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NBA PM: Wall, Wizards Aiming for Playoffs
Posted By Alex Kennedy On June 27, 2012 @ 4:58 pm In All,Main Page,NBA | No Comments
After several years of rebuilding, the Washington Wizards are preparing to make a playoff push. No longer satisfied with developing their young talent and stockpiling lottery picks, Washington has made an effort to acquire veterans such as Nene, Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor in recent months so that the team can take the next step and compete for a playoff berth in the Eastern Conference. John Wall, who is dying to make his postseason debut, couldn’t be happier with the direction of the team.
“You don’t want to keep living by the lottery,” Wall told HOOPSWORLD’s Alex Kennedy. “We’re trying to move forward, make the playoffs and change things around. I think they’ve made the right steps. I think we’ve made the jump. We added a low-post presence and veterans around a talented young team. Making the playoffs, that’s my goal. I’m not going to guarantee anything, but that’s my main goal. You never know how things are going to work out, but that’s the mindset that I have entering this season.”
The Wizards played well after acquiring Nene at last year’s trade deadline and finished the season with a six-game winning streak. Wall raves about Nene and what he brought to the team. He believes that Ariza and Okafor will make a similar impact in Washington.
“He made my job a lot easier,” Wall said of Nene. “Having a low-post presence, with the type of team that we have, we needed someone who could score down there. He helped out a lot and made my job easier. I’d pass the ball down there and know we were going to consistently get baskets or have him pass out and get assists.”
“I think [Ariza and Okafor] help us a lot too, adding a lock-down defender who can make shots and a veteran big man who knows the game,” Wall said. “They’ve been in the playoffs before and they can really help us out.”
If the Wizards want to compete in the East, they’ll need Wall to continue his development and show improvement next season. The 21-year-old understands this and he’s preparing to work extremely hard this summer, spending the next several months in the gym and in the film room. Wall has been studying elite point guards like Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul to replicate aspects of their game.
“I’m trying to add a lot of things,” Wall said. “I want to add a post-up game, a floater, a mid-range shot and a consistent, knock-down three so that teams can’t double team off of me and leave me open. Those were the things that I saw other guys at my position like Derrick, Russell and Chris improving. Adding those things, that’s the only way to become a top point guard in the league. That’s my goal. There are a lot of very talented point guards in the East who are talented so you have to step your game up and be prepared.”
“I have a whole lot of room for improvement,” Wall said. “I can get so much better. There are so many little things that I’m still learning, so many little tricks of the trade that I’m learning from veterans. Every day I’m working and trying to get better.”
Since the season ended, Wall has been breaking down his game and noticing areas he can improve.
“I’m still learning how to play the game, especially on this level,” Wall said. “I’m learning how to change speeds, how to read defenses and how to use less dribbles. I’ve watched a lot of film to see how teams guarded me so that I can improve my scoring and get my teammates involved easier.”
“I just need to be consistent,” Wall added. “When I shoot my jump shot, I need to follow through and stay balanced rather than fading away. I just need to be confident when I shoot. Even if I miss five in a row, I need to stay confident and make the next shot.”
Not only is Wall thrilled with Washington’s roster moves, he’s also happy that the team decided to bring back Randy Wittman as head coach, removing his interim tag.
“He just wanted me to be aggressive, 24-7,” Wall said of Wittman. “He was always telling me to be aggressive, that’s what I liked about him. He’s a great coach and he demanded so much out of us. He wanted us to be lock-down defenders and then we got better defensively. He wanted us to play better together as a team and then we trusted each other more. He did a great job.”
The Wizards aren’t done improving their roster. They hold the third pick in the 2012 NBA Draft and will be able to add another significant contributor on Thursday night. Bradley Beal and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist have been mentioned as the most likely picks for Washington, and Wall is close with both players.
“I talk to those guys all the time,” Wall said of Beal and Kidd-Gilchrist. “It would be an exciting opportunity to play with either one of those guys. They’re my homeboys. They’re very talented players. Mike won a championship and Bradley had a great season at Florida. It would be great to play with either of those guys. I really like watching those guys play and I think they’ll both have great NBA careers.”
The future is bright in Washington, but Wall believes it’s time for him and the team to take the next step.
“I’m not satisfied with the things that I accomplished in my first two years,” Wall said. “Even though I had some good things, I had no All-Star [appearances] and no playoffs. That’s the main thing that I want, to reach the playoffs.”
Barnes Holds Court in New York: It’s sounding more and more like Harrison Barnes will be a top-five pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. On Wednesday, Barnes held court in New York, discussing the draft process.
Tinsley Unsure of Future in Utah: Jamaal Tinsley is unsure what his future holds. The 34-year-old point guard has a team option for $1.35 million next season, but the Utah Jazz hasn’t indicated if they’re going to exercise the option and bring him back next season.
“I’ve learned all you can do is count your blessings and control what you can control,” Tinsley said.
Last season, Tinsley returned to the NBA after a two-year hiatus and played well in a reserve role. He averaged 3.7 points and 3.3 assists in 37 games with the Jazz. He also emerged as a leader in the locker room, pushing Utah’s young core to realize their full potential and offering guidance from the sidelines.
“It was great,” Tinsley said. “The guys around me embraced the advice that I gave them. They listened and always wanted to get better.”
Tinsley doesn’t have any plans of walking away from the game. He worked hard to return to the league, training for the past two years to revitalize his career. Now, after proving that he’s still capable of playing in the league, he’s not thinking about retirement.
“It’s not going to stop,” Tinsley said. “I’ll continue to work every day to stay in shape and be ready.”
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