Guard is in the middle of best stretch of career
If there's proof that the John Wall effect extends beyond his presence on the court, look no further than the one player he hasn't shared any minutes with in his first two games.
A.J. Price hasn't just played his best two games of the season in consecutive victories since Wall returned, part of a three-game winning streak the Wizards (7-28) carry into Sacramento (14-24) on Wednesday. It's arguably the best stretch of the fourth-year point guard's career.
With a season-high 18 points and six assists in Monday's 120-91 pounding of Orlando, Price has finished with at least 16 points and three assists in back-to-back games for the first time in his career. He had had that many points and assists in the same game only twice in his first three NBA seasons.
|Wizards at Kings|
|When » Wednesday, 10 p.m.|
|Where » Sleep Train Arena,|
|TV » CSN|
Price only has been back in action for three games after missing 15 with a fractured right hand and still isn't quite 100 percent. But he isn't surprised about the Wizards' resurgence.
"I know what we did early in the year, all the work we put in at training camp and how well we looked during that time," Price said. "I just feel like it's just starting to transition finally for us from practice to the game."
Price struggled early in the role he was forced to assume when Wall was shelved in September, losing his starting job for two games after the Wizards' 0-9 start. After two more defeats, Price got it back, and he had 14 points in Washington's upset win over Miami on Dec. 4. He then went down four days later when he tried to poke a defensive rebound away from Golden State's Harrison Barnes.
A month later, Price is a different player. He spearheaded crucial third-quarter runs against both Atlanta and Orlando while shooting a combined 11-for-21 (52.4 percent) from the field. In his first start back against the Hawks, Price had four points and an assist in a 10-2 run right after halftime. Against the Magic, he scored eight of the Wizards' first 14 points following a late second-quarter collapse in which their 19-point lead was trimmed to six. After his 3-pointer made it 73-62, the Magic never got within single digits again.
In each game, Price then handed off the reins with a working margin that has allowed the Wizards to build momentum down the stretch instead of having to fight back. It has enabled Wall, who is still working his way back to full fitness, to let the game come to him rather than forcing the action.
"I think we're just doing a better job," Wall said. "... I don't have to overpenetrate, overdo too much because I have a lot of shooters out there, big men that can pick and pop. Me and A.J. are just doing a good job of running the team."
After starting 17 of 20 games, Price knows he will have to relinquish his starting role once Wall comes off of his minutes restriction. It won't necessarily make his life any easier. He has had a front row seat since Wall started practicing again and knew first-hand what kind of impact Wall's return could have.
"Me personally, I could expect it," Price said, "because I've been guarding him in practice."