- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 6, 2014

Amused at the question, Wizards coach Randy Wittman laughed before answering. He was asked if the Wizards’ 4-1 start is “legit,” as if it were a falsified escapade put together by some other organization.

Considering the Wizards’ dismal past on the whole, coupled with their harrowing starts, the pinching of skin to confirm what has happened early in the season is reasonable. A 2-7 opening run last season produced meetings behind closed doors. No such grumbling early this year, even if Wednesday night’s 96-94 overtime win against the depleted Indiana Pacers had all the elegance of an eye poke.

“It’s not easy to win games,” Wittman said. “It’s hard to win games. Is it legit? Yeah! We’re going to go through a tough spell where we lose four or five. Or you going to ask me if that’s legit? Yeah, it’s legit. It’s just, hey, you know, we’re 4-1 with two home games.”

Wittman’s chuckle was allowed because the team is 4-1. It leads the Southeast Division and is tied for the best start in the Eastern Conference. Much of that can be attributed to John Wall.

He had friends in town Wednesday. His mother, Frances Pulley, relaxed postgame in the black leather chair in front of Wall’s locker. Wall came out of the back in a gray suit, hemmed into sartorial workmanship. Other friends from his home state of North Carolina, one in a Wall jersey for the University of Kentucky, were also around. The group was amused from afar.



Boisterous and conspicuous pregame was Wall’s former coach at UK, John Calipari. The voice and volume cannot be mistaken or helped. He was in town recruiting before watching the game at Verizon Center.

Calipari had seen Wall’s new television commercial, the one where Wall has and loses it all. By the end, he’s doomed to a life as a pitch man with a paunch at a local used car lot.

“He said he liked when I was fat in my commercial,” Wall said. “Kind of reminded him of himself.”

Though five games is a droplet-sized sample, Wall appears en route to a marquee year. His points per game are up. He’s averaging a clean 10 assists. Wall grabs a rebound (4.2 per game) more often than he turns the ball over (4.0).

Wednesday night, when playing a near-faceless Pacers team, Wall put together three consecutive overtime baskets. Of all things, two were pull-up jumpers.

Those are the shots the NBA has been telling Wall it does not think he can make. Each night, his defender goes underneath screens. This approach produces a persistent test of will and jumper.

Wall did not make his first four jump shots Wednesday. The inaccuracy did not stop him. In overtime, at the most important time, Wall made those two pull-ups. These are the shots his opponents are pleased to live with and the Wizards will have to live with. The league is double-dog daring Wall to shoot.

“It’s different than early on in my career,” Wall said. “I wouldn’t probably shoot them no more, I’d be hesitant. But, I know I put in the hard work every day to make those. They looked good when I shot them earlier, they just missed. I knew that I had to be aggressive and I had to take those shots, especially with their big men, they kind of play back.”

Wall finished with 31 points, 10 assists, six rebounds, three steals and one block in 43 minutes. He is the only player in the NBA this season with that line. He has four double-doubles in five games after putting together a career-high 29 double-doubles last season.

Pressure as the “head of the snake” is also paramount.

“He’s the one that everybody feeds off of,” Wittman said. “If John is not in it from a pressure standpoint defensively, it filters down.”

The legitimacy of the Wizards’, and Wall‘s, start will face a staunch opponent Friday. Washington travels to Toronto to play the 4-1 Raptors, who also present a complication at point guard with Kyle Lowry. He scored 35 points Wednesday and has turned the ball over just twice this season.

A trip to Indiana follows to cap a manic first two weeks with three back-to-back sets and five road games. Wittman felt Wednesday’s win, in the wake of a road win in New York the prior night, was crucial.

“That’s how you pick up spots and keep moving and spreading out from other people,” Wittman said.

He’s sure that is legit, and Wall is a prime reason for the belief.

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