, Heinrich, Blatche, no players left from our 5th pick last year. Terrible draft picks this year. Absolutely nothing for Jamison, Butler and Haywood.
Grunfeld has bankrupt this team.

Posted by: skins_fan_22 | January 20, 2011 1:36 PM | Report abuse

Skins_fan_22, what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having read it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

Did you seriously just try to claim that Ernie Grunfeld was the problem? You mean the guy who turned this franchise around from perennial joke to 4 straight playoff appearances, he's the problem? You mean the guy that somehow convinced the Lakers to trade us Caron Butler for Kwame Brown, he's the problem?? BAaaaahahahahahahahaha!!!

Posted by: Barno1 | January 20, 2011 2:43 PM | Report abuse

I am sure Flip meant, there have been only 3 rookies to average nine assist a game.

There certainly have been more than 3 players to average that amount.

Posted by: dcinmd1 | January 20, 2011 2:45 PM | Report abuse

Hopefully Flip can continue to teach/improve Wall, Young, Blatche, and Mcgee....then when Ted fires him after next season because he is an atrocious in-game coach, his young buck replacement will inject some life into a good group and start winning some games.

That is the OkC model right?

Posted by: divi3 | January 20, 2011 3:00 PM | Report abuse

i wish they woulda looked for NY more in the 4th q...it's like they refuse to get him the ball in the 4t quarter. everyone wants to be the hero.

He had 7 attempts, and probably would of had more if not for the 6 TOs. AB took 3 shots and everybody else had 1. I don't think getting Nick more shots is the answer. Lewis or Thornton need to be more aggressive. Otherwise, the rest of the players are forced into being playmakers.

Posted by: djnnnou | January 20, 2011 4:18 PM | Report abuse

Wall learn't all those faces from J.M. = fine him too.

Posted by: aypub | January 20, 2011 4:25 PM | Report abuse

i wish they woulda looked for NY more in the 4th q...it's like they refuse to get him the ball in the 4t quarter. everyone wants to be the hero.

He had 7 attempts, and probably would of had more if not for the 6 TOs. AB took 3 shots and everybody else had 1. I don't think getting Nick more shots is the answer. Lewis or Thornton need to be more aggressive. Otherwise, the rest of the players are forced into being playmakers.

Posted by: djnnnou | January 20, 2011 4:18 PM | Report abus

I looked at the play by play and only counted 6 shots, he was 3-6 by my count. But i was really talking about down the stretch. Check the play by play on NBA.com after the 5:14 mark no FGAs from NY. Also a litany of turnovers and mismanaged possessions. Getting NY the ball down the stretch wouldn't be a big issue if the guys "looking him off" would do something positive with the ball. But Ab's drives,Kirks overdribbling for his own shot, and Rashad's merciless bombing didn't look like they were part of an offensive system. Conversely they looked like individuals "doing too much" outside of the offense. i think that's one thin folks can say about NY that they couldn't before. He's getting his numbers within the system .

Posted by: lilhollywood10 | January 20, 2011 4:49 PM | Report abuse

Check the play by play on NBA.com after the 5:14 mark no FGAs from NY.

By that time, they were already down by 14pts, and Young was the only player to score(8pts on 4 makes).

Posted by: djnnnou | January 20, 2011 5:22 PM | Report abuse

"then when Ted fires [Flip] after next season because he is an atrocious in-game coach..."

LOL actually if Ted fires Flip it won't have anything to do with his in-game coaching. Unlike some of the OCD types you find here, Ted isn't sitting around micromanaging every possession. What's the point of paying all those $$ to a coach if you're going to try and do his job for him? No point at all, of course.

Nope, if Flip goes it will be because management has decided the team has gone about as far as it can under his leadership and hoping that a change will produce better results.

I mean, sometimes it does, right? And sometimes not.

Posted by: Samson151 | January 20, 2011 6:37 PM | Report abuse

Wall's problems are his alone...him stating to be fined will not rub off on other players if Wall hopes it will motivate them...that motivation was taken away when they SIGNED THOSE FAT CONTRACTS(Blatche)...this concerns individual pride which few players have...

Posted by: pentagon40 | January 20, 2011 7:25 PM | Report abuse

Unlike some of the OCD types you find here, Ted isn't sitting around micromanaging every possession

You have absolutely no clue what Leonsis does or doesnt do. For all you know he is sitting there thinking "Why on Earth did Flip play Wall, Blatche, and Lewis every second of the 3rdQ? They sure looked ruined after that."

Leonsis knows what's written across the various nba and wizards websites, and he definitely knows that reporters who follow the team and league for a living have been questioning Saunder's rotations.

Nope, if Flip goes it will be because management has decided the team has gone about as far as it can under his leadership

Flip will be fired because he doesnt win enough games? Gee really? Groundbreaking observation

Posted by: divi3 | January 20, 2011 7:30 PM | Report abuse

"For all you know [Leonsis] is sitting there thinking "Why on Earth did Flip play Wall, Blatche, and Lewis every second of the 3rdQ?" posted by divi3

LOL for all you know, he isn't. These putdowns of yours would be more effective if they weren't so applicable to you.

"...[Leonsis] definitely knows that reporters who follow the team and league for a living have been questioning Saunder's rotations." posted by divi3

Oh, horse-patooey. First of all, you have no way of knowing that. Second, most of the carping about rotations has come from right here on WI. This is the place for fans who obsess about whether the coach called time out wit 3:32 left in the fourth quarter of the Clips game.

"Flip will be fired because he doesnt win enough games? Gee really? Groundbreaking observation. Posted by: divi3"

It ain't the rotations, I can tell you that much. Coaches most often get fired in the NBA because the team can't fire the real culprits.

Posted by: Samson151 | January 20, 2011 7:41 PM | Report abuse

Leonsis knows what's written across the various nba and wizards websites, and he definitely knows that reporters who follow the team and league for a living have been questioning Saunder's rotations> Posted by: divi3


#10 from Ted's 10 Point Plan on Team Building.

Never settle–never rest–keep on improving. Around the edges to the plan, have monthly, quarterly and annual check ups. Refresh the plan when needed but for the right reasons– “how are we doing against our metrics of success and where are we on our path to a championship.” Never listen to bloggers, media, so called experts–to thine own self be true. Enjoy the ride.

Posted by: djnnnou | January 20, 2011 7:54 PM | Report abuse

"Skins_fan_22, what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard.... Did you seriously just try to claim that Ernie Grunfeld was the problem? You mean the guy who turned this franchise around from perennial joke to 4 straight playoff appearances, he's the problem? You mean the guy that somehow convinced the Lakers to trade us Caron Butler for Kwame Brown, he's the problem?? BAaaaahahahahahahahaha!!!"

You are defending Grunfeld using years-old, obsolete weaponry. Here's an update: 2008-2009 record, 19 - 63. Earned us the fifth pick in the 2009 draft. Traded for Mike Miller and Randy Foye, both of whom leave after one year. Players passed over in RD one: Ricky Rubio, Stephon Curry, Brandon Jennings, Jrue Holiday, Ty Lawson. 2nd pick traded for... cash. Players passed over: Dujuan Blair, Chase Budinger, Patrick Mills, etc. 2009 - 2010 record, 26 - 56. Get number one pick in draft. Draft John Wall (duh), trade up to get PF without interior size or an outside shot, and project French big. Record: 12 - 28, with franchise-record 20 straight losses on road. Going further back over the past 7.5 years, including the alleged glory days of the 'Big Three', Grunfeld's total record as GM of the Washington Wizards: 253 - 361. Times made the second round of the playoffs... once. Summarily ushered out. Currently out of the running to even get into the playoffs in this, his eighth season. I don't know how you evaluate job performance... perhaps you are a cozy Gov bureaucrat not beholden to performance reviews... but to me, and most of the developed and developing world, that's lousy by any measure.

Posted by: SammyT1 | January 20, 2011 8:18 PM | Report abuse

First of all, you have no way of knowing that.

Leonsis is probably the most wired owner in sports. He knows exactly what's being written, because he follows what people like Hollinger and other stat geeks have to say about basketball. Email him yourself and he'll tell you. That doesnt mean he's going to believe what someone says, but he is absolutely aware of what people think.

It ain't the rotations, I can tell you that much. Coaches most often get fired in the NBA because the team can't fire the real culprits.

Why pay a coach millions of dollars when he has no control over outcomes? You talk like NOTHING flip does contributes to any given loss. It's utterly absurd, of course his acumen factors in one way or the other. Coaches can win games and they can lose them, Flip is no different...except in your eyes where he is beyond reproach.

Posted by: divi3 | January 20, 2011 8:21 PM | Report abuse

"#10 from Ted's 10 Point Plan on Team Building.
"Never listen to bloggers, media, so called experts–to thine own self be true. Enjoy the ride."Posted by: djnnnou"

LOL I'll just let that speak for itself.

Posted by: Samson151 | January 20, 2011 8:54 PM | Report abuse

Here's what I said:
"It ain't the rotations, I can tell you that much. Coaches most often get fired in the NBA because the team can't fire the real culprits."

And here's what divi3's brain did with it:
"Why pay a coach millions of dollars when he has no control over outcomes? You talk like NOTHING flip does contributes to any given loss. It's utterly absurd, of course his acumen factors in one way or the other. Coaches can win games and they can lose them, Flip is no different...except in your eyes where he is beyond reproach.
Posted by: divi3"

A few observations about the above:
1. I didn't say a coach had no control over outcomes.
2. I didn't say that NOTHING Flip does contributes to a loss.
3. I didn't say Flip's 'acumen' didn't factor one way or the other.
4. I didn't say that coaches didn't win games and couldn't lose them.
5. I didn't say Flip was 'different'.
6. I didn't say that 'in my eyes' Flip was beyond reproach.

This is a problem I have had with divi's posts in the past: I can't figure out where he finds all this stuff to get indignant about. Maybe it's the music of his own thoughts...

Posted by: Samson151 | January 20, 2011 9:05 PM | Report abuse

"but to me, and most of the developed and developing world, that's lousy by any measure.Posted by: SammyT1"

Sad thing is, you're talking about a team that that actually got better under Grunfeld. They had gone 25-57 in Gilbert Arenas' first season. The next year when Ernie and Ed Jordan arrived, the club won 45 games before getting swept by Miami in the semifinals. They stayed in the low 40's in terms of wins until the 08-09 season, when they finished with 19 wins, and followed the next season with 26 victories.

So it's fair to say they were one of those mid-category playoff-caliber teams for the 2004-05, 05-06, 06-07, and 07-08 seasons before the bottom fell out and they finally decided to blow the thing up.

Maybe Ernie learned something from that -- like being a mid-category playoff-caliber team isn't good enough. Could be that's the mistake he wants to avoid repeating.

In most of the developed and developing world, GMs and owners of pro sports teams would agree with him.

Posted by: Samson151 | January 20, 2011 9:20 PM | Report abuse

"Sad thing is, you're talking about a team that that actually got better under Grunfeld. They had gone 25-57 in Gilbert Arenas' first season. The next year when Ernie and Ed Jordan arrived, the club won 45 games before getting swept by Miami in the semifinals."

That's EASTERN CONFERENCE semifinals. NBA quarterfinals. Otherwise known as the 2nd round of the playoffs. Swept. Best result in 7 years, looks like 8. That's bad. Maybe when not compared with the Wiz's history post-1980 record, but using the 80s and 90s Bullets and Wiz is an incredibly low bar.

"They stayed in the low 40's in terms of wins until the 08-09 season, when they finished with 19 wins, and followed the next season with 26 victories."

My point exactly. Lousy.


"So it's fair to say they were one of those mid-category playoff-caliber teams for the 2004-05, 05-06, 06-07, and 07-08 seasons before the bottom fell out and they finally decided to blow the thing up."

Yes, they were middling, now they're lousy. The Ernie Grunfeld Legacy.

"Maybe Ernie learned something from that -- like being a mid-category playoff-caliber team isn't good enough. Could be that's the mistake he wants to avoid repeating."

Are you saying that at first he was like "Geez, if I could just get to 'middling', we'll be Golden". Then, after realizing that middling only gets you into the first round of the playoffs, he decided to blow things up and go for "elite"? The job of the GM is to build championship-level squads, from the beginning, not to strive for mediocrity and then, after nearly a decade, decide he has to start from scratch and go for great. You have admitted, his performance is 'middling' to 'blow the team up and start over'. What has he done to give you confidence in him?

"In most of the developed and developing world, GMs and owners of pro sports teams would agree with him."

In most of the developed and developing world, GMS and owners of pro sports teams would disagree with "we'll go for middling, and if that doesn't work, we'll blow things up". Listen to you words, reread what you've written... again. Your analysis of Grunfeld is no less negative than mine.

Posted by: SammyT1 | January 20, 2011 10:17 PM | Report abuse

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