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NBA AM: Wizards’ John Wall Thirsty For Greatness

Some guys get a little success and become comfortable. For John Wall it has motivated him to pursue greatness

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Wizards’ John Wall not satisfied with current success, thirsty for more

Every season there are guys who fall further and further away from the hype machine that once surrounded them when they entered the league as ballyhooed prospects. On the flip side, there are those who finally put it all together, harnessing all of their athleticism and natural talent to take their games to next level.

Last season Washington Wizards point guard John Wall arrived on the scene. Always talented, Wall was given a max level extension prior to start of last season. The Wizards received an immediate return on investment as Wall secured his first All-Star selection and led the franchise to the second round of the playoffs.

The taste of success and prospect of joining the elite has Wall in a relentless pursuit of greatness.

“It’s a thirst,” Wall told Basketball Insiders on his desire to be great. “But it’s a thirst to have a better record, be one of the top teams two or three teams in the Eastern Conference and get the home court advantage. That’s something we have to work hard to do. No matter what your success was last year it’s never going to be easy to win in this league.”

Entering the offseason, the Wizards had two critical free agent decisions to make. Starting center Marcin Gortat and starting small forward Trevor Ariza both entered the summer as unrestricted free agents with numerous teams lining up at their doorstep.

Washington managed to re-sign Gortat to a lucrative deal, however, Ariza now plays a prominent role with the Houston Rockets. The Wizards signed future Hall of Fame forward Paul Pierce to ultimately fill Ariza’s vacant spot in the lineup and while the veteran has slowed down a bit his impact is showing on and off the court.

“A lot of great leadership,” Wall says of the dynamic Pierce brings. “A veteran presence who knows what it takes to win championships. A tough mentality, someone that knows what you need to do in order to win in this league. Plus a lot of levels he’s been on is what us [other] guys are trying to get to. Just that veteran leadership and presence and the humbleness to want to win and compete.”

But Wall isn’t just leaning on Pierce for tips to help elevate his stature. The guard says he gathers information from anyone offering the knowledge.

“I’m picking my coaches brain, [Pierce’s] brain and everybody’s that’s been here. Me and Andre Miller still talk a lot throughout the games just trying to figure out and do certain things that can help us as a team and help me as a player. I’m looking at all everything trying to get bet every day.”

The Wizards won 44 games last season, but enter the 2014-15 campaign as the favorites to carry the Southeast Division and win over fifty games.

Wall sees great things ahead for the franchise, however, he says the team must stay truly committed to their own identity and brand of basketball in order to reach those levels of success.

“Our identity is to play defense and be a tough physical team, a defensive minded team,” Wall said. “[Look to] fast break and execute our sets down the stretch. Play inside out, move the ball and have a lot of guys who [score] double figures.

Defense leads with me. Having the energy to pick up and guard guys early on. But just defense overall as a team. Covering each other when guys get beat off the dribble. You have to be there to help.”

The Wizards are currently 1-1, losing their regular season opener versus the new-look Miami HEAT before defeating the Orlando Magic.

Rookie Scale Extension Deadline – October 31, 2014

Here is your friendly reminder that the deadline for extensions on this year’s eligible rookie scale contracts is tonight, October 31 at midnight.

Up until this point, six eligible players already have early deals in hand. Those guys are Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving, Phoenix’s Markieff and Marcus Morris, Charlotte’s Kemba Walker, Orlando’s Nikola Vucevic and Denver’s Kenneth Faried.

But there are still plenty of talented eligible for extension guys who are still playing the waiting game. If no deals are reached, most of these guys will undoubtedly be headed restricted free agency next summer.

Here are some of the players that are still awaiting word:

Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs: The third youngest NBA Finals MVP in league history and the Spurs are reportedly far apart in negotiations. Not an impossible gap to overcome, but a gap that will likely lead to a trip through restricted free agency next summer for Leonard.

Ricky Rubio, Minnesota Timberwolves: Early reports indicated Rubio was seeking a max level deal. The Timberwolves have been adamant that this type of deal isn’t in their plans. For now, it seems like a four-year deal in the $48-$54 million realm will likely get done before the deadline.

Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls: According to David Aldridge, an early extension for Butler is highly unlikely.

Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors: Sources close to the situation maintain Thompson is seeking a max level deal and point to the team’s unwillingness to include him in Kevin Love trade talks this past summer as a source of leverage.

Reggie Jackson, Oklahoma City Thunder: Jackson is currently on the shelf nursing an injured ankle, but according to numerous reports he’s unlikely to receive an early extension with the Thunder preferring to let the market set his value in free agency next summer.

Lang Greene is a senior NBA writer for Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA for the last 10 seasons

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