John Wall goes from Steve Nash to Rajon Rondo
There might not be a more challenging time to be a point guard in the league, with every night serving as a test of wits and endurance. And, there has been no greater example than this past week for John Wall, who has already faced Deron Williams and Steve Nash and will have to chase around the wiry Rajon Rondo on Saturday at Verizon Center.
When Rondo led the Celtics to a 114-83 annihilation of the Wizards in Boston last November, Wall sat out with a sprained left foot, suffered in his previous game against Derrick Rose. But now the two former Kentucky guards will finally face each other in an NBA game. Rondo, the league's leader in assists at 13.1 per game, followed Wall closely last season and even attended a few Wildcats games.
"I talked to him," Wall said. "He told me, 'Keep your head up, it's going to be a learning experience. You have a chance to be special."
Wall has put up some incredible assists numbers of late, with 42 in his past three games, and is the first rookie in NBA history to have nine or more assists in 10 straight games. With 273 assists, Wall has also recorded the second-most assists after 29 games of any rookie, trailing only Mark Jackson (280). And, he currently ranks fourth in the league in assists behind Rondo, Nash and Chris Paul at 9.4 per game.
Wall finally got a win in a matchup against an elite point guard on Monday, when he handed out a career-high 15 assists in a win against Williams and the Jazz. He and Nash both had 14 assists, but Wall got most of his in first-quarter burst, while Nash picked his spots and spread his helpers out over the first three quarters of the Suns' 109-91 win.
"John is more of an explosive type player," Coach Flip Saunders said, comparing him to the more controlled mayhem of Nash. "That's not what John does yet. Steve Nash is the only guy in the league that does that, exhausts so much, has the ability to do that and keep the ball on a string. John, he played better against him this time than he did last time [on Dec. 5, when the Wizards lost 125-108]. He'll continue to get better."
Rondo has already made an all-star appearance and won an NBA championship, playing with a team that has future Hall of Famers Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Shaquille O'Neal, who won't play on Saturday because of a bruised hip. Rondo has made leading the league in assists his primary focus, and he appears to be dominating with video game precision and making sure his teammates get off.
While there is a lot to celebrate with his 15-assist performance against Utah, Rondo has had 10 games with 15 or more assists this season. He's also only had seven games in which he didn't have at least 10 assists this season.
Wall understands that Rondo presents another set of challenges from Nash. "Everybody play a different style of game. Steve Nash always keeps his dribble alive, dribbles all the way to the baseline so you've got to keep chasing him," he said. Rondo "is not a scoring-type point guard. He's the type that's going to keep his dribble alive, always looking for someone to pass it to. He's an aggressive guard, that's going to put pressure on you. He can score if he wants to, but he's always looking for his teammates and they do a great job of trusting him and giving him the ball every time they get rebound or fastbreak and run to their open spots."
Wall expressed some frustration over how the Wizards played in the second half against Phoenix. He said the players got "selfish."
"You can say as much as you can or get them the ball in scoring opportunities, but this is grown men. They make their own decisions at times," Wall said. "You lead them as much as you can. I think I'm doing a good job of getting their trust and letting them know I'll find them when they're wide open. The main thing is to stick together when we're down and not try to force ourselves to be the hero. Do it as a team."
He'll get the opportunity to see a point guard who makes sure his guys "do it as a team" with Rondo and the Celtics.
| January 22, 2011; 1:48 PM ET
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