- And without fail, the Los Angeles Lakers can’t seem to get it right, on or off the court. SheridanHoops’ Moke Hamilton has the latest on the Dwight/Kobe/Lakers saga in this terrific read: “With Pau Gasol sidelined indefinitely, the spotlight now shines on Dwight Howard. Brightly. With his broad shoulders and still-recovering back, Howard will have to channel his inner superhero, torn right labrum and all. Once upon a time for Kobe Bryant’s Lakers, winning six out of seven games was the norm. But today, even a win over the lowly Detroit Pistons is worth celebrating.”
The Washington Wizards are no longer the pushover they were at the start of the season.
And they have John Wall to thank for that.
Wall missed the first 33 games of the season with a stress injury to his left knee and watched from the sideline as his Wizards were the last team to win a game and turned in an insufferable 5-28 record.
Since the former No. 1 overall pick returned to the lineup, the Wizards have been much better. They are 8-7, with wins over the Hawks, Nuggets, Bulls, Clippers and Knicks.
It doesn’t scream contender, but it does clearly say improvement.
The immediate turnaround has been nothing short of a surprise for the Wizards. While nobody questioned Wall’s upside coming into the league, his enigmatic play over his first two years have led many to question his potential as the centerpiece of a winning franchise.
Wall’s reputation to date has been almost equal parts dazzling and exasperating, but mostly erratic. His only consistency has been his inconsistency, especially on the offensive end.
But now, the Wizards have rid the roster of Andray Blatche, JaVale McGee and Nick Young – players who frequently exhibited immaturity – and replaced them with tenured NBA veterans.
It’s a start.
Since returning to the lineup, Wall has started to discover his identity as an NBA point guard: playmaker.
It all came to fruition Wednesday night in a 106-96 victory over the Knicks with Magic Johnson and his former coach at Kentucky, John Calipari, in attendance.
After blocking Carmelo Anthony from behind – with authority – Wall whizzed upcourt with his two-steps-from-halfcourt-to-basket speed, spun around Hall of Fame guard Jason Kidd and scooped in the double-clutch layup.
Because of Wall’s rocky career thus far, it’s going to take some time to impress the masses, but he’s off to a good start. And Magic Johnson noticed something familiar.
“I was just telling Ted (Wizards owner Ted Leonsis), ‘You know what’s funny: I was in the same position as John,’ ” Johnson said. “I could get in there, I could run the fast break but they used to double off of me. So I decided to just work on my shot. He’s got to put the work in and once he does that, it becomes automatic.”
Wall has heeded the advice of the Hall of Fame mogul. According to Michael Lee of the Washington Post, Wall dedicated his offseason to improving his jumper, ironically working with Knicks shooting coach Dave Hopla.