“I was honest with him. I said, ‘This is going to take a full commitment. It can’t be a week here, week there.’ I didn’t know John too well, so I just tried to put it out there,” McClanaghan said in a telephone interview. “I said, ‘If you’re not ready to make that commitment, that’s fine, but it’s not going to work out for us.’ He said, ‘I’m ready.’ ”
After going home to North Carolina to rest after his second straight lottery season ended, Wall went to Los Angeles, made a phone call and showed up at a high school gym at 7 a.m., prepared to take his game to a different level. Taking advantage of the individual attention that came because Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder were making a deep playoff run and Rose was recovering from a knee injury, Wall trained with McClanaghan five days a week, one hour each day, focusing on ways to alternate speeds and become a more efficient and confident jump shooter.
“All the stuff that I put in at 7 a.m. in L.A. is what [Monday] night was for,” Wall said from the lobby of a downtown Oklahoma City hotel, a day after leading the Wizards to a 107-94 win over Memphis. “I always heard about [McClanaghan], because Coach Cal knows who he is. Seeing how he worked Russell and Derrick and how they improved and how they got better and better, that’s something I’m trying to do. Wouldn’t be bad to have the same trainer as them.”
The benchmarks wall reached Monday — 47 points, eight assists and seven rebounds — have been matched only 26 times by 12 other players in the past 28 years, including Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade and Gilbert Arenas.
But Wall had been steadily building toward it. In 14 games this month, he is averaging 21.8 points, eight assists, 4.5 rebounds and shooting 52.3 percent from the field and 50 percent from the beyond the three-point line. He has made the spectacular routine, such as his effort on Friday, when he had 24 points, a career-high 16 assists and six rebounds and rallied the Wizards back from an 18-point deficit in a 103-100 win over the Los Angeles Lakers. The Wizards, 26-44 overall, are 21-16 since Wall came back from a stress injury in his left knee that sidelined him for the season’s first 33 games.