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Posted at 1:35 PM ET, 01/11/2011

John Wall faces possible matchup with Kings' Tyreke Evans, adjusting to challenges of NBA

By Michael Lee

It's been overshadowed by John Wall's reunion with his friend and former roommate at Kentucky DeMarcus Cousins, but there is possibly a more intriguing matchup for the No. 1 overall pick as the Wizards prepare to host the Sacramento Kings on the Tuesday.


This league ain't easy. (AP Photo/Thearon Henderson)

Tyreke Evans, the reigning rookie of the year, is listed as a game-time decision but likely will play after telling the Sacramento Bee that the sprained left ankle he suffered in a win over Denver last Thursday feels "a lot better." Evans may have left for the Kings' six-game road trip wearing a walking boot but he certainly looked fine as he shot jumpers and participated in a three-point shooting contest after practice on Monday at Verizon Center.

When the Wizards were in California last month, Evans said he was looking forward to facing Wall as much as anyone else. "Two [John] Calipari point guards, going at each other. Just the type of players we are, we both like to dribble, score the ball, you know what I mean. Him, he's a good player, a point guard that likes to score, can pass. We just to bring a lot of energy to the game."

But Wall was forced to sit out against Evans and the Kings in Sacramento on Dec. 8 with complications of a sprained left foot that he suffered a few weeks before in his first game against Derrick Rose, another point guard who benefited from spending one year in college under the tutelage of Calipari.

Rose was first to thrive under Calipari's dribble-drive offense, jump to the NBA after one year and win rookie of the year, and Evans did the same last season. Wall faces a considerable challenge pulling off a three-peat, with Blake Griffin angrily punishing the rim and grabbing double-doubles for the Los Angeles Clippers.

Evans joined Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan, and LeBron James as the only players in NBA history to average at least 20 points, five rebounds, and five assists per game in their rookie seasons. He said Wall is taking the right approach this season by not concerning himself with individual awards. "You've got to go out there and play. Don't go out there thinking rookie of the year because that's when it goes bad. Just go out there and have a good first year and if it don't get it, you still played good. It's another good rookie out there, Blake Griffin, you know what I mean. It ain't going to be easy. I'd just tell him to go out there and have fun."

When asked to explain the benefits of playing for Calipari, Evans said, "He really didn't tell us anything. He just pushed us to get better, for the next level. That was the most important thing. He didn't ever tell us we would make it to the NBA. He said he was going to push us and when we get there, we'll be the best player that we can be."

Wall averaged 17.4 points and 9.1 assists in his first 14 games, but he hasn't been quite the the same player since returning from a bone bruise under his right knee cap on Dec. 26. He is averaging 12.9 points and 8.8 assists in his past eight games, but said his primary focus is improving individually to help the Wizards win more games.


I hear you, 'Reke (AP Photo/Bob Leverone)

Wall got flustered at times by Calipari's demanding ways and often leaned on former Wizard and Kentucky assistant Rod Strickland for support, but that approach might be best for him. He said he sent text messages to the Coach Flip Saunders and other members of the Wizards' coaching staff to "keep pushing me, make me better." During a meeting with Saunders on Monday, Wall said Saunders told him, "If you want me to keep pushing you, you've got to be mentally stronger and fight through it."

"That's what I need. I need somebody to stay on top of me," Wall said. "And I thank him for that, I thank him for pushing me and hopefully we can get on a winning streak soon."

Saunders, who coached Stephon Marbury as a rookie in Minnesota, said Wall is going through some of the normal growing pains that come with learning how to run an NBA team. "It's tough to be a young point guard and play 82 games. It's tougher to be a young point guard, play well and then get hurt and then fight your way to get back," Saunders said. "I think he's now, he's getting back physically where he was and now it's just a matter of repetitions. But everything, everywhere we go it's new, a city to play in, a new arena, everything is new. I think he's making good progress. He has games - I had a long talk with him this morning. We watched some film and talked, and I said, you have games that are good and games that are bad. The longer he plays, as a young player, hopefully the bad games become fewer and far between."

Wall admits that the injuries have held him back. "The toughest part is going through all the treatment, all the exercises and get back healthy. They told me, you're not going to be 100 percent throughout the whole season. At the top, you're going to be 95, 90, so that's the toughest part. And we're losing right now."

Evans has been dealing with his own foot problems this season, with plantar fasciitis and other ailments contributing to a decline in his scoring and field goal percentage. He said that the challenges don't ever stop at this level. "The league, I mean, is tough. Going out playing against good teams every night, good guards, big men. You just got to go out there and play hard. I mean, a lot of people think this is easy in the NBA, but it's really not. You go up against a good player every night and you just got to learn, to get better at it."

Evans said he has known Wall for a long time and had a chance to hang out with him last summer in Los Angeles, where both players scrimmaged against a high school all-star team. "He's a good kid," Evans said of Wall.

When asked who is faster between the two of them, Evans said, "He is. Without a doubt."

Between Wall and Rose? "I don't know. Tie, probably."

By Michael Lee  | January 11, 2011; 1:35 PM ET
Categories:  John Wall  
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Next: Open thread: Wizards (9-26) vs. Kings (8-26)

Comments

I think Evans will be matched up with NY mostly which should be interesting on both ends with both of there styles. Then when not him it will most likely be Hinrich

Posted by: dlts2041 | January 11, 2011 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Check out this bum Dray that everyone is talkin about and what he did in Game 1 last year after the trade.

Wolves and matched up against big Al & Love- Dray had 33 & 13 on 14-22 in 36min shooting and used both of those guys.

Next game against Denver & NeNe he had 18, 11, & 3ast on 8-13 shooting in just 28min.

Next game against Bargs in Toronto he had 24, 6, & 3ast on 11-21 shooting in 33min.

Next game against the Bulls & Noash he had 25 & 11 on 8-13 shooting.

Next game against Memphis & both Z-bo & Gasol he had 24, 8, & 5 on 10-19 shooting.

Next game against NY he had 26, 18, & 6 on 11-21 shooting.

Next game at NJ matched against Lopez alot he had 36, 15, & 4 on 17-31 shooting.

Next game against the Bucks and there beast defense he had 18, 9, & 3 on 8-14 shooting.

Against KG & Sheed he had 23 & 9 on 10-20 shooting.

Against Josh Smith & Horfford he had 30 & 10 on 12-19 shooting.

At Detroit he had 23 & 10 on 11-22 shooting.


Then he clearly started to wear down with the new load & not being in top shape but he still got

Against Orlando he had 32, 4, & 4 on 14-23.

At Utah & Boozer & Milsap he had 24, 6, & 4 on 9-19 shooting.

At Denver he had 23 & 9 on 10-19 shooting. Another game I had on tape where Denver fans after the game said they never seen a PF crossover like that. He was killing Nene so much that dude was yelling at his teammates for help. Even had a sequence where he got the ball at the top of the key, hit an AI type crossover and pulled up for the J in Nene's mouth, on D blocked a dunk from Melo, and then back on O, spun baseline on Nene in the post and dunked on him. Unfortantutely that was the game he sprained his ankle badly and went into a bit of a shooting slump after that just like I knew he would but then still rebounded with games of:

Posted by: dlts2041 | January 11, 2011 1:59 PM | Report abuse

PART 2


Against Houston & Scola he had 31, 10, & 3 on 13-23 shooting.

At NO he had 23 & 4ast on 10-17 shooting.

Against GS had 21 & 6 on 8-16 shooting.

Then ended the season with these 4 games


At Boston & KG again he had 31 & 11 on 12-23 shooting.

Against Atlanta, Smith, & Horrfod he had 24, 9, & 7 on 11-24 shooting in 36min

At NY had 24, 7, & 6 on 8-16 shooting in 36min

and finally against Indy had 26, 7, & 3 on 11-19 shooting in just 29min and sat out the whole 4th.

I even totally forgot about the infamous missed triple double game where he got 20pts, 13ast, and 9 boards. 13 ast from a PF.

Im not even going to post some youtube vids of how much better he looked. People just forget the kind of things he was doing and that was a guy who was just getting his 1st shot, wasnt in great shape, wasnt prepared to carry the load, and just learning what it was to be the man. He was going to beast this year until the injury. Give up on him if you want but you will be wrong because this guy that everyone thinks sucks isnt him. He did this against great comp and matched up against the best bigs in the league. Every teams fans at the end of the game talked about how much of a beast he is.

Posted by: dlts2041 | January 11, 2011 2:00 PM | Report abuse

@dlts2041,

And post what the win/loss record is and was in all these games Dray was a beast in..

Fact is his Basketball IQ is very low, he shoots entirely too many jumpers, has not developed his low post game, is still not in proper condition, makes terrible mistakes with the ball (ie tries to dribble too much and often through a double team) and at critical times in the game, is a major distraction due to his attitude(He thinks he is better than he actually is, just like you do), still does not play defense, turns the ball over 3 times a game,etc...

He is what he is. A shooting guard trapped in a PF body(at least height wise).

Look at how he goes to the basket when he does. He has to remind himself to go overhand (meaning look for the dunk) and often lays the ball up with some soft finger roll move..His game is just soft and weak dude.

But they will trade him. Mark my word..He is next up on the chopping block...

Posted by: kevenjones | January 11, 2011 2:49 PM | Report abuse

Blatche has clearly been effected by the foot injury. He seems to have lost explosion and quickness, both can be attributed to spending a summer with his foot in a boot.

My recollection is that he got out of the walking boot only three weeks or so before camp. Foot and ankle injuries tend to really glue a big man to the floor and sap quickness. What Blatche has needed to do that he's failed to work on is positioning.

When you're near 7' and as long as he is, just working at getting really good position can make a difference even if you can't jump. Blatche sometimes appears to be really disinterested if his shot isn't falling and the flow of the offense isn't going through him.

Those are the kinds of things that he's got to work on to be a better player, even if the foot is going to prevent him from being the force he seemed to be emerging as last year.

So the truth about Blatche is somewhere between budding superstar that's hurt, and the dirty lowdown scum of the earth that some portray him to be on this site.

My concern is that McGee is a very unorthodox center, I think the Wiz need a more physical power forward with postup skils to pair with him. The Blatche/McGee combo is very different from the Jefferson/Love combo that played together last year for the Timbewolves. But they have a similar problem, two guys that are too similar in their strengths and weaknesses to co-exist on the court together.

When both Blatche and McGee work very hard to overcome their weaknesses in the same game they can be very effective, but too often one, or both, lapse into ineffective play on the defensive boards and then they can be really terrible combo out on the floor together.

In the end I think one of them will have to go, and right now I beleive it will be Blatche, simply because he's easier to replace and the draft could well yield another power forward, but it's doubtful that there's a center to be had.

Blatche is still plenty young and he's still got room to grow in this league, but I think he might be similar to Jermaine O'Neal when he was at Portland, he might NEED to go else where to become a top player, it may never happen here...
GM

Posted by: flohrtv | January 11, 2011 3:04 PM | Report abuse

And fill in the gaps with his stats in the remaining games you left out. They played 31 games after the trade.

I'm going to guess there are major inconsistencies in Blatche's game for the games you didn't list...

Posted by: kevenjones | January 11, 2011 3:07 PM | Report abuse

@flohrtv,

I hear you, but time to stop using "Blatche is young" as reasoning to his lack of commitment. (See Kevin Durant)..

I am one who always thought Blatche had all-star level talent. But he clearly is not interested in being any better than he currently is. It's January, his foot injury ain't got jack sh** to do with his conditioning at this point..

I don't think he is scum, just a very average basketball player, with a diva attitude, who has not put in the work it would take for him to truly lead this team.

So as a paying fan,it's time for him to go. I'd rather have a less talented person with more of a commitment and less of an attitude..

Posted by: kevenjones | January 11, 2011 3:12 PM | Report abuse

And fill in the gaps with his stats in the remaining games you left out. They played 31 games after the trade.

I'm going to guess there are major inconsistencies in Blatche's game for the games you didn't list...

Posted by: kevenjones | January 11, 2011 3:07 PM
-

He average 22 and 8 after the trade.

Posted by: dc202jp | January 11, 2011 3:51 PM | Report abuse

And fill in the gaps with his stats in the remaining games you left out. They played 31 games after the trade.

I'm going to guess there are major inconsistencies in Blatche's game for the games you didn't list...

Posted by: kevenjones | January 11, 2011 3:07 PM
-

He averaged 22 and 8 after the trade.

Posted by: dc202jp | January 11, 2011 3:51 PM | Report abuse

And fill in the gaps with his stats in the remaining games you left out. They played 31 games after the trade.

I'm going to guess there are major inconsistencies in Blatche's game for the games you didn't list...

Posted by: kevenjones | January 11, 2011 3:07 PM
-

He averaged 22 and 8 after the trade.

Posted by: dc202jp | January 11, 2011 3:55 PM | Report abuse

Blatche is a 6th year vet. Six years is plenty of time to figure out how to do your job effectively and consistently.

Posted by: kalo_rama | January 11, 2011 4:12 PM | Report abuse

Blatche reminds me of Lamar Odom. For years people talked about Odom's potential even up to a couple seasons ago. Blatche is similar. He has alot of skill, not an athletic freak but athletic enough, but does not have the hunger/desire/attitude to be great.

Posted by: dc202jp | January 11, 2011 4:15 PM | Report abuse

Blatche is never going to be a great player because he simply doesn't have the goods for it. He can be a good, solid, contributing player, but to do that he needs to do many things better and consistently.

Along with not really having great talent, he also lacks the one crucial element that defines almost all great players: mental toughness.

Posted by: kalo_rama | January 11, 2011 4:19 PM | Report abuse

Bicep curls are a vanity lift and something skill athletes have to be careful about as it's easy to alter your shot, golf swing, tennis forehand, or whatever by the enlarging and tightening of your biceps. Blatche's shooting woes are borderline inexplicable, he's at 41% after being over 47% the past 3yrs.

Who knows, maybe he didnt even have a pro trainer and just did dumb stuff like curls and overeat to gain mass this summer. No idea really, but it's bizarre his stroke is this broken

Posted by: divi3 | January 11, 2011 4:21 PM | Report abuse

SI.com has the Wiz up from 29 to 27th among the 30 NBA teams -- well, it's a bit of improvement. Their comments:

"Washington Wizards (9-26)
What looked like one of the most compelling Rookie of the Year contests in NBA history the first few weeks of the season has become a rout for Blake Griffin over John Wall. You can blame Wall's sprained foot and bruised knee, the fact that dunks have more cachet than assists on the highlight reel, or that the Clippers are jelling while the Wizards are still winless on the road. But the numbers show that Wall is shooting below 40 percent since Thanksgiving, has fewer steals in his last 10 games (eight) than he did Nov. 2 against the Sixers (nine) and, like Griffin, is creating a more porous team defense when he is on the court compared to when he sits."

Posted by: Samson151 | January 11, 2011 4:25 PM | Report abuse

kevenjones, we had by far the worst team in the league at that time. We had no Gil, Caron, AJ, Wood, Howard, Miller, and Foye sucked. At the same time we had probably the hardest sked in the league and our O looked like garbage until Flip changed into that 2 guard Offense. We had no chance to win. People want to blame that on Dray like he was stat padding. He wasnt at all.

I also did talk about the other games and how he struggled some after he had that bad ankle sprain against the Nuggz. Thats not a coicednece

Posted by: dlts2041 | January 11, 2011 4:25 PM | Report abuse

Blatche is never going to be a great player because he simply doesn't have the goods for it. He can be a good, solid, contributing player, but to do that he needs to do many things better and consistently.

Along with not really having great talent, he also lacks the one crucial element that defines almost all great players: mental toughness.

Posted
I disagree, he will be fine.

Posted by: gtefferra | January 11, 2011 4:30 PM | Report abuse

"I disagree, he will be fine."

Posted by: gtefferra | January 11, 2011 4:30 PM

Well, strictly speaking, that's not actually disagreeing with me, because I never said he wouldn't be "fine." I said he wouldn't be "great."

Big diff.

Posted by: kalo_rama | January 11, 2011 4:35 PM | Report abuse

Kal's point that Blatche doesn't have the goods to be a great player rings true. Issues of toughness and discipline aside, his jumper isn't all that great, his hops are below average, he's not exactly a rebound hound and not having a back to the basket move doesn't help. Now add the lack of toughness, discipline and B-ball IQ, and the picture ainĀ“t pretty.

Sad to say but Blatche and his extension speaks volumes about EG's vanity

Posted by: mugsybol | January 11, 2011 4:36 PM | Report abuse

It's kind of fascinating that a kid taken with the 49th pick somehow ended up getting saddled with lottery pick level expectations.

Posted by: kalo_rama | January 11, 2011 4:41 PM | Report abuse

Im really really really interested in seeing the NY vs Evans matchup. Everyone wants to talk about Wall-Evans but NY will be matched up with him the most tnat thats a very interesting matchup on both ends because there styles are so different. Then when NY is out, Kirk will probably be on Evans.

Then I want to see McGee vs Cousins and also Dray & Seraphin on him. Those are interesting matchups

Posted by: dlts2041 | January 11, 2011 4:48 PM | Report abuse

Weak franchises with fans hungry for any ray of hope can generate those types of expectations, especially when you try and project out from what the 18 year old seems capable of doing.

I've fallen victim of the some of this looking at Ricky Rubio, figuring that if the kid was playing serious professional ball in Spain at 14, obviously he would be Oscar Robertson by 22. Fact is, his jumper is still the ugliest thing you've ever seen, and he hasn't gotten any faster between the ages of 17 and 20.

Progress, if it ever comes, is never a straight line.

Posted by: mugsybol | January 11, 2011 4:49 PM | Report abuse

It's kind of fascinating that a kid taken with the 49th pick somehow ended up getting saddled with lottery pick level expectations.

Posted by: kalo_rama

----

yup, he's certainly not a bad signing for a 49th, and not a bad player for a 49th either.

for some reason, a lot of us (blatche too probably) just lost sight of the fact that he's not, and never will be, a great player.

sorta kinda like mcgee, I'd say.

Posted by: MinuMang | January 11, 2011 4:57 PM | Report abuse

At least Rubio is an actual lottery pick, so those expectations come with the territory. It seems like people were comparing Blatche to Garnett practically before he'd even played a game as a rookie.

Posted by: kalo_rama | January 11, 2011 5:08 PM | Report abuse

NBA Basketball is the hardest league to recover from a foot injury in season. Look at Wall and the struggle he's having with his knee. He's not the same player as he was out of the gate, he's going to have to have the mental toughness to adjust to playing at less then 100%.

Quite often guys with ankle and foot injuries struggle all year. So spending a summer in a boot is going to effect a player all year. No way to recover and catch up without sitting out for an extended stretch and with the Wiz's other front court injuries that hasn't been an option. I've seen guys sit out for weeks or even months with high ankle sprains and never return at the same level that season.

I'm not claiming Blatche can be great in this league, but he's a servicable player, not an Allstar, but starter quality. As I explained in the earlier post I think that Blatche and McGee are poor choices to start together on the frontcourt. Blatche is also apparently struggling with the Lewis trade and rumors of now being on the market himself.

McGee would appear to be better complemented by a guy like Love then Blatche. Or even a guy like Jordan Williams from MD, or Sullinger from Ohio State, that have a games that are built around positining and sound footwork in the post, and are strong defensive rebounders.

Blatche should adjust and play a more grounded game, concentrate on rebounds and defense, and on offense get in there and fight for positioning in the blocks, I agree that his unwillingness to adjust his game to what is needed, and to what his current limitations are, is a failure to master the mental side of the game.

But, he has been a starter for well under a year, it's a different role then when he was backing up Jamison and Haywood. Team's been in transition and he's very unsure of his role. The loss in confidence right now is easy to see, how he responds in the next couple of weeks will determine how long he's a Wizard...
GM

Posted by: flohrtv | January 11, 2011 5:09 PM | Report abuse

"yup, he's certainly not a bad signing for a 49th, and not a bad player for a 49th either."

Posted by: MinuMang | January 11, 2011 4:57 PM

Problem is, because those expectations have been so deeply ingrained and internalized (by the team, by the fans, by Blatche) it's almost impossible to judge him by the standard of a 49th pick anymore. Everyone has long since become accustomed to expecting more than that from him. Which is one of the reasons why I think he'd be best served by a change of scenery.

Posted by: kalo_rama | January 11, 2011 5:11 PM | Report abuse

Bicep curls are a vanity lift and something skill athletes have to be careful about as it's easy to alter your shot, golf swing, tennis forehand, or whatever by the enlarging and tightening of your biceps. Blatche's shooting woes are borderline inexplicable, he's at 41% after being over 47% the past 3yrs.

Who knows, maybe he didnt even have a pro trainer and just did dumb stuff like curls and overeat to gain mass this summer. No idea really, but it's bizarre his stroke is this broken

Posted by: divi3

I'm not saying you're wrong, but I don't remember AB being asked to gain weight. He played last year at @ 265 which is more than heavy enough. I do remember him being asked to get stronger, but not the gain weight part. Again, not saying you're wrong, just saying I don't recall it, and on some level it doesn't make sense.

I don't buy the biceps curl argument either, even though I'm guessing you're being a little facetious. I think it has more to do with the types of shots he takes and how and when he takes them. And as much as his jumper, I think his struggles to finish inside have also affected his overall percentages. He's never been a strong finisher, but this year it seems like he is struggling more.

From the Insider on 6/28

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/wizardsinsider/2010/06/andray-blatche-may-return-by-t.html

Grunfeld said Blatche had been working out with trainers and lifting with the strength and conditioning coach at Verizon Center on daily basis, hoping to build upon a final 32-game stretch in which he averaged 22.1 points on 48.5 percent shooting with 8.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.5 steals.

Posted by: ts35 | January 11, 2011 5:47 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: dlts2041 | January 11, 2011 1:59 PM | Report abuse

my friend....with all those numbers being said..what were his teams wins???

When the "best" player is not even on the all-star ballot, then you know theres an issue

Posted by: mrhney03 | January 11, 2011 6:12 PM | Report abuse

We need Blatch to get on a roll and make an impression like he did last year after the trade. Then we might get something for him. Trade him when he's at the top of his game.
He's overdue.
Hopefully before the trade dl.
Buy low sell high.
Dump him now & we get nothing.
Ted the businessman knows this.

Posted by: VBFan | January 11, 2011 7:12 PM | Report abuse

Man I'm watching this game w/ a set of good headphones, like big stereo size high quality headphones, & what a difference! I can clearly hear the hands hittin the ball, little side conversations of people sittin behind buck & phil, refs & coaches sayin stuff to players. Lots of things I don't usually hear!

Posted by: Darnell1 | January 11, 2011 8:42 PM | Report abuse

Man I'm watching this game w/ a set of good headphones, like big stereo size high quality headphones, & what a difference! I can clearly hear the hands hittin the ball, little side conversations of people sittin behind buck & phil, refs & coaches sayin stuff to players. Lots of things I don't usually hear!

Posted by: Darnell1 | January 11, 2011 8:44 PM | Report abuse

Dam buchantz just never stops talking for even a second! He must think he doin radio. I'm tryin to hear some the stuff goin in the background, & that dude just talks continuously!

Posted by: Darnell1 | January 11, 2011 9:38 PM | Report abuse

Overtime!!

Posted by: Darnell1 | January 11, 2011 9:41 PM | Report abuse

The coach is fortunate to have such a sharp talented kid like this youngster. Nothing positive about the kid when you actually have to want to waste lengthy articles about little negatives. He and most others need a man who they can trust to help him first. That is not the Wizards coach. He is a NBA coach not a DC coach.

Posted by: CTaylor42 | January 15, 2011 12:17 AM | Report abuse

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