This weekend reminded everyone that former Kentucky star John Wall is a show-stopping, traffic-stopping basketball phenomenon in the Bluegrass State.
“I almost caused an accident walking down the street,” said Wall, who wore a Kentucky sweatsuit on his stroll. “Somebody wanted to stop and take a picture, but there was traffic going.”
No damage was done.
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“It’s always fun and amazing to be back in the love and support I get here,” Wall said. “I can’t deny it.”
It’s always fun and amazing to be back in the love and support I get here.I can’t deny it.
The enduring love and support showed itself Friday night at UK’s Big Blue Madness. As always, the introduction of Wall sparked hearty cheers. Even Wall finds his level of popularity difficult to explain since he wasn’t part of a national championship team and, of course, played only one season for Kentucky.
“I kind of get a bigger ovation than the national championship team, and it’s kind of amazing and I love it,” he said. “I guess because I was, like, the first main guy here.”
In John Calipari’s first season as Kentucky coach, Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe set the standard for one-and-done success in a college season and the subsequent NBA Draft.
“Amazing,” Brooks said. “John’s been obviously talking about his experience here. … He has nothing but good things to say. Now, I know why. That last night, that was ridiculous. I’ve never seen anything like it. It was incredible.”
Brooks joked that Madness would rob Calipari of the pretense of having the option to coach elsewhere.
“Cal lost all of his negotiations and leverage,” the Wizards coach said. “He’s not leaving here. Where are you going to go from here?”
When asked what specifically impressed him about Madness, Brooks borrowed from Allen Iverson, who famously downplayed the significance of a mere workout.
“You’re talking practice, you know what I’m talking about?” Brooks said of Big Blue Madness. “I mean, it’s crazy. I didn’t anticipate that. I thought maybe a couple thousand people.”
Of course, Wall began a line of standout point guards who’ve played for Calipari at Kentucky. He has advised this coming season’s heir apparent, freshman De’Aaron Fox, to be aware of the zeal of UK opponents and not stray from what he does best.
I kind of get a bigger ovation than the national championship team, and it’s kind of amazing and I love it. I guess because I was, like, the first main guy here.
“It was kind of easier for me because I had Coach Rod Strickland here to help me,” Wall said.
Wall and Fox share the attribute of speed. When asked who would win a race, Wall said, “Oh, you know the answer to that one.”
Brooks said he had timed Wall going from foul line to foul line in two and one-half seconds.
“He’s as fast as anybody in this league,” Brooks said, “and probably in history.”
Speed alone is not what makes Wall good, the Wizards coach said.
“You can get fast guys on the court,” he said. “You can find those guys anywhere. But can you get a fast guy who can make good decisions with the ball? He’s one of the best I’ve ever seen going at a full speed and be able to see the other nine players on the court. Not a lot of guys can do that.”
Because Wall is recovering from offseason surgeries on both knees, the Wizards planned to limit him to about 24 minutes of action against Sacramento.
He’s as fast as anybody in this league, and probably in history.
Scott Brooks, Wizards head coach, on John Wall
Brooks suggested that Wall can contribute this season when not playing by being a leader.
“He has a great sense of humor,” Brooks said. “He’s a talker. He communicates. He laughs and he jokes. I like his spirit. I like the way he mixes with his teammates. He’s been great.”
With so many former UK players in the NBA, Wall said there’s a frequent chance to reminisce and reflect … and maybe indulge in one-upmanship.
What do the ex-Cats talk about when their NBA paths cross? For one thing, “Who the best team is,” Wall said. “We still feel we’re the best team that came here even though we didn’t win the championship.”
The exhibition game involved several former Kentucky players: Willie Cauley-Stein, Skal Labissiere and Cousins for Sacramento, plus Wall.
Wall wished aloud that the crossing of paths in Rupp Arena re-occurs in the future.
“Oh, it’s great …,” he said of the return to Lexington. “We have so many guys in the league that I wish we could play a preseason game here every year.”
Kings 124, Wizards 119
Cousins scored 22 points and had five rebounds and six assists in the Kings’ victory in Rupp Arena on Saturday night. Point guard Darren Collison finished with 22 points on 7-for-11 shooting and added eight assists.
Seven different Wizards players scored in double figures, led by Andrew Nicholson's 19 points. Trey Burke chipped in 14 points and 10 assists in the loss.
Wall played 22 minutes and finished with 11 points, four steals and four assists.