By J.C. Carnahan
John Wall had a tough time against a tough opponent in his first career pro basketball game Thursday night at the new Amway Center in Orlando.
The Magic stormed out to an early lead and won big 112-83, while Wall started slow and came away humbled in his debut with the Washington Wizards.
It’s no way for an overall No. 1 NBA Draft pick to start his career. But the compliments handed down from several Magic players at night’s end should provide some solace. Vince Carter, Rashard Lewis and Dwight Howard were among the players impressed with the kids quickness and overall potential.
“It was tough. It really taught me what I need to work on,” said Wall afterwards. “It was tough not making shots.”
He missed his first two attempts from the field from just inside the three-point arc, then was credited with the first points of his career on a goaltending call against Howard with nearly nine minutes to go in the first quarter. He finally found the bottom of the net on a 21-footer at the 7:55 mark.
A pass-first point guard drafted out of Kentucky, Wall finished 6-of-19 with 14 points, nine assists, three steals and three turnovers. He started the night 3-of-13 from the field. But make no mistake about it. This was a team loss. A major blowout that saw the Magic control the boards by a 53-25 advantage.
None of it sat well with Washington Coach Flip Saunders, who said his team played scared and were “shell-shocked” after falling behind early.
When asked how he felt Wall faired in his first regular season game he replied, “we got beat by 29, so he didn’t do very good.”
The reality is, though, that the young Wizards were matched against one of the best defensive teams in the league, featuring the reigning defensive player of the year in former No. 1 overall pick Howard.
“It’s not the most ideal situation or matchup for your first game,” said Saunders. “That’s part of the learning process.”
Wall entered the night hoping to carry over some of the success he experienced in the preseason, when he averaged 15.7 points and finished second in the league in assists per game with 7.9 after being named the Most Outstanding Player of the 2010 NBA Summer League.
He officially entered the NBA on the heels of being named 2009-10 Adolph Rupp National Player of the Year after averaging 16.6 points, 6.5 assists and 1.8 steals per game as a freshman with the Wildcats.
The competition was a little different this time around.
“Tonight we was playing against a team that was in the Eastern Conference Finals the last couple years. They’re a talented team. They’re on a mission,” said Wall.
They are also the kind of team any young basketball player would benefit by measuring their own success and setbacks against.
Luckily for Wall and his teammates there will be another chance to do just that when the Wizards and Magic meet up again November 27th in Washington.