John Wall: Despite Slow Start, Wizards Hope to Make Statement to End Season

The Washington Wizards began their season by winning just three games before Christmas, though it’s no secret that not having point guard John Wall played an enormous factor in that skid. Wall is back now and it’s no surprise now, either, that the team is in a much better spot. The Wizards are 8-7 over their last 15 games heading into a matchup with the Knicks tonight. John Wall joined 106.7 The Fan in Washington D.C. with Holden and Danny to discuss why this team is so much better with him on the floor, not being picked as one of the league’s best players under 25, watching the Wizards’ rough start to the season from the bench, how he’s feeling now, his next step in becoming one of the league’s top point guards and what the team has to play for at this point.

The team has been a lot better since your return. Why?:

“I think it’s just me trying to be a leader for our team and push the pace and just get easier shots for guys and just help guys’ games out. … We just need guys to make shots and we’ve got a lot of 3-point shooters and we’re just … trusting each other.”

Sports Illustrated put out its list of best players under 25 and you weren’t on it. Is that a kind of thing that motivates you?:

“I noticed it. Everybody tells me about it, but it just motivates me. I know. And like I said, people talk about it … but it’s not a big deal to me. I’m not worried about it. It’s just a list.”

How tough was it for you to watch this team’s tough stretch from the bench?:

“It’s very tough because I knew we had a good team coming in and it sucks that you can’t be there from the start with your team. We were losing some games that I felt like we should’ve won, even though we won a couple that people didn’t think we were going to win. It was very tough to sit out.”

How are you feeling health-wise?:

“I feel a lot better than I did when I first came back. It was kind of like, in two minutes I could get tired. You’ve got to get in game shape; practice and stuff is different than game shape. Just being able to have your legs in the full court, I think I’m getting closer and closer.”

What is the next step for you when it comes to evolving into one of the top point guards in the NBA?:

“Just going out there and having big games every night — not scoring-wise, but just leading my team and getting wins. I think my jump shot is coming along, my pace is good. You’ve just got to keep winning.”

How far is this team from being a playoff team?:

“I think this year we could’ve been one if everybody was fully healthy from the beginning. You’re seeing that a lot of teams are giving us more respect and taking us more seriously. When we play as a team and do a great job on defense and move the ball offensively, we’re a pretty tough team to play against.”

What is there to play for this year?:

“We’re just playing because we love the game, but we’re also leaving a statement. We don’t know; anything can happen this season. But we’re just going out there and playing basketball and not giving up on the season.”

What has Gary Payton told you to do to help you on the defensive end?:

“Just be more focused. Off the ball, just be really focused. On the ball is when I’m pretty good, but it’s just off the ball you’ve got to be focused and keep your eyes open and don’t get lost.”

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