Why Wall is excited to be a Wizard
by Jeff Zillgitt, USA TODAY Sports
WASHINGTON — John Wall looks at the roster and the future and, for the first time as an NBA player, has genuine optimism in the Washington Wizards.
Not just obligatory, eye-rolling preseason platitudes one hears from every NBA player, no matter how good or bad his team.
Wall, the Wizards’ 23-year-old point guard entering his fourth NBA season, sees center Nene in the post, shooting guard and star-in -the-making Bradley Beal on the wing, depth and a solid mix of youngsters and veterans.
“This is the most exciting team I’ve played with,” Wall said. “They brought back players I enjoy playing with. Al Harrington wanted to join the team. Everybody is professional. Those situations let us know we can be a team that can win.”
After a promising final 49 games (24-25) last season — a winning percentage good enough to qualify for the playoffs in the Eastern Conference — not only is optimism real, expectations are real, too. The playoffs are a must, Wizards owner Ted Leonsis said.
Sitting on a dasher board used for hockey at Verizon Center, Wall is comfortable, like he owns the place. Which in a way, he does. Since the Wizards drafted him with the No. 1 overall pick in 2010, Wall has been the de facto face of the franchise.
But any doubt was removed when Washington gave Wall a five-year, $80 million extension. It’s his team now — Washington’s decision and Wall’s choice. They wanted each other.
“I love this city, and the city loves me back,” Wall said. “They appreciate everything I’m doing. My dad’s from this area. He passed when I was nine. I’m excited to play in the place where he was born. The organization, ownership and the coaching staff, they believed in me.”
Washington has always felt like home to Wall, and it’s clear he appreciates that his mom, Frances Pulley, is less than four hours away in Raleigh, N.C. When Wall signed his extension, family members, including his mom, two aunts and sisters, were in the audience and he broke down in tears recalling all they had done for him.
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