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John Wall may not be a critical success, but he's playing a crucial role for Wizards

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Sports,NBA,Wizards,Craig Stouffer

Point guard ignores his doubters

John Wall played on a losing side for the first time in nine games Wednesday at Sacramento. Not only had the Wizards (7-29) won in his first two games back after he missed the opening 33 of the season, he also had been a part of six straight victories in April to end last season.

But despite his first double-double (14 points, 10 assists) of the new year in 26 minutes against the Kings, there is already criticism.

ESPN.com's Chris Broussard had unnamed NBA executives and two scouts take Wall to task Thursday, with one of them saying, "He's not a shooter. He's not leader. He's not a guy you can build a team around."

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Wizards at Nuggets
When » Friday, 9 p.m.
Where » Pepsi Center, Denver
TV » CSN

Wall's return to action has produced little besides evidence to the contrary.

"We know what we've been missing," forward Martell Webster said following Washington's blowout defeat of Orlando on Monday. "We know what he brings. That's why he's the franchise of this team. To have him back, just his presence alone, can get us wins. If we continue to play the right way with him being the maestro, it's going to be a fun year."

Against the Kings, Washington registered a season-high 32 assists for the second straight game and shot better than 45 percent from the field for the third game in a row, the first time they have done so all season.

Through three games with Wall, rookie Bradley Beal is averaging 19.7 points per game, shooting 55.0 percent from the field and 72.7 percent from 3-point range. He made six of seven attempts from the arc against the Kings en route to a career-high 26 points.

Wall's transition drive into the lane and kick out to Beal on the left wing in the fourth quarter may have been his best pass so far, matched a short time later by his narrowly threaded bounce delivery to Nene in a halfcourt set.

"That's what John can do, quick burst of penetration, which draws a lot people sometimes," Wizards coach Randy Wittman told reporters after the Kings game. "We'll take an open shot from [Beal] anytime like that instead of a play."

Wall did miss a pair of free throws down the stretch, and he has missed both of his two 3-point attempts, but he's shooting 41.2 percent from the field, on par with his first two NBA seasons. While he has played a grand total of 67 minutes, his player efficiency rating (24.54) is third among NBA point guards behind Houston's Patrick Beverley (35.16 in 15 minutes over two games) and Chris Paul (26.61 through 37 games).

Before he returned to the court for the first time Jan. 12, Wall said he had extra motivation from having to sit out longer than was expected. Those who spent that time doubting whether he still has the abilities that made Washington select him No. 1 overall in 2010 just fuel the fire.

"I'm used to that anyway," Wall said last week. "I feel like ever since I been drafted, ever since I got drafted, I've been under the shelf, so I'm not worried about none of that. I'm just happy I'm getting the opportunity to play basketball again. I'm not really focused on what anybody is saying or what anybody think about my future or my career."

cstouffer@washingtonexaminer.com

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