1) Who did you watch play growing up? And whose game did you try to emulate? 2) What was your first memorable point guard match-up, when you first got into the league? 3) What is your definition for the job of a point guard? 4) How do you determine when to shoot vs. when to pass? 5) What is a typical workout for you like? 6) Do you have any words of advice for young aspiring point guards?
I should say: joined by newly minted all-star John Wall.
That's right, in his 4th year in the league averaging 20 points and 8.5 assists a game John is on his way to NOLA. And rightfully so - is there a better point guard in the East, right now? Even better than boasting those individual stats, how about the fact that Washington is currently sporting a record above .500 for the first time in over 4 years (no, seriously).
Okay, you might say "that's not hard to do, they are in the eastern conference!" You might have a point. But, how about the Wiz's last two wins, over OKC and Portland? Two of the top teams is the West? In those games, John put up 17 points & 15 assists (& 6 steals) and 22 & 5 assists, respectively.
At 6'4" and 195 ibs, John is only 23 years old. After being drafted #1 overall in 2010, he averaged 16 points and 8 assists his rookie year in the league..... and didn't win rookie of the year (thanks Blake Griffin injury rookie year make-up!).
John played at Kentucky for 1 year, leading them (with Demarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe) to the elite 8. Plus, for his first NBA game intro, he did this:
Mr. Wall, welcome to the PGP:
Summary of answers:
1) Grew up watching Allen Iverson. Allen Iverson was his person. Saw Isiah Thomas and those guys be good. Steve Nash, Chris Paul, Derrick. Those are the guys when he was in high school and college. Magic and all those guys.
2) First memorable point guard match-up: Steve Nash - he went like 10 for 10, shooting one legged shots. Was contesting him and running around - playing the best D he could. And was still staying with him - (Nash) was just making tough shots. Had to chase him all the way under the basket. Had to watch his pocket passes cause he came off pick and rolls. Learned how to come off pick and roles and do a better job guarding him.
Was like "whoo!"
(Nash) Showed how a point guard can dictate the game. Showed how a point guard can do it without really scoring. Didn't take many shots but was 10 for 10 when he took them.
3) Definition for the job of a point guard: Be a leader. Lead your team. Get your team involved. Some point guards are scoring points, but he is more of a pass first point. If it's a night he has to score he is blessed to have the ability to do so. Really likes to get teammates involved (early), because when going into the 4th quarter and teams start to double and triple team him, teammates need to be in a rhythm (when he passes it to them). They can't be taking their first shots in the 4th.
4) Pass vs Shoot: Being aggressive. He's an aggressive type of player. His teammates know for their team to be their best, he has to be aggressive. Sometimes it's being aggressive and getting in the paint and finding people. Sometimes it's being aggressive and scoring. When he scores it makes it tough for the defense (because) they help off a shooter. If the defense wants to help, he's willing to give it to a shooter and have them knock down shots.
5) Typical workout: It depends. Spot up shots from mid-range. Catch and shoot. Catch and shoot threes. 10 (shots) each spot. 5 spots, sometimes 7 spots (total). Then do all of those same things coming off the dribble, like in the game. A lot of pick and rolls. Seeing how team's trap him and getting out of traps. Isolation situations. He's working on ball handling when doing those drills, because he has to do it at game speed. Very fatiguing and tough.
6) For aspiring point guards: Just work. That's the thing he did. Any young point guard coming into the league that's fast and athletic, not really known as knock down shooters. And it's something we all have developed, Derrick Rose, Westbrook, himself. Adding it to their game and making them tougher with all of the stuff they are able to do already.
I must say, out of all of the PGP interviews that I have done, this is was one of the best.
I mean, to talk to an all-star and number 1 overall pick and to have all of his answers be so informative.
Where do I start?
How about his first memorable match-up with Steve Nash? How funny is it that after listing six point guards non-chalantly that he grew up watching - without hesitation and in all seriousness Nash was the guy he remembers going up against his rookie year? Let me paint the picture of that match-up for you: raw, youthful talent and athleticism against the essence of skill and finely honed craftiness. Hearing John speak, you realize that skill and craft won out.
Hearing that story and having John convey how much he learned was a real treat. How one of the most athletic guys at his position learned from Nash (two-time MVP mind you) to use & include teammates to gain position on the court, how to control the game without even shooting, and how to be super efficient. You must realize, everyone in the league is super talented. But knowing how to do the three things above, especially as a point guard, can really separate you from the pack.
Of course, efficiency is something John is currently working on and is still trying to improve. For his career, he shoots 43% from the field and 28% from three. Compare that with Steve Nash's career numbers of 49% and 43%, respectively. Okay, you're right. That's not really a fair comparison.
So, here are Derrick Rose's career numbers: 46% & 31%, respectively.
And here are Russell Westbrook's: 43% & 30%, respectively (almost exactly the same).
One thing that is interesting is that even though John Wall has essentially the same skill set as Rose and WestBrook - John considers himself as a pass first point guard.
Maybe different types of points are just prone to shoot differently. But, let me say, a lot of what goes into efficient shooting is taking higher percentage shots, and knowing how to get them. Sounds straight forward no? But that's something you have to learn. Think about it, John has the ability to probably create and take any shot he wants. That is a great attribute to have and it certainly comes in handy in certain situations. But it's not something you want to do all the time (is it?). Learning how to utilize your teammates, both to keep them involved and get yourself easier shots, helps your efficacy. It also keeps you under control, and gives you rhythm and confidence.
Kind of cool (and beneficial) that John currently has Sam Cassell as a coach and is working with him to develop his shot, both in the mid range and pick and roll type situations (see video below). Remember Sam's PGP interview? That was a good one too. And it was interesting to hear Sam speak about mastering the mid-range and using his teammates to get shots - because he couldn't create on his own. Something tells me that sort of mid-set will be very helpful for John's game.
Finally, I love John's response for when to pass vs shoot: BE AGGRESSIVE.
Sometimes, as a scientist I like to overanalyze things and complicate them. But what if these things really are more simplistic? Simplicity can be profound. And simplicity certainly can be effective.
And guess what, this is almost exactly what Steve Nash said when I had a chance to interview him!
Remember that one? When Steve said about when to pass vs shoot: "Always put pressure on the defense," and "be prepared to make the defense pay - shoot when they drop off, pass when they step up."
Sounds pretty aggressive to me.
And sounds pretty simple too!
How ironic is it that the guy John remembers most when he first got to the league, essentially gave the same answer for when to pass vs shoot?
I guess now we've come full circle.
But before we go, how about a couple of videos of John Wall doing some pre-game drills???
Peep the speed and technique for the ball handling!
And some mid-range shots off the dribble with Sam:
What more can I say?
Want to be an all-star with crazy skills?
Much thanks to John Wall for his time!
I hope you enjoyed this edition of the Point Guard Project!
Stay tuned for more!