Revenge can be a game-changing emotion. It’s what’s now largely powering John Wall’s best career start and has the Washington Wizards on track to capture the franchise’s best record since the days when Wes Unseld was hurling full-court dimes to Elvin Hayes.
And the always candid All-Star point guard has been as open in expressing his feelings about his newfound motivations as he has been in imposing his will against a growing bevy of overmatched point guards.
After landing at No. 31 on Sports Illustrated’s preseason player rankings list, Wall instantly tweeted “No. 31? More motivation. Love it.”
A far deeper and basically irrefutable measure of adulation can now be felt among those of Wizards’ Nation based on the alluring and mesmerizing way in which the fifth-year veteran guard has led the Eastern Conference front-runners thus far this season. Through 31 games, the 24-year-old Wall is tied with New Orleans’ Anthony Davis and Orlando’s Nikola Vucevic for league supremacy in double-doubles with 18.
So consistently dominant has Wall’s overall play been, he’s taken to further distinguishing himself by targeting and initiating mano a mano battles with some of the league’s other elites. He recently told reporters he considers fellow Eastern Conference star guards and likewise former No. 1 overall draft picks Derrick Rose and Kyrie Irving as career long rivals and thus forever sources of added motivation.
“I think between me, [Irving] and Derrick, we’re always going to be rivals, in my opinion,” Wall recently told ESPN. “I think it’s going to be a battle for a long time, I mean as long as everybody is healthy and playing. That’s what everybody is going to want to see.”
But as much as any of their aforementioned similarities, it’s Wall’s perception of what the other two have that he has always been denied that have placed them squarely in his crosshairs. Both Rose and Irving have been NBA MVPs of some sort and starred on the Team USA gold medal winning FIBA World Cup Team last summer while Wall was among the first sent packing during trial sessions.
In the immediate aftermath, Wall complained about not being given a “fair shot” to make the squad and the deck being stacked against him in that Irving’s one-time coach and Rose’s current coach being the ones making the final determinations. But to his credit, since then John Wall has focused more on getting even than remaining angry.
The ever versatile PG also leads the league in assists (10.3) and is third in steals (2.10). But far more than any of the numbers could tell you, Wall leads the league in what he perceives as being grossly undervalued. And that’s part of what’s made for such a new and valuable player for the Wizards.
“I remember all that stuff,” Wall said of all his oversights. “I still remember where people ranked me and all of that. I look at it, I see it, but that’s just more motivation for me.”
And now the Wizards stand as the beneficiaries of all Wall’s growing contempt. And the rest of the league’s point guards are left to feel the wrath of his fury.