Steve Luhm: Attention? John Wall not getting enough in Washington
It hasn't been an easy season for John Wall, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft.
His team, the Washington Wizards, lost their first eight games, and his coach, Flip Saunders, was fired after a 2-15 start.
Wall's statistics 17 points, eight assists and five rebounds per game support the notion he is already one of the best point guards in the NBA.
But in the year of Jeremy Lin, Ricky Rubio and Kyrie Irving, has anybody out there noticed?
Lin, in particular, has captured the imagination of the basketball world with a spectacular two-week run with the Knicks. An Asian-American. A Harvard graduate. A refugee from the D-League. A player who's been cut more than a bad boxer. Yet, Lin has become a folk hero in New York in less time than it takes to drive across town.
In Washington, meanwhile, Wall continues to play, produce and get surprisingly little attention. Not that he's worried about it.
"In my mind-set," Wall says, "I know what I worked on this summer, and I know what I can do on the basketball court. All I can do is keep playing."
An eye-opening reminder that Wall's game is greater than this year's reaction to it occurred last week when Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal picked sides for the upcoming Rising Stars Challenge at All-Star Weekend.
NBA assistant coaches chose 18 first- and second-year players for a "draft" pool. (Lin and Miami's Norris Cole were added later as a concession to "Linsanity").
While Barkley and O'Neal will never be mistaken for Red Auerbach for their ability to evaluate players, the fact Wall was the 12th player taken in the Rising Star draft was shocking.
"It's a joke to me," Wall said. "But you've got to play basketball. I'm more focused on the season than I am about that. â¦
"If they think there are 11 guys better than me, then that's their decision. All I can do is go out there and play the way I know how."
The Wizards' new coach, Randy Wittman, seemed amused after Barkley and O'Neal overlooked his best player, asking, "Who picked the teams again?"
According to Wittman, the only validation Wall needed was to be picked to play in the game by the assistant coaches.
Asked if Wall is somehow being overlooked or undervalued this season, Wittman said, "I don't have any concerns about that and I don't think John does, either. John knows who he is."
After an admittedly slow start to the lockout-shortened season, Wall has averaged 19 points, nine assists and 6.5 rebounds over the past 20 games.
Against Houston on Jan. 16, he finished with a Magic Johnson-like line of 38 points, eight assists, six rebounds and four steals.
Wall finished fifth in the Eastern Conference All-Star voting for guards a testimony to his ability despite the Wizards' dreary season.
"You make All-Stars by having a good record," he said. "Some guys don't because their team doesn't have a good record. I thought they could have made it but didn't."
Next year, maybe.
If Barkley and Shaq aren't picking the teams.