John Wall wins MVP, sets assist record in Rookie Challenge victory
When John Wall arrived at Staples Center, he and former Kentucky teammate DeMarcus Cousins were curious about the record for assists in the Rookie Challenge. They found out that New Orleans Hornets all-star Chris Paul own the mark with 17 and Cousins immediately pledged that he was going to break it.
"Which I knew he wasn't," Wall said about his good friend and college roommate Cousins, who is known more for finishing and dishing.
And, although Wall opened the scoring for the rookies with a pull-up jumper, the Wizards' No. 1 overall pick made it clear that his objective was to share, set up and celebrate. He tossed lobs to Cousins and Blake Griffin, hit Wesley Johnson in stride for jumpers and layups, whirled a behind-the-back pass to Gary Neal for a three-pointer. By the end of the night, Wall finished with a record 22 assists, 12 points and did the Dougie three times before finally emerging as the most valuable player in his team's 148-140 win over the Sophomores.
"My intentions wasn't to come in and get the MVP," Wall said. "Just tried to have fun. I wanted to break the assists record, to show guys that I'm not the type of person that wants to shoot the ball every time. In this type of game, I was looking for my teammates and they did a good job of getting open and finishing for me."
It was the perfect game for Wall to flourish and be flashy -- strictly for entertainment purposes, fast-paced, no defense and with a bevy of offensive options surrounding him.
Wall exploited the weapons at his disposal and the rookie coaching staff kept sending him reminders throughout the game about how many assists he needed to get the record.
He said before the game that he wanted to throw a lob pass to Griffin, the 2009 No. 1 overall pick, to see if he could go get it. Wall hit Griffin with two alley-oop passes in the first half, but dazzled the thousands of children in magenta T-Mobile jerseys with a highlight that should get repeated several times this weekend: Wall received an outlet pass just beyond half court, took a step, then bounced the ball off the court. Griffin jumped for it and dunked the ball backward with both hands.
"He's so explosive with it," Wall said of Griffin. "It's like he's going to break the window every time he dunks it. Most people just get out the way. If I get up the court, and you got him out the wing, you just throw it anywhere and he finishes it."
Rookie Coach Amaré Stoudemire got down on his knees and bowed several times at the duo, and Wall stopped at half court to do the Dougie as San Antonio's DeJuan Blair dunked on the other end.
"Wasn't anybody playing defense," he said. "That's good. You don't have to worry about Coach Flip [Saunders] or nobody yelling at me."
When play stopped, Wall ran over to Griffin and the two shook hands and hugged. "Crazy, crazy," Griffin said about the play.
Griffin had the most jaw-dropping plays, but Cousins was the primary benefactor of Wall's unselfishness, as he scored a game-high 33 points -- the fourth-best scoring total in the Rookie Challenge -- and grabbed 13 rebounds. Wall received three of the five MVP votes that were given to four media members and fans. Cousins got the other vote and Wall and Cousins split the other.
"He's always been an incredible passer, but he just makes everybody on the floor better," Cousins said of Wall. "That's something he's always had. We were trying to work together. He wanted to break the assist record, and I wanted to be MVP."
Cousins repaid the favor with 12.5 seconds remaining, when he got his only assist of the game, tossing the ball off the backboard as Wall dunked with two hands, hanging and swinging on the rim for several seconds. "Felt good. I wanted to do the spider, but I was too scared," Wall said.
As TNT's Craig Sager presented the trophy to Wall, he took a shot at Cousins, who got into a scuffle with Sacramento Kings swingman Donté Greene last week for not passing him the ball on a final possession. He praised Wall for looking for Cousins, saying, "It's been well-documented, he's not always happy when his teammates don't give him the ball."
Wall grimaced as he held up the trophy and didn't pay much mind to the question. Afterward, Wall was standing in the bowels of Staples Center and couldn't contain his overall excitement about being surrounded by so much talent and so many old and new friends.
"It's great, because you go to cities with them and you talk to them a day, maybe before you play with them, but you really don't have time to spend with guys to really know what their personality is off the court," he said. "All these guys are great guys, happy to reach their goals in the NBA. Summertime, I hope we can hang out from time to time."
He was loose and carefree. He grinned. He stomped. He flexed. He lifted three fingers after every made three-pointer. He hopped up-and-down after dunks. It was his summer-league swagger multiplied times 110. Wall was the showman that he rarely gets to be when the Wizards are getting pounded on a regular basis.
Wall also pleased that he could get a win on a non-Verizon Center court. "First win at Staples," he said with a smile. "I'm going to put that down in my book. We was close against the Lakers, hopefully, when we play the Clippers we can come in and get a second."
As for the trophy that rested in front of him, Wall said, "This'll go to my mom's house."
| February 19, 2011; 12:47 AM ET
Categories: John Wall
Save & Share: Previous: Discussion: What are your thoughts for the final 28?
Next: JaVale McGee wants to "represent for the big guys"
Posted by: bozomoeman | February 19, 2011 1:16 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: sa11231 | February 19, 2011 4:47 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: glawrence007 | February 19, 2011 5:56 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: howjensen | February 19, 2011 7:05 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: Blurred | February 19, 2011 7:24 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: KDSmallJr | February 19, 2011 7:38 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: keepandbear | February 19, 2011 8:25 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: closg | February 19, 2011 8:35 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: Tim584 | February 19, 2011 9:49 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: zack9633 | February 19, 2011 10:14 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: randysbailin | February 19, 2011 11:06 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: divi3 | February 19, 2011 11:10 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: DoubleEagle1 | February 19, 2011 11:35 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: US-conscience | February 19, 2011 11:36 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: humen8r | February 19, 2011 11:53 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: dcu99 | February 19, 2011 12:55 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: shovetheplanet | February 19, 2011 1:11 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: AIPACiswar | February 19, 2011 2:04 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: babycas2000 | February 19, 2011 3:22 PM | Report abuse