Point guard's minutes shrink as he flounders
SClBJohn Wall shifted the Wizards into forward gear when he finally made his way back from a stress injury in his left knee in January. But lately he has appeared resigned to watching the team pass him by as he has struggled offensively.
Wall was angry and frustrated and sulked his way through the Wizards' 90-84 loss to Detroit on Wednesday. He finished the night with six points, four assists and seven turnovers. His teammates, his coach and even his opponents have tried to remind him not to let bad games define him.
Pistons point guard Jose Calderon, for instance, took him aside after the loss.
|Knicks at Wizards|
|When » Friday, 7 p.m.|
|Where » Verizon Center|
|TV » CSN|
"[He told me] I'm a talented player and to just keep playing," Wall said. "Go forward with that."
Wall's demeanor didn't back up his words, but Wizards coach Randy Wittman said that's human nature.
"That's the thing you've got to watch and try to protect from," Wittman said. "That's why I want him to understand he can go 3-for-12 and still have a hell of an impact and we win the game, and it's because of some of the things he brought to the table."
Wall's speed and energy in his initial return brought the Wizards to life. But his recent erratic play has cost him minutes on an improved team with a tighter rotation. In the last five games, Wall is averaging 10.2 points on 29.6 percent shooting, 7.6 assists and 4.6 turnovers. In each of the last two, he has split time with backup A.J. Price. Wittman blamed his team's loss to the Pistons on complaints about playing time and selfishness during the game.
Wall's struggles come at a time when his eligibility for a contract extension this summer is just around the corner. Meanwhile, Bradley Beal (13.9 points per game) is now the team's leading scorer, Martell Webster (10.7 ppg) is third in the NBA in 3-point shooting (45.0 percent) and Trevor Ariza is playing his best basketball of the season, averaging 11.9 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.2 assists in February. Wittman wants Wall to share in the credit.
"He has a lot to do with that in how we play when he's on the floor," Wittman said. "I don't want him to lose sight of that. It can't just be a focus on shooting 30 percent over the last number of games."
Wall also isn't the first Wizards player to sink into a funk. Chris Singleton fought his way back into Wittman's good graces in February after sitting in 11 of 16 games in January. Trevor Booker and Kevin Seraphin have been in and out of the lineup. Jordan Crawford's behavior in reaction to a lesser role got him traded, but the Wizards certainly can't afford to take similar measures with the No. 1 pick in the 2010 draft.
"Just being the 'franchise player' for us, he's just got to go out there and play," Singleton said. "We see what he can do. You know you have a bad game, we still can come out with a win just by the other things that he does."