The big complaint heading into All-Star Weekend was that the Washington Wizards backcourt, particularly John Wall, was not getting any national love. Well, both Bradley Beal and Wall made names for themselves during All-Star Weekend.
We will start with Beal, who participated in the Rising Stars game, which faces off the top rookie and sophomore players in the league. Beal got voted in by the fans to be a starter for the sophomore team. It is hard to really take away anything from these games or make a name for yourself in what is basically a shootaround. They guys that make a name for themselves in All-Star games are flashy players who can ignite the crowd with dazzling ball handling or thunderous dunks. Beal does not fit either of those molds. He is your prototypical 2-guard and not surprisingly, that is he who he was in the Rising Stars game Friday night.
Beal poured in 21 points on while knocking down 4-of-8 3-point attempts. He did not do anything crazy, but if was good for people who were watching (probably not many) to see Beal’s silky stroke and him out there playing with guys like Damian Lillard and Anthony Davis.
Beal came back the next day and had another impressive performance. He participated in the 3-point contest and came in second place. However, he got the fans and other players watching off their feet with his second-round performance. Beal needed to beat 19 points in order to win the competition over Marco Belinelli. He didn’t shoot the ball entirely that well the first four racks, but he made the shots when it mattered most. Heading into the final rack, Beal had to make all five shots in order to force an overtime and that is exactly what he did. It was fun to see Beal’s competitive spirit come out. Unfortunately, he did not pull off the win in overtime against Belinelli, but his final rack shooting in round two was the highlight of the otherwise boring 3-point contest.
Beal really had a nice showing during All-Star Weekend. I am sure he will continue to be in many more 3-point contests and I believe there is an All-Star Game appearance in his near future.
Watching Beal was cool and all, but let’s face it, John Wall absolutely killed All-Star Weekend. If he wanted to make a statement to the rest of the league and the fans, he did about all he could during the weekend.
Wall made his first cameo during the weekend for the dunk contest. And he brought the house down. In the freestyle round of the competition, Wall threw down a vicious right-handed windmill of a bounce pass to himself. His next dunk was another bounce pass to himself, but this time he slammed home his patented left-handed dunk. And then we also got to see Wall play the part of what he has been doing all season. He set up his slam dunk contest “teammates” up for three impressive dunks, including one dunk in which he threw the pass off the shot clock to Paul George. You could see Wall had an extra bounce to his step, but I did not know he had what he unleashed next in the dunk contest.
Wall had Wizards mascot “G-Man” stand in the restricted area with the ball held over his head. Then Wall sprinted and soared up and grabbed the ball out of the mascot’s hands and reversed dunked it home. It was unbelievable. To be able to jump that high, bring the ball down that low and finish on the other side of the rim was something else. The building erupted and it was quickly apparent that Wall was going to be the next slam dunk contest winner.
Wall was voted the winner, but it was two things that two legends said about Wall that really stood out. Former slam dunk champion and Hall of Famer Julius Erving said the dunk contest “has returned” after Wall pulled off the seemingly impossible dunk. It didn’t end there though with the high praise. Magic Johnson quickly proclaimed that “John Wall has brought the dunk contest back!” Those guys have seen tons of classic slam dunk contests and some of the best dunkers ever and to hear those two things from those two guys just shows you how spectacular Wall’s dunk was.
However, Wall’s work was not done after the dunk contest Saturday. He still had to play in his first All-Star Game. He played very well, scoring 12 points in 15 minutes. He played with a ton of energy and was a big reason why the East was able to come back from an 18-point second-half deficit. Wall got after it a few times defensively and made a few highlight plays. Just like Beal in the Rising Stars game, you cannot really say much about an All-Star Game, but all I know is that this was the first of many for John Wall.
It was a lot of fun to watch. Wall was having a lot of fun. It was awesome to see because the guy absolutely deserves a ton of credit for his improvement each year in his young career as well as what he has brought to the table so far this season. He seemed to really enjoy the moment and that is cool to see from a guy you know works extremely hard.
All-Star Weekend was certainly a success, to say the least. Both Beal and Wall did what they did best and put on a show for the people in New Orleans. Soon, that whole complaining about not getting any national love thing won’t be true for this backcourt.