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John Calipari comes to defense of John Wall

Sep 21, 2012, 6:58 PM EDT

John+Calipari+John+Wall+Drexel+v+Kentucky+umo9l0Q82zBl Getty Images

Kentucky coach John Calipari is a consummate recruiter — a combination coach and father. A guy who in private might be tough on his guys, but in public will defend them. Even after they are flown from his nest.

Like John Wall.

The former Kentucky point guard and former No. 1 overall pick is about to enter his third season in the NBA and while he’s been good, he hasn’t been great. He hasn’t been the franchise anchor everyone expected. He was above average with a PER of 17.7 last season, but that is not the 20+, lock All-Star kind of level everyone expected.

Calipari had Wall’s back in a radio interview on ESPN 980 in Washington DC (which Mike Prada quotes at the fantastic Bullets Forever).

“What’s happened is, you took a 19-year old and put the weight of the world on him, saying to him, ‘We’re expecting you to drag this team to another level.’ Well, there are no young guys [who can do that]. [Even] Anthony Davis isn’t that guy,” Calipari said.

“Now, if you have a good team, Anthony and John will make you better. If you remember, I had Derrick Rose. But the way the [ping pong] balls dropped, he ended up playing on a pretty good team. So, all of a sudden, he’s an All-Star in two years, and all of a sudden he becomes the MVP of the league. But he’s on a good team. So, what’ll happen is, as [the Wizards] build that team, John will come out more.”

Um, yes and no.

I agree that Wall was thrown into a tough situation, coming into the Wizards in the wake of the Gilbert Arenas guns-in-the-locker room mess. Flip Saunders is a good coach of professional veterans, but the Wizards locker room was not that and the result was undisciplined play on the court and no focus off it. Asking Wall to walk in, change the culture and lead that team was too much.

But Wall also didn’t take a step forward last year — if anything, his jump shot regressed. He averaged 4.4 long two pointers (16 feet out to the arc) last season and shot 29 percent on them. He shot 7.1 percent from three and only took one every other game. Even with his quickness Wall can be defended in the half court.

Calipari admitted that Wall needs to step up his game. This season the excuses go away — Washington has brought in quality veterans like Nene, Emeka Okafor, Trevor Ariza and on down the line. Guys who understand about being a professional, about preparation.

Calipari isn’t totally wrong about Wall, but the excuses are now gone. This is the season we really learn about Wall, about how good he’s going to be. His time is now. Calipari knows it, too.

  1. michaeljordanseviltwin - Sep 21, 2012 at 7:07 PM

    At least one of the two is playing defense ZING!

  2. eugenesaxe - Sep 21, 2012 at 7:11 PM

    Wall doesn’t need much defending. The Wiz haven’t given him the support cast he needs to succeed. Now that the knuckleheads are finally gone, and he has a few professionals around him, Wall has a chance to make the strides he should’ve “already” made.

    • somekat - Sep 21, 2012 at 9:37 PM

      I can think of guys like Kidd, AI, Lebron, Paul, Deron Williams etc, who came in to situations, just as bad, if not worse, than Wall when they hit the league. All of them were more impressive in their first 2 seasons. Obviously, all of these guys are great, not just good. But they all play similar positions (if different styles), and Wall was supposed to be the next in that line.

      Not saying his isn’t VERY good, or that he isn’t ever going to be great, but as of now, he hs not lived up to expectations. If you think he needs defending or not, he is still falling short.

  3. mosesjackson1976 - Sep 21, 2012 at 7:28 PM

    I think questioning Wall’s ability is hilarious. Most NBA players don’t reach their full potential until Year Three. I judge them during the third season. Usually, players are who they are from then on, having been scouted by every other team, played against the best defenses and adjusted to the speed of the NBA. There are exceptions like Blake Griffin, but these players are rare. Also, you can guard Wall in the half court only because no one else on that garbage squad was a threat. He’s a prolific passer when he has a capable shooter waiting on it.

  4. meetthegrouch - Sep 21, 2012 at 9:09 PM

    Only time you will hear John Wall and defense in the same sentence.

    • sellahh - Sep 22, 2012 at 5:05 AM

      i think ive heard this joke today already
      in a much better fashion, too

  5. jthammerstix - Sep 21, 2012 at 10:18 PM

    He sucks

  6. sellahh - Sep 22, 2012 at 5:13 AM

    I believe none (or very few) of you get what Calipari is saying. I mean, NBA is a product. writers are there mostly to pump up the hype of the product. What follows is, you guys on all these blogs and bleacherreports hype the product, even unintentionally.
    You guys made Wall a superstar long before he shot his first jumper. You know, it takes ****load of confidence to handle those kind of expectations. I mean, has Anthony Davis played a minute of pro-basketball (barring Olympics where you know…)? I guees not. And you’ve already made him a franchise saviour in NO.
    Well, let’s just hope Davis’ cojones are bigger than Wall’s.

  7. Power Zone Sports - Sep 22, 2012 at 10:12 AM

    Reblogged this on Power Zone Sports and commented:
    Power People. What’s your take on this? Leave your comments.

  8. scoregasmic - Sep 22, 2012 at 10:23 AM

    To be fair I’ve always thought of wall as a facilitator first, tough to do when no one else on the team can make a shot

  9. cranespy - Sep 22, 2012 at 10:39 AM

    Coach Cal seems very comfortable commenting on players who are paid to play.

  10. metalhead65 - Sep 22, 2012 at 12:15 PM

    so we should not expect a kid coming in with all the hype and multi million dollar contract to change a losing team? isn’t that why he was chosen #1? shouldn’t he make the guys around him better veterans or not?I am all for guys getting all they can but stop with the excuses valid or not when it does not work out the way it was supposed to. I don’t recall Adam Morrison getting any slack because the bobcats sucked and he wasn’t even the #1 pick. it was just a look he sucks and was a bust. not saying wall is in that catagory but why do some guys get slack but others are just buried? same thing with Jimmer last year,again not a #1 but labeled a bust because he did not live up to the hype but the #1 guy does not live up to his hype and he gets a pass untill this year.

  11. going4iton4th - Sep 25, 2012 at 12:41 AM

    If a player has the “it” factor we would have seen it already or a body of work that justifies it. Derrick Rose almost led Menphis to a NCAA Championship on his own back. His game was clearly defined and abilities proven. Wall has had some good games but not anything like Rose. If any Wizard fans are buying this wait and see argument then they might be disappointed. Wall reminds me of another hyped PG–Sebastian Telfair–SI cover–Marbury’s cousin and in the end just a guy not really a talent to match the hype.

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