Prior to this week, the last time John Wall had played an NBA game was Dec. 26, 2018. In the two years since then he'd undergone surgery on both his knee and Achilles, and there were major questions about the type of player he'd be when he got back on the court.
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So much so that the Washington Wizards traded him and a first-round pick to the Houston Rockets for Russell Westbrook just before the season. The early returns suggest that might have been a mistake. In his first game back on Thursday, Wall put up 22 points, six rebounds and nine assists in a win over the Sacramento Kings, and on Saturday he helped take down the Kings again with 28 points, four rebounds, six assists and three steals.
That's not to say it's been a perfect start for Wall. He's already turned it over 10 times in two games and has been shooting the ball terribly from 3-point land, going 4 of 16. But there's been enough glimpses of the pre-injury Wall to suggest that if he's not all the way back, he's close enough to still be a very good player.
The sharp uptick in 3-point attempts -- 8 per game so far this season, with a previous career-high of 5.3 per game suggests he might be more of a jump shooter now than he used to be, and that could turn into a problem if he keeps shooting so poorly. But when he puts his head down he's still more than quick enough to beat defenders, and the acrobatic finishes that became synonymous with his game are still there.
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A former All-Defense performer, Wall has been making plays on that end of the floor as well. His hands are still lightning quick, which makes him a nuisance for ball handlers and in the passing lanes. He'll get up and block a shot too, even claiming after Saturday's game, "I feel like I'm the best shot blocking point guard of all time."
Perhaps best of all, though, he's playing with the swagger and intensity of a player who has a point to prove. Late in the fourth quarter of Saturday's win, he got isolated against Buddy Hield and bullied him in the paint before gesturing as if to say the Kings guard was too small for him. Then he went down on the other end of the floor and forced a turnover by knocking the ball away from De'Aaron Fox and winning the ensuing scramble.
As he stood up he pumped his arms and let out a scream, while Houston's announcers exclaimed, "Oh, that's great! Welcome to Houston John Wall!"
Welcome to Houston indeed.