NBA Okbet – John Wall, drenched in perspiration from his pregame exercise, entered the visiting team’s locker room at Chase Center full of life and enthusiasm, rapping along to the beat in his headphones. Most Wall, probably more so than for other NBA players, making himself heard is a crucial habit. Because there was once a moment when he didn’t feel like being here, he feels compelled to let you know he is.
Before the 2022-23 NBA season, Wall wrote a heartbreaking but ultimately inspiring piece in The Players’ Tribune on how almost three years away from the game due to injuries and the loss of his mother caused him to seriously consider suicide. The fear of his two boys growing up without a father gave the 32-year-old guard the will to keep going, and his return to the court with the Los Angeles Clippers in October marked the beginning of a new chapter in his troubled life and career.
“The whole thing is fantastic. I can’t believe it. It was everything in God’s perfect time.” What Wall said to CBS Sports. “Nothing more than hanging out with a fantastic crew of men. Everyone from the owner to the coaches to the trainers to the front office to the players to the fans has treated me like family from the first day I stepped foot in the building. This makes it easier for me to come out here and play and compete at a high level, and simply get to enjoy the game I love again.”
A month after having season-ending heel surgery with the Washington Wizards in December 2018, Wall sustained an Achilles injury while tripping and falling at his house. His foot was nearly amputated to treat an infection he had after the subsequent surgery. Wall made a short return to the Houston Rockets in 2020–21, but he was ultimately benched for the whole 2021–22 season despite being healthy and earning over $45 million. Therefore, Wall spent almost four years and only appeared in 40 NBA games.
Wall signed a two-year, $13.2 million contract this summer after negotiating a buyout with the Rockets, making it impossible to estimate what, if anything, the Clippers would get from him. With his career founded on his quickness, the five-time All-speed Star’s was called into doubt after he suffered injuries and a lengthy absence.
Although we’re just over a quarter of the way through the season, the results thus far have been phenomenal. Wall has established himself as the Clippers’ backup point guard, averaging 12.3 points and 5.4 assists in slightly over 22 minutes per game. His 15 assists in 24 minutes against the Spurs is his career high. Chris Paul was the last Clipper to get 15 assists in a game, but Wall became the first player in NBA history to have nine assists in the first quarter while coming off the bench.
A week later, against the Denver Nuggets, he scored a season-high 23 points on 8-of-10 shooting.
For the Clippers to become so successful so quickly is something that even head coach Tyronn Lue, who had no idea what to expect, said was unexpected. “We expected [Wall] to need a little bit more time, but he’s finally worked it out. You can count on him as a shrewd player. He’s a huge gamer and quite intellectual. He’s outperforming our lofty preseason expectations by a wide margin.”
The Clippers’ lack of pace has been exposed by Wall, giving them a new dimension. They were 28th in pace in 2020-21 and 19th sans Kawhi Leonard, who favors a more methodical style of play, last season. Wall’s offensive goal when he comes off the bench is to increase the pace and penetrate the paint.
Yes, it is safe to state that he is making progress. The Clippers’ tempo slows to about 98 possessions per game while Wall is on the bench. When Wall enters the game, the pace increases to more than 103 possessions per game. His acceleration is almost as high as it was in his heyday, and he has been able to produce in the offseason for himself and others. On the break, he goes for the paint and converts a and-one with a Euro step.
Then, he immediately pushes the ball after missing, and as the defense closes, he sees the trailer and finds Reggie Jackson for a layup.
“Even with injuries and everything during his career, he’s still one of the quickest players with the ball in his hands in the NBA,” Jackson said, according to CBS Sports. To paraphrase, “what he can do, his ability to touch the paint, has not just benefited me, but is helping us all simply get easier shots, compressing the defense.”
Even though Wall’s shooting hasn’t improved, he remains a tenacious half-court threat who consistently attempts to penetrate the key. According to NBA.com, he’s second on the team in drives with 8.5 per game, although he only plays 22 minutes each game. Through the use of his physical prowess and nimble footwork, he has been able to consistently finish at a high rate of speed in close proximity to the basket.
Wall’s stellar performance has garnered the attention of the rest of the NBA. Draymond Green, a forward for the Golden State Warriors and one of the top defenders in the NBA, who faced up against Wall in the middle of the 2010s, commented on his resurgence.
Green, speaking after their first game of the season against the Clippers, said, “We’ve seen him back on the court now a little bit over the previous two years, but it’s fantastic to have John Wall back out there on the floor.” “He regained his velocity. You’re going to have to fill it to the brim if you don’t load up. He has excellent passing accuracy. You never want to see a man lose it due to injuries, so it’s great to see him back out there playing John Wall’s style of basketball.”
In all honesty, how you play on the court is secondary in importance. Since so few people ever make it out of the tunnel, Wall’s struggle to find light is the true tale. His vigor has returned, and he’s settling into his new job with the Clippers with enthusiasm. One of the reasons Wall wanted to return to the court was so that his boys, Ace and Amir, could see him play.
Since Green himself had been going through a bad patch emotionally at the time of his widely publicized preseason brawl with Jordan Poole, he can empathize with Wall’s plight while he was sidelined.
“There’s a lot more to being a professional basketball player than simply playing on the court. For me, it’s the time I spend on the basketball court that helps me maintain my sanity. And that’s the best part! “As Green put it. “Playing to the point of exhaustion is possible. Whatever bad things are happening, that’s where you can go to feel protected. It’s devastating to have that shelter smashed away for two years. As a result, I’m overjoyed to see John back on the court.”
According to Wall’s Players’ Tribune essay, the most consequential words he’s ever said were, “Yo! Please, someone give me a hand!” Even for someone at the pinnacle of their physical abilities, admitting weakness or vulnerability may be challenging. Now that he is in a better place emotionally, Wall has kept up with his therapy sessions, and he says it gives him peace of mind to know that support is there if and when the negative thoughts resurface.
Wall told CBS Sports, “still things I work on, still speak to my therapist about to try to get better at.” “They are not going to appear suddenly or even over a period of three or four years. Simply knowing that I have someone to talk to when I’m having a tough time, before it becomes overwhelming like it was previously, is a huge relief.”