The consensus in DC and really amongst anyone who truly shares a passion for basketball is that John Wall’s invitation to join the Team USA select camp was issued far too late. Initially deemed as being snubbed from the team, John Wall is reportedly headed to Vegas for Monday’s camp, according ESPN’s Marc Stein. Why was he selected so late? Apparently the team’s brass wanted to ensure that Wall was physically capable of competing after a “longer-than-expected” season with the Wizards. Ummmm, yeah. Sounds like weird propaganda to me. Consider it a half-snub, or consider it nothing at all. The reality is that John Wall will be given the opportunity to showcase his prowess in front of his Team USA coaches and teammates, and in the meantime, while I suffer from the initial anxiety over whether or not he’ll make the squad, I decided to create some fiction about how he’ll win the hearts of all. Enjoy!
It had been two hours into practice and about 45 minutes into the team’s first scrimmage. The players all looked loose after a considerable stretch of routine drills and the coaches had finally decided to square up their first 10 on the court and let them run a few plays. On the floor, you’d find Russell Westbrook planted in front of Kyrie Irving, who is slow dribbling up the court. Klay Thompson trots toward the baseline with James Harden sagging behind him. Blake Griffin walks up to the top of the key to set a screen while his defender Kevin Love lingers nearby. Under the rim is Demarcus Cousins, squirming with Anthony Davis to gain good post position. The set ends pretty quickly as Irving decides to evade Westbrook by swiveling around Blake’s screen and popping a quick jumper, his fourth of the scrimmage already. Coach K calls for time, shuffles his eyes over his bench (which includes Derrick Rose on a bike), and nods at Damien Lillard to relieve Kyrie. A few other players are subbed out but Westbrook remains in. John Wall, draped in a white USA practice jersey, remains out. He doesn’t mind, though. Hell, after receiving a criminally late invite to the camp, he’s used to waiting. He continues to bark at his teammates, egging them on after a good play, nagging them after a bad one.
After Westbrook, who became noticeably gassed, gets burned off the dribble by Lillard, he raises his hand for a sub and quickly jogs off the court. “John! You’re up!” a coach’s voice calls but John has already dropped the basketball he was holding on the sideline and is waiting in front of the baseline, calling for the inbound from Kenneth Faried.
As Wall brings the ball up, the corner of his eye he notices a familiar figure loitering around the left wing. Sure enough, it was his #HouseOfGuards counterpart, Bradley Beal. Delighted by the idea of the two of them getting an opportunity to represent Team USA together, he quickly diverts his dribble toward Beal’s direction and decides to let is man get things started with a dribble hand off. Wall slides over to the corner while Beal tries to get into his floor groove looking for an opportunity against the defense. Beal dribbles around a Boogie screen, finds an open seam leading to the rim and attacks it without hesitance for an open dunk. The two exchange smirks.
Bradley Beal flossing his 2010 FIBA Under-17 World Championship and MVP trophies
Moments later, after a Paul George miss, Wall tracks down a long rebound and ignites the jets. Before Steph Curry can even turn his hips to defend the fast break, Wall had already dribbled past the 3-point line. Kyle Korver, who had a better defensive angle, meets Wall at the rim but to no avail, as John puts his body right into Kyle’s and muscles the ball up against the glass and into the basket. Wall, who’d usually thump to the ground after drawing such contact, gathers himself instead and maintains his body upwards, shooting a sharp glare at Kyle as he runs back upcourt on defense.
Oh he’s just getting started, though. A few plays later, a screen and roll with Boogie seemingly breaks down as Curry and Andre Drummond try to absorb Wall with a trap. But like a ray of sunlight cracking through dark clouds, Wall spots a standing Gordan Hayward 50 feet across the court and swings one of his signature cross-court passes to him for an open 3.
“How long is he signed for again?” assistant coach Monty Williams murmurs to Tom Thibodeau.
“Who, Hayward? It was pretty lucrative I believe,” Thibs responds.
Monty: “No, nooo, man. JOHN. In DC. How long is he locked up for down there?”
“Oh, JOHN. Ugh. Just…don’t even..” stammers a raspy Thibs, squinting his eyes closed and shaking his head in a dismissing manner back at Monty, seemingly implying two things: 1) he’d seen way too much of that in the first round of the NBA playoffs, and 2) let Monty know to just enjoy Wall while he can here at this camp, because hell’ll never reap that kind of joy on his own team.
With John at the helm, the whites were cruising. Even Coach K and Jim Boeheim exchanged a few eyebrow raises after noticing how simplified the offense became with John facilitating.
Finally, a chase-down block by Wall would send the ball backwards and into the hands of a running Hayward who glided for a scrimmage-concluding dunk, and Boeheim had seen enough. He turns to Thibs and hammers, “and just why the hell did we invite John so late?”
“Someone said he couldn’t score,” chimed in Monty Williams.
“Couldn’t score!? He f*cking creates scoring!” Boeheim irately remarked. While Thibs and Monty both shrug and nod in agreement, Coach K offers John Wall an embracing handshake before preparing to address his team.
After just half an hour or so of observing him navigating his squad, Coach K had come to the realization that John Wall might be the best thing that’ll happen to this USA Basketball team. After the guys broke into the showers, the coaches would gather in a meeting and Coach K would finally iterate his new found passion for John Wall as his point guard.
“Sure the scoring guards are needed, but this guy made Gordon Hayward look like Ray Allen. He’s probably got James Harden writing ‘Miss You’ notes to Chandler Parsons. I mean, Jesus Christ, this guy just made Klay Thompson feel like he was the second coming of George Gervin!”
“You thinkin’ early lock, Mike?” inquires Monty Williams.
While Thibs hadn’t yet offered his input, his facial expressions had already given away his personal sentiments on the issue. It was an expression of affirmation and approval. He had become a devout John Wall believer well before the day’s scrimmage.
A moment of silence ensued as Coach K peered away from his staff. There was simply no way left to deny the truth about John Wall. Sure enough he had to be..no, he was GOING to be Johnny USA for this basketball team.