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Art Garcia

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John Wall has assumed the role of leader for the Washington Wizards at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas.
Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images

Wall playing role of leader for Wizards


Posted Jul 16 2010 9:36PM

LAS VEGAS -- John Wall doesn't have any illusions when it comes to his responsibilities.

"It's my team," he said with a confidence not found in many 19 year olds.

Wall, of course, was talking about Washington's Summer League squad. The Wizards are going to be his team soon enough since that's just the deal when you're the No. 1 pick in the Draft. For now, his task is leading a group largely made of up players who may never step onto an NBA court. Wall points, directs and shouts out instructions with a veteran's self-assurance.

"It's not me trying to tell them and be bossy or saying I'm bigger than anybody," he said. "It's just that point guard is my role and I'm trying to help my team have the best chance to win."

His demeanor hardly changes from a steely stare. It's not the happy-go-lucky vibe you'd expect from some kid living out a lifelong dream. He carries himself with an air bordering on arrogance. This is a job, one Wall takes seriously.

His work so far in desert has lived up to the billing. A quick and powerful first step gets Wall into the lane or opens up space for a still erratic jumper. His eyes are always up, looking for teammates in scoring position. He bodies up defensively, freely taking up any challenge.

And when an opponent gets the best of him -- as Dallas rookie Jeremy Lin did at times Thursday -- Wall has that competitive streak of coming back with more at the other end. He turns frustration into motivation.

"We've got a special player in John Wall," said Sam Cassell, Washington's summer coach. "We're going to take advantage of it."

So far, they are. Wall setting teammates up like no one else, leading the Summer League with an average of 9.3 assists per game going into Friday. He's also one of just a handful averaging more than 20 points. From the needs-to-improve department, Wall is shooting just 35 percent and turning it over 6.3 times per game.

"As a point guard, I'm going to have the ball a lot and I have to take care of the ball and run my offense and not have turnovers," he said. "Get that down to zero or one or two is key. And just being more patient, not trying to rush and force things at times."

Wizards coach Flip Saunders is convinced his highly-touted rookie can become one of the league's best playmakers. He's the face of the franchise, moving into the part manned by Gilbert Arenas before that dynamic point fell from grace.

Wall seems well prepared to deal with the hype machine that's followed him from high school to college to the nation's capital in a little more than a year. Washington's games have consistently drawn the best crowds at Summer League, including the first sellout for Wall' debut on Sunday.

"He's used to this," Wizards coach Flip Saunders said. "This is how it's been since senior year in high school. Kentucky is the same way, so I think he's comfortable in this kind of environment. I think he looks forward to this kind of environment. It gets him going and juices him up even more."

This is Wall's team, after all.

"He's a leader," Cassell said. "That's what we're searching for: leadership. And he's our guy."

Art Garcia has covered the NBA since 1999. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting

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