John Wall is finally a "superstar." For the first time since he has been under the direction of coach Randy Wittman, the fourth-year point guard has met his difficult-to-reach defensive expectations for at at least one game.
Wall literally almost scored off the charts after Saturday's 106-99 victory and has upped the stakes for himself in what he hopes will be an All-Star season, too.
"I told him he rated out the highest in our defensive ratings that we do every game for his career. I told him to laminate it, put it on his wall, take that home," Wittman said. "I said, 'You screwed up because you showed me you can do it.' It's been good. Sometimes with him it's a mind-set. Sometimes he just kind of -- and he doesn't mean to -- just floats. He gets into that thing of where his guy is not necessarily maybe doing the scoring so he just kind of floats around instead of that pressure. Even though that guy might not do the scoring, it's the pressure (that matters). He's up, the wings are up, the bigs are up denying the elbows. That is really crucial. So I've got to stay on him and continue to but it has gotten better."
Wall got a laugh talking about it after practice Sunday. The Wizards (12-13), who are on a three-game winning streak after erasing an 18-point deficit in Boston spear-headed by Wall's defense, will practice again Monday before having two days off for the holidays. They'll leave Thursday for Minneapolis, where they'll practice and play the Timberwolves on Friday (CSN+, 8 p.m. ET).
"He's got some grade chart. I had never been gotten above average. Today, I was superstar. I got 8.8. An 8.0 and above is superstar. I never got close like that so he gave me a sheet and made me stick it to my locker and say you can do this on a nightly basis," Wall said. "When you show him something, you got to stick to it. That's the toughest part. You got to do it every night now.
"Do you challenge people shots? Do you force people into bad shots? Do you force them to have turnovers? What did you do against them to make their job difficult that night? ... We have a board where we see did we take charges, how many deflections we got and what is your contest percentage because they want to see you contest a lot of shots.
"I show spurts of great defense at times but don't do it enough. For me to be the player I want to be and be a superstar, an All-Star in this league, you got to do both ends on a nightly basis. That's something I'm really focusing my mind on it, watching film on that more and doing a better job."
Added Wittman: "I've got to wake him up sometimes and say, 'You're backing off. Get up. Get up.' I sit down with him a lot individually and show him. He legitimately says, 'I don't realize I'm doing that.' That's what I mean by mind-set."