The Wizards (7-25) may be happy to be back in Washington after a five-game road trip over the last week and a half, but what will make them happier is the four days off they’ll get after facing the Sacramento Kings (10-22) on tonight.
One team will end its latest losing streak – the Wizards sit at three in a row, while the Kings, who lost in Miami last night, 120-108, at six – but that’s just a bit of work that stands in the way of a chance for former Kentucky teammates John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins to hang out together, commiserate over the growing pains both have endured in the last two years, and join up as part of Team Chuck for the Rising Stars Challenge during All-Star Weekend in Orlando.
“It’s always good playing with him,” Wall said. “Last year it was me, him and [Los Angeles Clippers guard] Eric [Bledsoe] again so we kind of gave the ball to each other, forget everybody else. That’s how it goes sometimes. It’s great to have a low post presence like that, somebody that you can pass it to that can finish either way, making jump shots or being a presence on the blocks. It’s fun just to have a great weekend with each other, a time to take a break from the season and have fun for a couple days and get back to the schedule after that.”
It’s a telling comment, one that offers a hint of the Wizards’ frontcourt struggles all season as well as the importance of the friends that Wall has leaned on during his year and a half in the NBA. Don’t be surprised to see Wall and Cousins hook up in the Rising Stars game as Wall sets out to prove that getting picked 12th in the player draft for the glorified pickup game was a mistake. It’s likely one of the topics of his regular conversations with Cousins.
“We talk just about every other day,” Wall said. “If it’s not every day, it’s every other day, and we just wish each other keep getting better and doing the best they can. He’s having a great start to February, averaging 20 points and almost 12 rebounds. He’s a load on the low post. He’s tough to guard and he can pass at the same time. We both went through tough times losing a coach, but you just gotta mature, and that’s a part the business side of the NBA, just keep working on your game and try to help your team win.”
Cousins was off last night in Miami, with nine points and seven rebounds, but has played much better since his feud with former Kings coach Paul Westphal helped the latter lose his job. With Keith Smart as his replacement, both Cousins and Wall now play for former Indiana Hoosiers.
Wizards coach Randy Wittman was asked about Wall’s progress during shootaround this morning.
“He’s learning how we want to play, the pace that we want to play at,” Wittman said. “I thought the last two games we didn’t have the pace, but he’s getting an understanding of how we have to play and how he has to play.”
Averaging 17.8 points, 8.3 assists and shooting 48 percent from the field in February, Wall is playing his best basketball of the year even as the Wizards combat a lengthy list of familiar struggles with half of the season still remaining. When the frustration mounts, he’s got his Wildcats teammates to help him get through it.
“It makes it a lot easier,” Wall said. “It’s tough for Eric, Eric been hurt most of the year, he didn’t lose a coach. But we still all talk and see what each other’s doing or you can tell when you look at each other’s face when something ain’t going right. We ask each other. We joke about it. Somebody say they not made or they not upset, but we know the real side to the story.”