Before the magnificence of Blake Griffin’s season set in, pundits around the league anticipated a close race for Rookie of the Year. John Wall not only fit as the proposed competition, but many believed he was the front runner. After all, point guards start with the ball in their hands, get to show off their play from the very start. Additionally, John Wall was presumed to be the man for the Wizards. No player represented their present and future, so Wall would be featured early. As capable as John Wall was and is, his popularity as the Rookie of the Year pick lost all momentum early in the season.
His ROY campaign didn’t correlate with poor play, Wall averaged 17.1 points and 9.1 assists per game in November, but he missed time due to injury right at the exact time that Blake found his footing. Wall missed 6 games in the month of November in two stretches, four games from the 13th to the 21st and two games between the 25th and the 1st of December. In most years, that would hardly be enough to derail momentum for anything, let alone a Rookie of the Year campaign. However, the first four game stretch coincided with the Clippers/Pistons game —
— as well as the Clippers/ Knicks.
By the time that Blake dunked on Timofey Mozgov, fans, writers, players were all clamoring to talk about Blake Griffin, and the Rookie of the Year race fell squarely into Blake’s lap.
Blake’s allure struck deeper than mere flashes potential, broader than consistently brutal dunks. He ran off a franchise record 27 consecutive double doubles, averaged more than 22 points and 12 rebounds per game and earned a spot in the All Star Game, Sprite Dunk Contest and Rookie Sophomore game. John Wall’s chances for ROY fell off the earth, but that doesn’t mean that he hasn’t played well. As little meaning as the Rookie Sophomore game has on the course of the season, John Wall’s 22 assists (with the ridiculously cool bounce pass alley-oop to Blake) signified not just his flare and potential but his ability to be the focal point of the offense while not scoring the most points. He has come to epitomize what every team would want, a strong, athletic point guard with an eye for getting teammates open shots and the ability to play tough defense.
So far this season, that hasn’t translated into wins. Wall still isn’t shooting well, but that’s not to blame for the Wizards tragically long 26 game road losing streak, nor the 16 total wins. The reality is that even great players can’t transform a team rebuilding from such a mess (even Ted Leonsis acknowledged the difficulty of rebuilding in a candid letter to his fans). Clippers fans can sympathize, even with Blake’s great play and an all but guaranteed Rookie of the Year win, the Clips only have won 26 games. However, the foundations of success feel like they are in place for the Clippers. Blake could be capital G great. And even though the Wizards have had to overcome mishaps with contracts, it wouldn’t be too much of a surprise to see John Wall giving Blake a much closer run for MVP in the future.
Keys to the Game
– John Wall. He averages 15.5 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.6 steals and poses a threat every time he’s on the court. He assists on a gaudy 38.7 percent of his teammates field goals and his blistering speed combines with his quick hands to morph his defensive possessions into offensive fast breaks. Mo Williams, former teammate Eric Bledsoe and Randy Foye will have a tough time guarding this soon to be star.
– Mentally bounce back. Over the course of a season, there will be tough losses and the loss to New Jersey surely constitutes as one. But the Clippers can’t fall into that same malaise that allowed them to drop a game to the Raptors right after they lost to the Cavaliers.
– Lots of post offense. Both Blake and Kaman (and maybe even DeAndre) need to take advantage on the ditzy front court of JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche (although Blatche might not play). The two Wiz big men combine for 2.9 blocks per game (2.2 by JaVale and .7 by Blatche) but don’t be fooled, according to Hoopsstats.com the Washington bigs earned the 6th worst front court differential in the league. Clips need to take advantage of that.
Eric Gordon: wrist, out
Andray Blatche: strained right shoulder, doubtful
Cartier Martin: right knee tendinitis, questionable
Josh Howard: strained right hamstring, questionable
Rashard Lewis: right knee tendinitis, doubtful