It took a while for John Wall to calm the obvious nerves he had entering tonight's game against the Warriors. His very first play ended in a turnover. His first jump shot bricked high off the backboard and ricocheted out to the three-point line. Not exactly the most impressive first four minutes by any stretch.
Sam Cassell noticed the nerves too. The Wizards' assistant coach didn't lie, basically admitting to reporters that Wall was a bit overwhelmed at the start. In response, Cassell kept checking in with Wall at nearly every dead ball, staying in his ear and just making sure Wall was calm.
"[I told him to] relax," Cassell said. "In the second quarter, he relaxed and just played basketball. He understood that the game doesn't change. The competition gets better, but the game doesn't really change."
Wall eventually did relax, and once he did, his game arrived. He scored 24 points and had eight assists, showcasing both his spectacular athleticism in the open floor and his much-improved mid-range jump shot. He also was a constant pest defensively and was able to set up many of his teammates - most notably JaVale McGee - for some easy shots.
"When you consider everything - the atmosphere, the first game - to come out and play like he did [was great]," Flip Saunders said afterwards. "I thought he settled down a lot more in the second half and made some good instinctive plays."
- JaVale McGee had a great line tonight, scoring 21 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. He still was caught out of position a lot, especially early on, but he also was incredibly active on both ends of the floor. Sure, Wall set him up with some nice easy lobs, but McGee was also doing a great job of rolling down the lane and making himself available. Getting all those dunks also really energized him, especially late in the game. All in all, he played well.
- Trevor Booker struggled a lot early on trying to find his niche. I think he wasn't quite sure whether to play more inside or hang on the perimeter. However, he got it going a lot more in the fourth quarter and finished with a respectable eight points and seven rebounds. He also had a vicious swat in the fourth quarter that had press row buzzing.
- Along those lines, I'm hoping to see the Wizards run more sets with McGee in the high post and Booker in the low post. They did it a little early on, but went away from it. With Booker's ability to finish inside, I think it'd be a good way to use his skills.
- I sat down with Cartier Martin after the game, so I'll talk more about him later. In general, I liked his effort, though his shot wasn't on today. Neither he nor Cassell would admit it, but I think the Wizards are really taking a close look at him at small forward. They both know.
- Hamady Ndiaye also impressed me today, particularly with his defense. I figured he'd be little more than a long shotblocker like JaVale, but he's really much more than that. He's got really quick feet, always knows where he needs to be defensively and is always talking to people making sure they're in the right spots. He played only eight and a half minutes for some reason, but I don't think I saw one defensive mistake out of him.
- The only so-so part tonight was how the Wizards defended Reggie Williams, who went off for 34 points. To be fair, Williams deserves a ton of credit, and he's rapidly emerging into a young guy we should watch. But the Wizards also allowed him to go left too often and left him open in transition for too many threes.
- I know you guys probably don't care, but the press scrum around Wall was insane. It was so big that I probably wasn't able to get as much of his voice onto my recorder as I would have liked. My bad folks.