Wake-up call: Dunk contest could increase Wall's profile, but caution

Wake-up call: Dunk contest could increase Wall's profile, but caution
January 31, 2014, 6:00 am
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The plate for John Wall is already full with trying to lead the Wizards through a crucial five-game stretch at Verizon Center against three of the league's best road teams, but he has some decisions to make about NBA All-Star Weekend which isn't far away.

In addition to being selected as an Eastern Conference reserve by coaches Thursday to play in the Feb. 16 game at New Orleans Arena, Wall told me via phone that the league has extended him an invitation to participate in the Slam-Dunk Contest and and Skills Competition that will take place the night before. 

His response: "Yes, both. I'll make decisions (Friday) or sometime next week. They have asked me. I'm not sure. I don't know what I'll do yet. I'm shocked after the news I got tonight so I can't even tell you."

So what should he do? On one hand, Wall -- and the franchise -- could benefit from the positive attention. He has been largely overlooked for a No. 1 overall pick in 2010. His team has never won more than 29 games. Last week, Wall was passed over by USA Basketball to compete in the 28-player pool for a spot on the 2014 World Championship and 2016 Olympic teams. 

RELATED: [Wall throws down acrobatic 360-degree dunk vs. Lakers]

If he shines in the dunk contest, it could lead to bigger endorsements and more mainstream recognition for Wall. Even though the contest has been sub-par for a while because of the lack of true star power, Blake Griffin revived it momentarily in 2011 and still is doing national commercials for Kia. But Griffin also is on an elite Western Conference team in the Los Angeles Clippers who will qualify for the playoffs for the third consecutive season. 

Star players are hesitant to participate because they could bomb and they're afraid of embarrassment. Plus, they don't have as much time to practice. What ends up happening is a lot of no-namers, such as Jeremy Evans of the Utah Jazz who won the competition in 2012, seize the spotlight. A little-used bench player such as Evans, who isn't a team leader or carrying the burden of a franchise, has more time to prepare.  

The dunk contest could take focus away from Wall's primary goal of getting the Wizards (22-23) to the playoffs and over .500 for the first time in six years. But more importantly, for a player who had a stress injury in his left knee that delayed his start to the 2012-13 season, is all that extra pounding worth the risk? The skills competition isn't as high profile, but it would be easier on his body.

Then there's also this: All-Star MVP. Get the East a victory and shine and that takes care of everything. After all, these exhibitions are open-court showcases for perimeter players -- not bigs -- and play to Wall's greatest strengths. No extra risk is involved.

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