We marvel at the attention brought upon LeBron James in the past two weeks and especially following last Thursday night, but the seeds of NBA star hyper-attention are sowed in more than just the top rung. Nowhere is this more evident this week than in Las Vegas, where at NBA Summer League Sunday night, John Wall made his professional preseason debut with the Washington Wizards. Media attention was in a frenzy, the gaggle three times as big as it was for any other player. Wall wanted the attention and spotlight that comes with a #1 overall pick, he's got it.
And his game? Lots to discuss , both ways. 28 points, 8 assists... and 8 turnovers. Wall was overly excited, nervous, and it showed. He pushed the ball too much and occasionally whipped passes to no one in particular. He also had his jumper going, which had been a major concern for him in pre-draft talks. The release was sharp and on-target, his follow-through right. He had strong passes to teammates and ran the offense, including several alley-oops to JaVale McGee. It was a good debut, with some things to work on.
But the most important part of the night? The most impressive thing Wall did had nothing to do with ball-handling, shot-release, vision, athelticism, or speed (but Lord Almighty, is he fast). It was something outlined by Wizards blog Truth About It's Kyle Weidie today :
He wasn’t just vocal on both ends of the floor in his Summer League debut, an 84-79 Wizards win over the Warriors, he was loud. If his teammates don’t hear his instruction, it’s not his fault. They aren’t paying attention. And he doesn’t just use his vocal chords, pointing to talk is just as much a part of Wall’s game as that extra gear of speed he has over all others on the court.
Want more talking and leadership? When out of the game, Wall placed himself toward the front of the bench, talking with assistant coach Ryan Saunders, talking to his teammates, yelling out instruction toward the floor. Over the course of the game, you’re looking at 30 minutes if you total the amount of time Wall spent talking with Sam Cassell, who is heading the Summer League coaching staff for the Wizards. Okay, that might be an exaggeration, but you get the point, Sam I Am is always in Wall’s ear and Wall is always listening.
That's exactly what you want out of your #1 overall pick. Focused intensity, determined leadership, and coachability. Wall is already showing a lot of what the Wizards need, what they've needed for years. The predictable next question?
How's Gilbert Arenas going to react to this rookie taking charge?
But there's time for that. For now, everyone can watch what is looking like a phenomenal prospect already hitting the ground running. His passes aren't always on target, but his focus is. The ability is there. The drive is there. All that's needed now is time.