John Wall should be annoyed. Having the best all-around season of his career and looking like he can finally lead the Washington Wizards back to the postseason, this is not an emotion he should have. It isn’t even his fault, more the fans of the NBA. For you see, John Wall was not picked to start for the Eastern Conference All-Star team and most would argue he really should have been.
Wall missed out on being named the starting point guard to the mercurial Kyrie Irving. We all know the voting process for starters is a popularity contest, but it is unlikely Wall will find any solace in this fact. Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade should be nowhere near their respective teams and yet both have been named starters, so it is not entirely fair. But Wall will be wondering just what more he could have done to ensure he should have been the starting quarterback on a team featuring Wade, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Paul George. He doesn’t have a bad image, but there have been small tantrums from the star before. This shouldn’t matter when you’re averaging 19.4 points, 8.3 assists and 4.2 rebounds a game though. Yes his Wizards team do have a 21-22 record currently, but in the awful East, that’s good for sixth place in the conference and most would see them as a playoff team right now. So why exactly did he lose out then?
Beginning with the popularity theory, Kyrie Irving is a liked guy. He was the guy who had to come in and pick up a franchise left reeling by the departure of LeBron James as a rookie, and he has partially done this. Yes the team is still bad, but he is now the face of the organization and he is a marketable face as well. His performance in last year’s All-Star Game, when he attacked Chris Paul on any occasion he could and briefly looked like making a run for the MVP award on the night, shows he knows how to play on the big stage. Indeed he is an All-Star himself, and this is not about begrudging the former No. 1 pick because he is starting, it is more asking the question why this could have been with Wall being the better player on the better team so far this season. The Cavs are having a disappointing year, and already look out of the playoffs. Irving hasn’t quite elevated his game either, and while his numbers are similar enough to Wall’s, he scores slightly more but his rebounding and assists lag behind, the fact he is on a struggling team surely should have gone against him?
Probably what is more frustrating for Wall is knowing that, great as he is, this may be his best chance to start in the marquee game for some time. The injuries of Derrick Rose and the recently returned Rajon Rondo gave him a clearer path to start, but next year these two will hopefully be back to top form. Deron Williams missed considerable time himself, and he is slowing working himself back into fine form himself. If Wall is losing out to Irving now, what chance does he have in this glorified popularity contest going forward? The former Kentucky man can take this one of two ways though, and that decision may go some way to determining both his character and how his career will play out in the coming years.
Sulk about it and it could harm Wall’s growth. There is still more to come from this player of course, his career is still only really starting. He has had quite a few bad influences around him in Washington to date, but that culture seems to have been cleared out, and so hopefully there will be no negative vibes in his ears after this blow. If Wall takes this on the chest and continues to move forward, it doesn’t matter what point guards are fit next year, he has the talent to start ahead of them all. That is the attitude the likes of Stephen Curry surely took on after being left out in the cold year, and this year he has come back a starter in the even more crowded and talented Western Conference. Wall must have a similar attitude to this, for if he does everybody from the Wizards to the Eastern All-Stars to the NBA as a global brand will benefit.
Not being named an All-Star is not the end of the world, but John Wall should have started. Obviously picking Kyrie Irving is not a bad choice, he is also a classy young player who is one of the future stars of this league playing at a high level today. But this rejection could be the making of the young Wizard. He’s been touted from a young age, was a number one pick in an NBA draft and has had his millions of fans since day one, so this is perhaps the first time something he has deserved hasn’t gone his way. If that’s the case and Wall feels the same way, a John Wall with a chip on his shoulder is bad news for defenses all around the league. He will make the All-Star roster as well as the coaches just have to pick him, and when he does check into the big game, don’t be surprised if he upstages some of the starters on the court, much the way Kyrie Irving did last year.