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John Wall circles big games on Wizards' 2015-16 schedule


John Wall circles big games on Wizards' 2015-16 schedule

Some version of "Circle the date on the calendar" will be uttered numerous times throughout the 2015-16 NBA season. Most likely by an announcer starting the early hype job for an upcoming matchup against an All-Star type player like LeBron James or Kevin Durant, or a title contender like the Clippers, Spurs or Hawks. Recently I said something similar to Wizards guard John Wall, but in question form. Sliding a copy of Washington's entire 2015-16 schedule in front of him, I asked the two-time All-Star to circle the games he's most looking forward to this season.

Standing on the set of various CSN shows, the point guard immediately grabbed a pen and used his renowned court vision to seek out those foes he's most excited to face on the court this season.

"I just like Cleveland," Wall stated. "Where is Cleveland at?"

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The Wizards and the reigning Eastern Conference champion Cavaliers meet four times this season. Wall quickly found and circled the two home matchups on Jan. 6 and Feb. 28, but didn't mark the two road games. Perhaps Wall disagrees with Drew Carey and doesn't believe Cleveland rocks. He does know the Eastern Conference chase runs through Northeast Ohio. "They're the team everybody wants to see. It's a big matchup against LeBron [James] and them," Wall said.

More circles followed. The regular season finale at Atlanta - "big game" pits Washington against a Hawks team that ended the Wizards' playoff dreams. Reigning NBA Champion Golden State's lone Verizon Center appearance received a mark "because of Steph [Curry]." That works because a battle between those All-Star point guards epitomizes must-see TV.

Wall then selected the lone road game on his personal hype list.

"I like [playing] the Clippers," Wall said of the one Los Angeles-based NBA team expected to actually compete for a title this season. (Sorry, Kobe Bryant).

The reasons for picking the Clippers extend beyond the challenge of facing fellow yet another All-Star point guard in Chris Paul. "I like playing at Staples Center a lot. I love playing in LA*. ...I love going to go up against the best point guards, but I love playing in LA."

[* This is reason number 382 why the Wizards were wise not letting Wall sniff free agency]

By the way, there is apparently a difference between Clippers and Lakers games at the Staples Center beyond Jack Nicholson: The lighting.

"That's why I love playing in the Staples Center when the Lakers play there," Wall said. "When the Clippers play, too bright."

Five of Washington's first seven games are against playoff teams from last season. This does not include Wednesday's season opener at Orlando. This certainly includes Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder visiting Verizon Center less than a week after Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs do the same. 

"It makes it fun," Wall said of the early tests. "You always want to get of to a great start, but when you get those tough, tough teams, you see how you are early on. If you take a loss, you take it early. You don't have to worry about it when you're trying to make that playoff push."

Nobody will be thinking about a potential playoff on Nov. 10.  In case you haven't heard, there is some interest locally with Kevin Durant. Something about the Prince George's County product becoming a free agent next summer and everyone in the DMV hoping he brings his talents to Chinatown.

Anyway, the game with the Thunder will be Washington's seventh of the season. The pre-game hype will be considerable, but Durant's one visit per year will also be out of the way. [Washington completes the season series Feb. 1 in OKC.] From Wall's perspective, that's a good thing.

"Yes, because that's going to be a hassle," Wall said, alluding to what will certain become a media frenzy for several days. "On a Tuesday night, that place is going to be rocking with him coming into town."

No need to remind all you Wizards fans about this matchup. Something tells me that like Wall, you've already got Durant's visit circled on your calendar.

MORE WIZARDS: Wizards get pleasant surprise from Martell Webster

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John Wall embracing role as assistant coach during injury rehab

John Wall embracing role as assistant coach during injury rehab

WASHINGTON -- John Wall has already made enough money during his basketball career to last a lifetime and his new supermax contract worth $170 million is just kicking in. When he is done playing in the NBA, he doesn't have to do anything at all if he doesn't want to.

But there is at least a small part of Wall that believes coaching could be in his future. He loves the game enough to not rule out the possibility.

This year will give him a taste of what being a coach is all about. While he rehabs his ruptured left Achilles, he will serve as an unofficial assistant to head coach Scott Brooks. Wall will be asked to break down film with players, advise on plays to run and help the team's young point guards in practice.

Wall isn't sure as of today whether he wants to coach when his playing days are over. But he may have an answer in just a few months.

"I think this year will tell me whether I can be a coach or not," Wall told NBC Sports Washington on the Wizards Talk podcast. 

"I think you have to have a lot of patience and you've gotta know how to interact with every player. Every player's attitudes and character and mood swings are totally different. I learned from when a coach tried to coach me when I was young and I wasn't the guy to coach."

Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard envisions Wall as an important part of the locker room, even when he isn't playing. Part of his role may include some tough conversations with players. As Sheppard says, Wall may be able to deliver some messages that resonate more from a peer than if they came from a coach. 

Wall knows he can help in that regard. He has long been a vocal presence for the Wizards and had to assume the role as a team leader at an early age. After coming in as the No. 1 overall pick, he was a franchise player from the time he was 19 years old.

Wall's personality may also lend itself to those duties. He is very honest, whether it be with teammates or the media. 

"I like to speak my mind," he said. "It's like my momma always told me, 'I'd rather you speak your mind and say what you want to say, but say it in a respectful manner and a respectful way.'"

Wall, in fact, has a detailed philosophy on being honest. He doesn't like to lie whether it's in a media setting, to teammates or in everyday life.

It's not quite a Jim Carrey in 'Liar, Liar' deal, but Wall sees no point in beating around the bush. If he has something to say to a teammate or the media, he will say it.

"I don't know how to not give you the truth," he said. "What I've learned is that when you lie, you've gotta remember that lie exactly the way you said it for the next 12 people you tell it to. So, why make it that tough?"

Wall is set to miss at least the first few months of the Wizards' 2019-20 season and he could be sidelined the entire year. He said he hopes to have a similar impact that Kristi Tolliver did with the Mystics this past season where she remained active as a veteran leader in the locker room despite not being able to help the team on the floor for weeks due to a knee injury.

Missing so much time due to injury is not the ideal situation for Wall, but he plans to make the most of it.

"It will make my game a lot smarter and better for when I come back," he said.


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After setbacks in rehab, John Wall is appreciating the little things in life

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After setbacks in rehab, John Wall is appreciating the little things in life

WASHINGTON -- John Wall has been all smiles in public when discussing his rehab from Achilles surgery. He has even remarked how smoothly this recovery has gone compared to others he's underwent in the past.

But his road back from a ruptured left Achilles has not been entirely free of obstacles. He revealed to NBC Sports Washington on the Wizards Talk podcast recently that he dealt with an infection that delayed him getting out of his walking boot.

That was already weeks after he first had surgery to remove bone spurs from his heel in January. He had a series of infections following that procedure, one of which helped doctors discover his Achilles had torn during a fall in his home.

Wall can admit now after the fact it was a difficult time for him.

"I've just put in a lot of hard work," he said. "For me to be where I'm at right now, with all the setbacks and infections and then finding out my Achilles was ruptured and then going through another infection, it was like 'man, when can I ever get past that point of just getting out of the boot and walking?'"

What made that last part particularly frustrating was where Wall makes his offseason home. He summers in Miami, a place notorious for its humidity.

"I was in Miami during the summertime in a boot. Like, man, I don't want to be in hot Miami in a boot, sweating," he said.

Nowadays, things are much better for Wall. He is doing on-court work at the Wizards' practice facility. He can shoot jumpers and do individual ball-handling and passing drills. He can jog and lift weights.

After months of waiting to just have his walking boot come off, Wall is very appreciative to simply be able to do anything on the basketball court.

"Just to do the ball-handling and be able to shoot and do the weight-lifting, that's a great aspect [of my progress]. It makes it easier for me because I'm in a great space where it's fun," he said. 

"I'm able to do what I'm able to do, even if I'm not playing at a high speed and running up and down, I'm able to shoot and do ball-handling. That's what I love to do."

Wall continues to make progress, now nine months removed from the Achilles surgery he had on Feb. 12. He is likely to be out at least three more months, and he could miss all of the 2019-20 season.

At some point, Wall may get restless, but he continues to preach patience towards his return. When asked by Chris Miller if he will start bothering the coaches soon to play, he said he's just happy to be back on the court in practice.