Remember late February? Yeah, well I barely do either. This was When Wall was in one of the worst slumps of his young career. Remember Wall having 5 turnovers in the first quarter of the game vs Detroit and then blaming his teammates for not catching his passes and he complained in the locker room about barely playing in the fourth quarter?
Yeah, I don’t really remember that either. Seems like so long ago that Wall was playing poorly. Well what turned Wall around and got him headed in the right direction?
It was veteran center Emeka Okfaor that challenged Wall after that game.
According to Michael Lee of the Washington Post, there was a heated discussion between Emeka Okafor and John Wall after that game.
When Okafor attempted to explain afterward why Coach Randy Wittman had to make the decision to give A.J. Price more playing time, Wall snapped back, leading to a heated argument that was audible from the walls on the other side of the training room.
“It was just me being young and very frustrated. I wasn’t making anything, turning the ball over, and we lost a lot of games that we should’ve won and I put the toll on me,” Wall explained, as he recalled his emotions before the encounter. “A lot of frustration was coming out. As a veteran and being a leader on the team, [Okafor] stepped up and said something. At the time, it was in the heat of moment. I was upset.”
Wall was unaccustomed to having a teammate challenge him, but in hindsight, he couldn’t disagree with anything that Okafor told him: Wittman had to go with someone else if he was ineffective and Wall has to trust that the coach is doing what was in the best interest of the team, which should always come first
After this discussion, Wall started leading this team to a lot of victories and doing it in every way imaginable. He’s gone on a statistical tear we haven’t seen since the days that Arenas was in his prime in DC.
In his past 21 games, Wall is averaging 22.7 points, 7.9 assists and 4.9 rebounds and has recorded 10 games with at least 20 points, three games of 35 or more, and seven double-doubles. In that time, only LeBron James and Kobe Bryant are averaging at least 22 points, seven assists and 4.9 rebounds.
We all know what has followed but until now, none of us knew why. Well the reason for this was Okafor, what a great trade that has turned out to be with the Hornets 9 months ago. Not only has he been very solid on the court (9.9 points & 9 rebounds per game), but he has stepped up as a leader in the locker room as well, something this team desperately needed.
So from all Wizards fans, thank you Emeka. Welcome to DC and can’t wait to see you be our rock in the middle again next year!