- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The last time the Wizards were at the Staples Center, John Wall was participating in the All-Star skills challenge, dishing off a lob pass to Clippers star Blake Griffin for a monster dunk in the Rookie Challenge game, and JaVale McGee was dunking multiple basketballs in the All-Star dunk contest.

The Wizards are back in California to face the Clippers on Wednesday night, and Wall will once again lead a group of rookies — his Washington teammates this time — as coach Flip Saunders has virtually no other healthy bodies available.

But Wall at least has fond memories of his last trip to L.A.

“All-Star weekend was probably the greatest experience I’ve had so far,” Wall said. “I’ve watched a lot of All-Star Games but I hadn’t really seen all the behind-the-scenes part that goes on with the media, and the Magic Johnson party. It was great.

“I had a great time playing with all the other rookies that I looked up to. I got to play with two of them last year in college [DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe] but playing with the other guys like Wesley Johnson, Blake Griffin, Derrick Favors and those guys, it was great. We went out there and won the game for the rookies,” Wall said.

Wall dished out an All-Star record 22 assists and was voted the Rookie Challenge MVP in the rookies’ 148-140 victory over the sophomores. His performance in that game helped jump-start the increased confidence he is showing now as he leads the Wizards through this final stretch of the season.

Wall showed his promise early, recording the first triple-double of his career in only his sixth career game, and Saunders still remembers it as one of Wall’s best moments in this long and difficult season.

“I thought his first triple double was pretty impressive earlier in the year, as well as the things that he did in that game,” Saunders said. “One thing about John — we’ve lost some games where he’s tried to make plays and he hasn’t made them, but he’s not afraid. If you want to be a great player in this league, you can’t be afraid to take the ball in your hands and try to make a play. Failure a lot of times comes as much as success.”