Posted Jun 29 2010 4:14PM
The rookie, all of 19, heading into what would have been his sophomore season of college, arrived for his first day on the job in a new town with a seat on a dais, a video greeting from fans and some of the biggest local names and a proclamation from the mayor of Washington declaring June 25, 2010, as John Wall Day.
Whereas this is headed in a very good direction. Wall got the obligatory public embrace at an introductory press conference Friday as the No. 1 pick in the draft and the new face of the future of the re-energized Wizards. They said all the right things about having him there for a basketball lifetime and he said all the right things about being there, and this is just too perfect.
Wait. Actually playing.
Oh, yeah. That.
Wall is obviously a talented point guard. It's just that a healthy Gilbert Arenas is too, creating the uncertainty of how Wall and Arenas will play together and the biggest issue in the fledgling union of dynamic floor leader and his new team desperate for a season devoid of conflict.
It gets especially intriguing because of the many external factors -- Walls' rising-star popularity against the image reconstruction awaiting Arenas with his return in training camp, Walls leaving burnt rubber in the open court compared to the lengthy Arenas medical history, Wall as the primary sign of franchise hope for the future against Arenas as the reminder of all that has gone wrong. But it's still good on basketball alone, a veteran trying to maintain his former prominent role while coming back from lengthy suspension and injury with a massive contract while the incoming No. 1 pick tries to assert himself.
The obvious solution is that Wall starts at point guard, Arenas moves to shooting guard, Nick Young gets a reserve role, as does Kirk Hinrich once his acquisition becomes official July 8, and Mike Miller and Randy Foye potentially depart as free agents. Arenas played two-guard for the Wizards for a couple seasons when Larry Hughes ran the point and also in college at Arizona. He's more scorer than distributor.
Except that it's no solution. Arenas is no spot-up shooter and he needs the ball to be effective, by any position title. Same with Wall.
"It's going to be some kind of adjustment," said an executive from another front office. "Both guys will have to give up something. Neither has had to do that much in his career. Maybe Gilbert early. You'd think he'd be willing to do that now with all that's he's been through."
The gun episode of last season, of course, that resulted in 30 days in a halfway house, two years of probation and 400 hours of community service, along with the 13-week suspension from the league that ended Arenas' 2009-10 in January. Before that, there was the series of knee injuries that kept him to a combined 15 games the previous two seasons. In that way -- in that strange, unwanted way -- history finally breaks in favor of the Wizards.
Arenas has to know he will be under immense scrutiny, though you would have thought he also would have known the horribly misguided shoot-'em-up pantomime just after pregame introductions never should have gone down. If he truly cares about rehabilitating his career and image, Agent Zero knows he can't afford to blink wrong for months. He can't afford to appear the least bit put out by the deferential moments of having to play off Wall.
"But you're talking about egos, right?" the executive living in the real world reminded.
"Look how me and Eric Bledsoe did," Wall said of meshing with his Kentucky teammate, likewise a point guard. "Guys said we both needed the ball, we wasn't going to work together. Eric did a great job of not frustrating, not worrying about not having the ball. He knew I was going to find him if I was the point guard. Eric can score just like Gilbert.... I'm going to find [Arenas] in certain spots. He's a scoring person that has been in the league for a long time and he's a veteran. He's going to help me out and give me advice when I'm also going through the process."
Nice try, but it's impossible to compare fitting in with a fellow freshman in college, even one good enough to be picked 18th, with a 28-year-old three-time All-Star, all while surrounded by other grown men wanting to win and fans wanting to see forward movement. This is not co-existing with Eric Bledsoe. This is the NBA and the unique Arenas situation, a moment so obviously important for the Wizards it requires no proclamation.
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