There’s always a collected demeanor to John Wall when interacting with the media. His posture is generally monotonous and the shifts in his facial expression are minimal regardless of whatever emotions he’s feeling. We notice that in any outlet he’s presented in, whether it’s a post-game interview or a 20-minute chill sesh with Bill Simmons, Wall usually evades any display of charisma and is about as no-bullshit as it gets when it comes to sharing his thoughts.
The Wizards have been reincarnated, progressively becoming a team of mild relevance and partial contention by way of a painful retooling process. For four years now, Wall has been at the helm of this movement and for the first time in his pro career, he’s finally reaping some its successes. As a first time contender in the playoffs, the speculation of whether John is mentally and emotionally ready for the moment, along with questions regarding his aptness as a leader are natural, and expected.
Thankfully, John usually feels and says the right things. He continually shows his understanding of the position he’s been appointed to and realizes the expectations that come with it. This should illustrate the way he’s handling the pressures of the impending postseason monster and as a postseason noob, his steadily cool approach will seemingly pay long-term dividends. Of course, these observations are sourced only from what’s seen and heard from him in the locker room. I mean, for all I know John may act the entire opposite in private, pacing restlessly around his house at wee hours of the night, chewing his nails to the cuticle in front of a wall collaged with leaked snapshots of Kyle Lowry, Joakim Noah and LeBron James. But last I noticed, his fingertips seemed fine.
After the big win over Miami, John was cornered by some reporters and was asked several questions regarding his frame of mind heading into the playoffs.
“I’m going off what the veterans tell me, I’ve never been in this situation before and I’m happy and excited to be here but at the same time, you can’t get too anxious and try to do too much and do certain things. You gotta make sure you’re playing the right, getting your teammates involved and just keep running your ball club the same way you’ve been doing all season.”
Wall is also a man of education, via peer review.
“I went to watch Chris Paul and Mike Conley go at it the last two years. I know what to expect and how it’s going to be, but it’s totally different when you are out there on the court for the first time instead of watching it from the stands.”
Branching off that response, Wall was asked how he expects to overcome the jitters when he is actually out there on the court:
“When you touch the ball. The first time you touch the ball, whenever you are playing basketball, you are nervous for every game, but when the ball touches your hand you cool out and know you’ll be all right. I’m not nervous as much.”
Those words hold a lot of weight, especially when they’re all you’ve got. You can only trust that how he chooses to approach this huge moment is how he’ll sustain his poise and confidence.
Wall’s growth will certainly amplify throughout the postseason regardless of the results. The make up of a playoff point guard generally consists of traits that essentially exist in John Wall already, like having the magnitude to outplay any one of his competitors, having the utmost determination to help will his team to victory, and having the fearlessness to attack no matter who’s in his way. In his career, we’ve seen ‘one-man army’ Wall, the player who was under the gun expected to perform at a high level despite playing with the cast from Goof Troop. We’ve seen a resilient Wall, the player who defied his critics and buzzkillers by coming back from a frustrating injury stronger, and smarter than he was before. We’ve seen All-Star Wall, the player who finally turned the corner with a break out season and filled his critics’ mouths with dirt before burying them alive (noticeably a sour topic for me).
Now we await playoff Wall, and a time where we find an opportunity to be purged of all the tribulations we’ve endured these past few seasons as part of Wizards Nation. The ones John endured as an NBA player morphing into stardom, and the ones fans have endured as we watched this team struggle amid growth. We await cleansing and being rid of hopelessness caused by a long-stretched timeline of insurmountable failure. We await John and the Wizards’ emergence in the national spotlight, helping to evaporate memories of nationwide disregard.
And so, NBA Playoffs, we await. Let us be purged.