John Wall is still pretty good. It’s okay to have forgotten.
Those are highlights from the 40-point, 14-assist show Wall put on last night, as his Wizards flattened a tired, road-fried Lakers team in D.C., but you could be forgiven for thinking it was a video from 2014. He aired out the entire suite of depressingly vintage John Wall delights against LeBron’s guys: Attacking like crazy off defensive rebounds, putting relentless pressure on L.A.’s heavy-footed transition defense; dusting defenders off the dribble in the half-court and finishing through contact at the rim; whipping hard, accurate, and impishly fun passes to cutters and open shooters; and defending, by God, at last, playing some defense, any defense.
He did this:
But much more stirringly for this hopeless Wizards homer, he also did this:
I am happy to grant that this should have been a foul. In fact I think I would have liked it more if the referee had whistled it, as he clearly should have. This is the type of shit John Wall used to do in, like, 2010, when the most endearing difference between him and atrocious incumbent Wizards like Nick Young and Andray Blatche, what made him so easy to root for and such a compelling repository for hope that the team might not always be embarrassing, was that he was that rare blue-chip dude who would race back and clobber some hapless opposing player over a random, meaningless mid-game transition layup, rather than suffer the horror of letting something good happen for the other team. After a while, he figured out how to time these so that they were clean and spectacular chase-down blocks instead of gruesome fouls, which is good, and more recently he just kinda stopped running back on defense at all, which is really not good at all. Even if it’s a flagrant-2 and an ejection, I will take the John Wall who would rather truck-stick Lonzo Ball into the club level than let him bank in an uncontested second-quarter layup, if I could have him, if he would come back.
Because he’s a Wizard and the Wizards are the Wizards, naturally Wall’s and the team’s best performance of the season, by far, came under special and certainly mitigating circumstances. The Lakers were exhausted, for one thing; they’d played in Charlotte the night before and were leaving jumpshots to bang off the front of the rim long before the first TV timeout in last night’s game. For another thing, they’re LeBron and the Lakers; few things could be more dismally on-brand for the Wizards than revving themselves up to a transient impersonation of world-beaters when hosting a somnambulant western contender, then going straight back into the toilet. (Four of their next five games are on the road, by the way, in case you let last night’s result make you feel good.)
Moreover, the game followed right behind news that the Wizards would be trading away Kelly Oubre Jr. and Austin Rivers, two big (crappy) parts of the team’s (crappy) rotation, but before the (crappy?) guy they’re getting back in the trade, Trevor Ariza, has arrived. Were they, like, motivated to prove some point? Was Wall auditioning for the Lakers, who briefly last week were rumored to be considering sending off some of their young punks in exchange for him? Do we now know which players were responsible for irradiating the team’s locker room? Probably observers of a functional basketball organization do not have to wonder this type of stuff when that team plays well and wins big; for fans of a functional basketball organization, it’d be enough just to be glad stuff clicked for one fun night against the sport’s biggest star. Wizards fans can only guess that’s what that’s like.
In any event: Last night’s big honking win predicts nothing new, particularly because it’s the Wizards, who earned their team name thanks to their magical ability to transfigure feelings of optimism into shame and the smell of overcooked egg yolks. John Wall can still play when he wants to, nothing means anything, and this blog is over.