A pump fake's purpose is to make a defender jump in the air. By that measure, John Wall made a really effective pump fake in the second quarter of the Washington Wizards' home game against the Orlando Magic on Monday night. Unfortunately, it worked a little too well.
As Wall cut toward the basket, he took a pass from Trevor Ariza, came to a stop under the rim, and let defender Ish Smith bite on the fake. But Smith is an NBA athlete, and NBA athletes can jump really high. So Smith didn't just jump into Wall for a foul — he went right over Wall's head and landed near the baseline. On top of that, he recovered in time to block Wall's real shot. That's pretty incredible, even if Smith eventually fouled Wall, who hit both free throws.
The good news for Wall is that he got some style-heavy payback on Smith at the end of the third quarter. Check out the highlight-reel play after the jump.
There you have it — with seconds left in the third quarter, Wall embarrassed Smith with a crossover and found Kevin Seraphin along the baseline for an easy jam. I think we can agree it's a little more impressive than Smith's block, if only because it wasn't quite so dependent on freak coincidence.
This play is, in short, why so many basketball fans and analysts still find Wall amazingly compelling even though his first few years in Washington haven't matched expectations. Wall is absurdly talented, quick with the ball and able to make decisions on the fly. No player can make highlights like this a regularity, because it's that amazing. But if Wall got consistent enough that they didn't stand out quite so much from the rest of his game as they currently do, he'd be a lot closer to becoming the perennial All-Star he seemed to be in June 2010.
This game — a 120-91 win for the Wizards, their third straight and seventh overall — was only Wall's second of the season after his return from a fairly serious knee injury. He's been solid, if not exactly stellar, putting in 26 points and 10 assists in 41 total minutes. The issues that have troubled him most in his career — his shooting percentage and turnovers — won't really reveal their present state until we see Wall over the course of several weeks, if not months.
At the very least, though, Wall has convinced us he's still worth watching. We'll find out more soon enough.