Summer League Notebook: Wall gives Wizards taste of his potential
John Wall has impressed with his speed and competitiveness at Summer League
The No. 1 pick has struggled with turnovers, and he's yet to make a three-pointer
More notes: What Warriors sale might mean for Don Nelson; summer standouts
LAS VEGAS -- As performances go, John Wall probably won't file away this one to memory. On Thursday night, in his third game in the NBA Summer League, Wall pumped in 21 points and handed out 10 assists in the Wizards' 88-82 victory over Dallas. But it took Wall 19 shots (he made four) to get his points and he struggled to contain undrafted rookie Jeremy Lin on the defensive end.
"My decision-making on shots wasn't good," said Wall, who helped make up for the poor shooting by hitting 13-of-15 at the free-throw line. "I wasn't shooting on balance."
It was a small blip in what has otherwise been an impressive week for Wall, who is averaging 21 points and league-high 9.3 assists in three games, along with making 31-of-34 foul shots. His turnovers (6.3 per game) are high but that's to be expected from a rookie point guard making his NBA debut. Indeed, it's indicative of nothing: All week the No. 1 pick in last month's draft has been a man among boys, a cliché, sure, but one that rings true when you break down Wall's game to individual plays. For instance, there are the coast-to-coast drives that take less time than most need to unlock their BlackBerry (four seconds are the unofficial average).
"The thing that makes him so dangerous is that he has different speeds," Wizards general manager Ernie Grunfeld said. "Go fast and go really fast. His speed and quickness are just off the charts."
There are also the hard penetrations that usually end with the ball softly settling through the net; and when they don't, the 6-foot-4, 195-pound Wall is usually there to clean it up. There are the bullet passes to unsuspecting teammates, who are surprised that a player so fast and powerful is looking in their direction when he goes to the rim.
"I love his competitiveness, his focus," Grunfeld said. "He's a real point guard. He picks up the intensity level of his teammates. He really gets after it."
Of course, there is room for improvement. There are the turnovers, which Wall and Wizards assistant and Summer League coach Sam Cassell have discussed at length this week. Wall is not a consistent enough shooter yet for teams to respect him beyond the three-point line (he's 0-for-5 from long range in the three games) and his defense needs work.
"[Playing] is a lot different than watching," Wall said. "You can't hand check certain ways. There are a lot of rules you have to get used to."
Those facets of his game will improve in time, and when they do, Wall and three-time All-Star guard Gilbert Arenas could form one of the most dynamic backcourts in the league.
A Yahoo! Sports report, citing a source, suggested that Arenas was bristling over Wall's becoming the face of the franchise. It's true that the Wizards have labeled Wall the "Game Changer" and engineered their marketing campaign around him. But Grunfeld dismissed the notion that Arenas, who is spending the summer in Chicago working with trainer Tim Grover, is upset about Wall's place in the organization. Wall said he talks with Arenas "one or two times a week" and that he hopes to work out with Arenas over the summer to develop the chemistry between them.
And if they do, look out.
The sale of the Warriors, for a record $450 million, to a group led by Joe Lacob and Peter Gruber has ramped up speculation that coach Don Nelson and general manager Larry Riley are on the way out. Lacob declined to comment to the Contra Costa Times about the futures of Nelson and Riley. Nelson told ESPN.com that he would like to stay and finish the final year of his contract.
Riley, in Las Vegas with the Warriors' Summer League team, said he also would like to remain but understands that sometimes change is the nature of the business.
"Twenty years ago, it would have kept me up at night and it would have been on my mind all the time," Riley said. "Fortunately for me, I've been so busy ever since this whole [ownership change] began that I haven't had time to really deal with it much, so that's a good thing."
"I think I have enough maturity to understand what you can control and what you can't, and you better work on the things that you can do something about. And that's the way I approach it. It's something that the decision will be made one way or the other on a lot of things in the franchise. There won't be much I can do about it. I will continue to do my job until I'm told otherwise."
The timing of the sale could work in his and Nelson's favor. The NBA isn't expected to vote to approve the new owners for several weeks. At that time, the incoming group could elect to keep Riley and Nelson and put off any changes until next summer.
Count Russell Westbrook among those happy to see Kevin Durant sign an extension with the Thunder.
"I think it's good for him, for his family and for our organization," Westbrook said.
But Westbrook, who is eligible for an extension after next season, wouldn't say if he was ready to make the same commitment to Oklahoma City.
"I'm not worried about it too much," he said. "Right now, all I'm thinking is about next year and trying to get better. I love Oklahoma City. I love the fans. I love what they have brought to us and we have brought to them."
In its seventh year, the Las Vegas Summer League is thriving. Attendance is up and teams from both conferences have quickly filled up the available slots. But with a lockout looming, the league could be forced to close its doors in the summer of 2011.
Warren LeGarie is hoping to prevent that. LeGarie, the high-profile agent who started the league, said he has explored the possibility of filling the slots next summer with teams from the NBA's D-League (which would not be affected by a lockout) and European national teams. LeGarie said he has talked to representatives from several national teams, all of which have expressed interest in playing in Las Vegas.
JaVale McGee, Wizards -- The 7-foot-1 center is averaging 16.3 points and 9.7 rebounds while showing an improved post game and good chemistry with Wall on the floor. McGee, 22, the 18th pick in 2008, packed on seven pounds in the offseason and, according to Grunfeld, grew another inch.
Derek Caracter, Lakers -- While there are some questions about Caracter's energy level -- more than one scout thought he gave up on some plays too quickly -- there is no denying his talent. Caracter, the 58th selection last month, is averaging 15.4 points and 8.6 rebounds, often overpowering opponents with his 6-foot-9, 275-pound frame.
DeMarcus Cousins, Kings -- The No. 5 pick is imposing, but what's really impressed onlookers has been his perimeter shooting. The 6-11 Cousins (18.3 points, league-high 11.3 rebounds in three games) torched fellow lottery pick Greg Monroe of the Pistons earlier in the week, and at least one coach believes his shot is efficient enough for him to play power forward.
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