I never really lent much thought to the idea that John Wall had a poor reputation league-wide early in his career until Michael Lee's latest story in the Washington Post. In it, Lee quotes three Wizards who arrived this year -- Al Harrington, Marcin Gortat and Andre Miller -- all saying they had misgivings about Wall before being proven very wrong once they actually played with him.
This is Harrington's quote, for example:
"From the outside looking in, I thought John liked the lifestyle more than the game. That's just from me looking outside."
Gortat and Miller were less blunt, but each sort of said the said thing. But once all three got to see him up close, they realized how much Wall cares, how intelligent he is, how much he studies film, how much he takes care of his body ... all of those intangibles that we love to use with high-character stars.
One of two things could be true. It's possible Wall really was much more of a pro than those three vets believed from whatever they heard second-hand. It's easy to resort to faulty analysis when a team is losing, especially the way the Wizards were early in Wall's career. It's not like Wall played with the most ideal set of teammates, both on the court and off it.
But it's also possible that Wall realized he needed to be more of a pro, whatever that means, and matured. It's not like the idea of Wall not taking his profession seriously enough completely came out of nowhere. Wall didn't impress with Team USA when compared to some of his peers, his old coach called out his summer habits during his second year and it's not that hard to find pictures of Wall out on the town if you search carefully. Hell, in Lee's piece, Wall admitted he "came in young" and was "having fun, enjoying it." I didn't think too much of any of those stories, because what player that young in that situation is capable of carrying himself perfectly, but they were out there.
The truth is likely somewhere in the middle. Whatever negative perceptions the new Wizards had of Wall's professionalism probably weren't accurate, but Wall himself also likely grew up this year. Either way, Harrington, Miller and Gortat offered Wall some really high praise.