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For openers, Wall lives up to hype for Wizards' fans
STEVE DeSHAZO: Wall quickly commands star billing in D.C.

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Date published: 11/3/2010

By Steve DeShazo

WASHINGTON--

Unlike another notable D.C. athlete, there was no doubt that John Wall would be on the court at crunch time last night.

There was no questioning the No. 1 draft pick's cardiovascular fitness or his knowledge of his team's hurry-up offense. And while other Washington Wizards hit the biggest shots in their 116-115 home-opener victory over the Philadelphia 76ers, there was no doubt who is the new star in town.

Wall barely missed his first professional triple double, with 29 points, 13 assists and nine steals. Toss in eight turnovers, and it was even closer to a quadruple double.

But that's what the Wizards will get from Wall--spectacular plays, occasional struggles, but never dullness.

Wall already has the quickness and the lightning crossover dribble to beat even the NBA's best on-ball defenders. Think of him as a slightly bigger Isiah Thomas, a 6-foot-4 blur.

But there are deficiencies that will require work and experience before he joins the elite list of pro point guards. His outside shooting is inconsistent at best, and opponents will use team defense to cut off his drives until he proves otherwise.

And perhaps it's contagious from the uniform he wears, but Wall's man-to-man defense isn't up to par. Early in last night's game, he lost Sixers point guard Jrue Holiday on a screen-and-roll and watched helplessly as Holiday made a backdoor cut for a dunk.

Wall does have quick-enough hands to cause havoc, though. In one third-quarter stretch, he came up with the ball on three straight Philadelphia possessions. Moments later, he left No. 2 overall pick Evan Turner flat-footed with a behind-the-back dribble.

If anyone can appreciate Wall's impact--and the scrutiny he'll face--it's Doug Collins. The 76ers head coach was a No. 1 overall pick himself (by Philadelphia in 1973) and has sat on both Verizon Center benches.

"He's terrific," Collins said. "I watched him a lot when he played in college. He's so explosive with the ball. One thing with a player like that, you're almost sure you'll get a shot every time down the floor, because he can create something.

"He's so strong and unselfish. He's a powerful finisher. He's a terrific player."


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