NBA Clippers’ John Wall outperforms expectations, savoring chance after overcoming adversity 2022
NBA Clippers John Wall outperforms expectations, savoring chance after overcoming adversity. ‘We didn’t expect it to be this wonderful so quickly.’ John Wall entered the visitor’s locker room at Chase Center, drenched in perspiration from his pregame exercise, rapping along to the bars hammering in his ears. He made his presence clear to everyone within hearing, a behavior that Wall may value more than other NBA players. He wants you to know he’s still here, since he didn’t want to be here at all at one point.
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Prior to the start of the 2022-23 NBA Clippers season, Wall wrote a heartfelt, but ultimately victorious, article in The Players’ Tribune about how almost three years away from the game due to injury, along with the loss of his mother, drove him to seriously consider suicide. The thought of his two boys growing up fatherless gave him the will to keep battling, and his return to the floor with the Los Angeles Clippers in October marked a new chapter in the 32-year-old guard’s turbulent life and career.
“It’s fantastic. It’s incredible. It’s all part of God’s plan.” NBA Clippers was informed by Wall. “Simply being in the company of a terrific bunch of men. They all greeted me with open arms, and I’ve felt like part of the family from day one, from the owner to the coaching staff, to the trainers, to everyone who works for the business, and the fan base. So it makes it easier for me to come out here and compete at a high level while still getting to play the game I love again.”
Wall sustained an Achilles injury a month after undergoing season-ending heel surgery as a member of the Washington Wizards in December of 2018. The subsequent procedures resulted in an infection, which he claims almost demanded a foot amputation. Wall returned temporarily with the Houston Rockets in 2020-21 before being kept out of games for the whole 2021-22 season, despite being healthy and earning over $45 million for the season. As a consequence, Wall appeared in 40 NBA games over the course of almost four years.
As a result, it was impossible to foresee what, if anything, the NBA Clippers would get from Wall, who signed a two-year, $13.2 million contract with the NBA Clippers this summer after agreeing to a buyout with the Rockets. The injuries, along with the layoff, cast doubt on the five-time All-Star, who built a career on his quickness.
However, over a quarter of the way through the season, the results have surpassed expectations for the NBA Clippers. Wall has established himself as the Clippers’ backup point guard, averaging 12.3 points and 5.4 assists in slightly over 22 minutes per game. So far, his biggest performance has been a 15-assist clinic against the Spurs in only 24 minutes. Since Chris Paul in 2017, no Clipper has handed out 15 assists in a game, and Wall became the first player in NBA history to have nine assists off the bench in the first quarter.
A week later, he scored a season-high 23 points on 8-for-10 shooting against the Denver Nuggets.
“We didn’t see it coming, to be this good this quickly,” Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue remarked. “We expected it would take [Wall] a little longer, but he’s worked it out. He’s an astute player. He enjoys playing the game and is highly intellectual. He’s really beyond our expectations thus early in the season.”
Wall brings a dimension to the Clippers that they have lacked in recent seasons: pace. They were 28th in pace in 2020-21, then 19th last season sans Kawhi Leonard, who prefers to play slowly. When Wall enters the game off the bench, he has a clear offensive mission: push the pace and get into the paint.
He’s clearly succeeding. When Wall is not playing, the NBA Clippers average 98 possessions per game. With Wall on the court, the pace accelerates to almost 103 possessions per minute. His speed seems to be similar to what he demonstrated in his peak, and he’s been able to produce for himself and others when in transition. On the break, he assaults the paint and Euro steps for the and-one.
Then, after a miss, he immediately pushes the ball, and as the defender closes, he detects the trailer, finding Reggie Jackson for an easy lay-in.
“Even with injuries and everything that has happened during his career, he’s still one of the quickest players in the NBA Clippers with the ball in his hands,” Jackson told CBS Sports. “So what he can do, his ability to touch the paint, he’s not just helping me, but he’s helping us all make easier shots and collapse the defense.”
His shooting hasn’t quite clicked yet, but Wall is determined to get inside the key in the half-court. According to NBA Clippers, he is second on the club with 8.5 drives per game, but he has done so in just 22 minutes. He’s completed at a decent rate around the basket by using his power and speed to get through and/or around opponents.