John Wall he’s been looking forward to playing in front of fans in Washington, DC again, and will do so while making his first start for the LA Clippers.
Wall is in line to make his first start of the season on Saturday against his former team the Washington Wizards after the Clippers dumped the starting point guard. reggie jackson to give him rest.
“I just want to win, to be honest,” Wall told ESPN in an interview last week about his return to DC. At the end of the day, it’s big for me and big for this city because of how much I meant to them, how much what they meant to me But I never want to take it away from the Clippers because it’s a team basketball game. So I won’t do everything for myself. I’ll let the game play out.
“I don’t want it to be all about me. I know there will be a lot of emotions, a lot of cheering every time I touch the ball, score, but I just want to walk away with the win.” That’s the most important thing to me.”
However, the Clippers know how big this game and moment will be for Wall. This will be the second time the Wizards’ first overall pick has returned since he was traded to Houston with a protected 2023 first-round pick to the Rockets for Russell Westbrook in December 2020.
But it will be their first game in front of the fans at the Capital One Arena as an opponent. Wall had 29 points and 11 assists in the Wizards’ 131-119 win over the Rockets on February 15, 2021, but there were no fans in attendance due to COVID restrictions.
The Wizards will welcome Wall back with a video tribute on Saturday. They gave their former franchise point guard a video tribute, but there were no fans to see it and greet Wall with cheers.
Wall, who was heavily involved with the DC community, has not played in front of Washington fans since Dec. 16, 2018 after playing just 32 games during the 2018-19 season and then missing the entire 2019-20 season due to to surgeries on the left heel and Achilles. Wall had an infection from the procedure in his heel that Wall said nearly caused his foot to be amputated.
Wall then was in “the darkest place I’ve ever been,” as he described it to ESPN in July. His mother died of breast cancer in December 2019. And then he lost his grandmother just weeks before he returned to Washington in February 2021. The point guard detailed how he had suicidal thoughts in a deeply personal Players Tribune article and that sought therapy.
Now Wall says he’s back to doing what he loves. After agreeing to a deal with the Rockets and signing with the Clippers in July, Wall has come off the bench in all 21 of his games this season, averaging 12.6 points and 5.8 assists in 22 minutes per game. The Clippers have monitored his playing time and sidelined him for one game in a row this season after the point guard played in 40 games over the previous three seasons, including missing the entirety of last season when the Rockets were entering the a reconstruction.
On Saturday, he will probably start again in front of his old fans. Wall sees this as an opportunity to thank fans and friends in person for helping him grow.
“I called it my second home,” said Wall, who grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. “I feel like it’s my home. It’s going to be great and I think a lot of people will be there.”
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Clippers: Wall will make his first start against Wizards