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Wall taking his best shot for Wizards

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Sports,Craig Stouffer

Point guard's percentage from field improves in February

Every player who guards him dares him to shoot. To cover John Wall is to go under the screen.

In last week's loss to the New York Knicks, Wall was handed consecutive looks from the 3-point line in which he had enough time to hesitate, adjust for the wind and take in the collective apprehension of the crowd before launching. He missed badly both times.

But Wall's jumper is falling more than it ever has during his brief time in the NBA. Hitting from the field at a 45.2 percent clip over seven games so far in February, Wall is having the best shooting month of his sophomore season and the second best of his career, only a hair below the 45.4 percent he shot during April last season.

Up next
Wizards at Trail Blazers
When » Tuesday, 10 p.m.
Where » Rose Garden Arena,
Portland, Ore.
TV » CSN

"Hey, a jump shot is confidence," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. "Back in the day, I was known to be a shooter, but if I lost my confidence, I would struggle. It's no different with John."

Wittman finished his nine-year NBA playing career shooting 50 percent from the field. In his second and third seasons, both with the Atlanta Hawks, he shot 53 percent. Like Wall, the 3-pointer wasn't his specialty; during his entire time in the NBA, he attempted only 53 and connected on 17 (32.1 percent).

"It's about not getting down after you miss one or two," said Wall, who shot just 27.2 percent over three games in December as the Wizards (6-22) got off to a disastrous start. But repetition and work have begun to pay dividends while other parts of his game also have improved.

Even though he's capable, Wall (16.2 points, 7.4 assists, 5.0 rebounds per game) is no longer running at Mach speed every time down the court. He also has put a renewed emphasis on defense, where his impact was as important as his 31 points in last week's 111-108 overtime win against Toronto. Wall and Maurice Evans had a chat about what the Wizards could take from the Knicks after getting roasted by Jeremy Lin.

"He has the ability to attack the rim the same as Jeremy Lin, and people go under pick and rolls the same as they do with Jeremy Lin," Evans said. "So if we can space the floor and we have shooters just like they do, there are some lessons to be had."

Wall has been far from perfect. Even in matching his career high with 15 assists in Sunday's 98-77 blowout at Detroit -- the franchise's first road win by 20 points or more since December 2008 -- Wall had seven turnovers for the second consecutive game. But that comes with the tumultuous times that he's a part of with the Wizards, who will try for their first two-game winning streak of the season and first back-to-back road wins since March 2008 against the Trail Blazers (15-13).

"It's been a struggle, but as of late here, he's played with enthusiasm and renewed energy that he didn't have all the time," Wittman said. "I think he understands that he's got to come and be energized defensively, being able to pick up. That just makes other parts of his game go."

cstouffer@washingtonexaminer.com

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