NBA: Rising star John Wall puts on a solid show despite a slow start

Washington Wizards' John Wall celebrating during the third quarter in Game Four of the Eastern Conference semi-finals against the Boston Celtics.
Washington Wizards' John Wall celebrating during the third quarter in Game Four of the Eastern Conference semi-finals against the Boston Celtics.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

WASHINGTON • On Sunday, a line of fans formed in the Verizon Centre hallway near the entrance to the Washington Wizards' locker room. In the front stood Stephen Jackson, who played for eight teams over his 14-year National Basketball Association (NBA) career.

He never played for Washington, but there he was in a "DC" cap, a blue No. 2 Wizards jersey with a red one draped over his shoulder.

Next to him waited R&B singer and songwriter Marsha Ambrosius, who took a break from her own tour to catch her favourite player. For the big occasion, Ambrosius dressed her 31/2 -month-old baby, Nyla, in red, white and blue.

These well-known well-wishers came to see one man. And, for their sake, thankfully, John Wall showed up in Game Four.

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As the Wizards blew away the Boston Celtics 121-102 to tie the series 2-2, he sparked the team through a 26-0 run in the third quarter and finished with 27 points and 12 assists, extending his post-season stretch of 11 straight double-doubles.

Even more impressive: Wall continued his streak despite a slow start. He matched his previous career low in February 2012 of nine straight misses from the floor to start the game, then recovered by hitting seven of his final 14 shot attempts.

During this career-defining season in which he has grown as a big-shot maker and leader, his greatest leap as a rising superstar just might be in how he rises from the doldrums to become the most dominant player on the floor.

"Ah, that's nothing, man. Wall's a great player, man," Wizards forward Markieff Morris said of Wall's 0-for-9 beginning.

"He'll start zero for 20, he's still gonna get into it, he's still gonna have an effect on the game."

On Feb 1, 2012, when Wall started the game with nine straight misses for the first time in his career, he finished the game one for 12.

Last season, while he had firmly established himself as a perennial All-Star, he still had erratic shooting nights - 15 games in which he shot 30 per cent or below after attempting at least 11 field goals.

Even this year, he opened the season with a shooting dud, missing his first eight shots and finishing three of 15 overall in a Wizards' loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

However, he no longer allows a bad start to define his night. On Sunday, after drilling a three-pointer, Wall stared down someone near the Boston bench. Not even nine straight misses can mute Wall's bravado.

"I don't think it bothers him that he can't make the next one," Wizards coach Scott Brooks said.

"It bothers him that he didn't make them. He definitely doesn't want to go zero for nine."

Though his next shot missed, and he was one for 11 at that point, Wall made his next three attempts.

Then, as the Wizards romped through the third quarter and outscored Boston 42-20, Wall dropped five more assists and added 13 points.

Game Five is on Thursday (Singapore time) in Boston.

After the game, Wall, looking every bit the main attraction in a grey plaid three-piece suit, left out of the back exit of the locker room. He did not see his two biggest fans of the night, Jackson and Ambrosius, so they went to him.

Jackson sent two young children to pose with the well-dressed man. "What do you say to John?" Jackson asked after snapping the photo. "Thank you," the boys responded.

Ambrosius, who has earned multiple Grammy award nominations for her own work, may be a celebrity in her industry but seemed awestruck in the photo she posted on Instagram of Wall and her family.

They came to see a star on Sunday, and, though it took a while, Wall put on a show.

WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 10, 2017, with the headline 'Rising star Wall puts on a solid show despite a slow start'. Print Edition | Subscribe