Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
John Wall had a bad game against the Raptors, but of greater concern is his propensity to get frustrated when things aren't going his way. Hopefully, that's the lesson he learns from Monday's performance.
"I'll burn it and look forward to the next one."
Indeed, it was the type of performance one probably wants to forget. One could fault Wall for his point of view, because surely there are some tendencies that he can see on video that he can use for the next game.
But in another way, it might be good for Wall to move on and not dwell on his failures. Why? In many ways, that's his problem.
"It's really mental with John. John wants to play well every game. He always tells me, 'You're not going to play well every game,'" Bradley Beal said after the game. "Sometimes, the advice he gives me, I wish he'd take his own advice."
Beal was speaking as a friend, one that understands the problem Wall had Monday. Earlier in the season, the 19-year old rookie from Florida wasn't scoring, and he was letting it affect his confidence. It was only when Beal learned to play instinctually that he began to show the promise that made the Wizards want to take him at No. 3 overall in the 2012 NBA Draft.
Now, Beal is in the awkward position of being the teammate that needs to pick Wall up.
"You hate playing bad. If you're not playing well, the first thing you're going to do is think, 'Oh man, I'm not playing good.' It affects your mind. It affects your play on both ends of the floor. I think as a team and as an individual, you have to be mentally tough to say, 'OK, what else can I do to impact the game,'" Beal said.
"I think that's what I learned early [in the season], and we have to do the same thing. When I have bad games, I get frustrated, but I don't play like it. If I'm not playing shots, I'm going to play good defense. There's always things you can do when, sometimes, things don't go your way. A few guys didn't do that tonight."
Wall's problem is the opposite of Beal's -- Wall tends to get frustrated and try to do too much, whereas Beal used to get timid and not assert himself enough -- but the fix is similar. Randy Wittman noticed Wall and several teammates exhibit the same emotion.
"Our guys sometimes, not just John, bleed into, 'Oh, woe is me,'" Wittman said. "They just need to stay with it. I told our guys, 'you look up, and you're down five, you're down four, you're down six.' We were playing like crap leading up to it, but you've got to stay with it. It can turn like that. But I don't think we always give ourselves a chance to let it turn when it goes bad as individuals. You've got to stay in it. You never know when it can turn."
When Wall gets frustrated, he overpenetrates. During the fourth quarter, he embarked on mad dashes to the rim, only to flail once he got there without any idea how to handle Toronto's big men. On one defensive possession, he tried to pin Kyle Lowry on the baseline, but overplayed and ushered Lowry right to the rim. He was trying too hard, hoping to fix three quarters of bad play on every single play. In the end, he just made life more difficult.
This is always the difficult balance with Wall. Martell Webster did make a fair point: you don't want to stifle Wall's competitive instincts too much.
"How do you get 'too into' the game?" Webster asked rhetorically. "If you're not beating up anybody, then I don't call it getting 'too into' the game. I don't see anything wrong with that."
But competitiveness needs to be channeled correctly, particularly when adversity strikes. More than game tape or defensive coverages, that's the lesson Wall should take from Monday's disastrous performance.
"John's going to be fine," Beal said. "He had a tough night. I've had tough nights. Everybody's had tough nights. He's got to stick with it and make sure he's mentally tough. Do other things to impact the game. I think he played pretty good defense and did things well. He has to realize that he's still making an impact, if he's scoring or not.