WASHINGTON -- It's not often that one can sense the excitement in Randy Wittman's voice. One of the more mild- mannered coaches in the league, hearing Wittman break into a minutes-long gushing session gave just the latest indication that something special happened Monday night.
And yet, this is increasingly becoming the M.O. of one John Wall, ballin' until those around him are left mere spectators, fans trying to appreciate his talent.
"I think he’s showing you right now what he can be," Wittman said after the game.
In that 107-94 win over Memphis, it's difficult to describe exactly what Wall was, but it was spectacular. Wittman certainly tried his best, at times calling the point guard, "incredible," "patient" and "under control."
Without even looking at the highlights, the box score says enough. Forty-seven points on 23 shots. Twenty-four attempts from the charity stripe. Eight assists. Seven rebounds. Just two turnovers. LeBron James probably sat in his very large bed last night envious of that stat line.
For a player whose game was once defined by blazing speed and a degree of wildness that led to as many face palms as jaw drops, hearing such praise from the coach is an obvious sign of progress. Just weeks ago, it was easy to wonder exactly where Wall's ceiling laid, whether he was capable of carrying a franchise to greatness.
"He’s playing at a very high level. He understands why and the work he’s done and the kind of work he’s doing and it’s starting to pay off for him. And he’s seeing that," Witman said.
After what he did to the Grizzlies, discussion of his ceiling goes back into the attic. We're back to that magical place where our dreams could become his reality, where the Wizards could boast the most physically-dominating ball-handler this side of LeBron, a unique star capable of recognizing why great players are great and why winning teams win.
"When somebody has got it going like that, there is really nothing you can do. You just put a hand up and hope he misses," Grizzlies guard Mike Conley said.
In the final seconds of the game, Wall could have taken a three-pointer, which could have given him a delightfully-round 50 points for the game. Instead, he dribbled out the clock as fans chanted "MVP" in the background. For a player who recognized he's not quite at that level yet, getting better is the real priority.
"I’m just trying to come out here and play with the same confidence I’ve been playing with. My shot was going in, my teammates did a great job of getting me open and I was just getting fouls and getting to the free throw line," Wall said.
Over the first three years of his career, the discussion of Wall tended to veer towards the same place: If he could just hit some jump shots, there's nothing anybody -- even a great defense -- could do to stop him.
Nobody knew whether that was actually true, but watching him play, it always felt like a consistent jump shot would be the turning point in Wall's career. As far as his teammates can tell, that turning point occurred in the past few weeks.
"It was crazy. His jumper was falling. Usually he doesn’t take as many threes, those were falling, it was just his night," Chris Singleton said of Wall. "Crazy two, three weeks, right? Crazy. His shot completely changed. I guess the work in the summer paid off."
Singleton might have called the performance crazy (at least three times), but it never quite felt like anyone in the organization was surprised by what Wall did. This is just what he does now, helping his team win, delighting fans and getting better in every game.
For all the talk about Wall and max contracts, it always felt like the Wizards would be paying him for what he might become rather than what he currently is. After Monday, it's time to wonder just how great the difference between those two things is.
"It was a great performance. I was out there, but I was a fan," Emeka Okafor said.
We're all there with you on that one, Emeka.
-Amin Vafa contributed reporting