Colin Cowherd, a cynical blowhard so immediately repulsive and culturally toxic that even typing his name is causing me to break out in hives, said some dumb shit today about John Wall.
The point of his rant, farted with sneering arrogance onto the airwaves for the fetishistic snorting of his largely brain-dead audience, is that his initial and indefensible impression, formed years ago during the last minute and a half of John Wall's pre-actual-NBA-player career, has been vindicated because John Wall did not make Team USA for the 2014 FIBA World Cup.
Look. Cowherd is a lunatic dipshit clown, the drooling shit-eating caged idiot to the larger sports world's traveling circus, a base, ugly sideshow put in place to fund the good works of better people via the reliable attention of the kind of people who would otherwise be ranting incoherently in the Yahoo comments. He is viral content. Colin Cowherd is videos of kittens. 10 Amazing New Ways to Advertise to Ignorant Racists and Fund Expensive New Broadcasting Deals!
So, rather than delve any more into his overall routine and how it's bad and wrong and you're a totally irredeemable idiot once and for all and your parents should be ashamed of you if you defend him or anything he says, let's concern ourselves, for just a moment, with the basketball criticisms he levels at John Wall, the shall-we-say factual basis of the assertion that Cowherd's "judgment" has been proven.
The first apparent strike against Wall is that he has been cut from Team USA. It's true! Team USA invited more players to camp than can fit on the final World Cup roster, which is sort of how any audition works. Wall was a late invite, he practiced with the team, generally looked out of sorts in the injury-shortened Blue on White scrimmage, and, along with Paul Milsap and Wizards teammate Bradley Beal, was among the initial round of cuts. Because Wall wanted to make the team and did not, this is something of a bummer for Wall, but he probably shouldn't get too worked up about it. After all, there were more than 400 NBA players who weren't even invited to the Team USA camp. If Wall is...whatever Cowherd insists he is, and that thing is bad (as it sure sounds like it is if you are able to listen over the sound of millennia of human evolution being flushed down the toilet), the rest of the players in the NBA should probably just lie down and die already. Getting cut from the World Cup team still puts John Wall in an incredibly tiny, elite group of basketball players, even among basketball players who are good enough at basketball to make millions of dollars playing basketball in the world's best and most competitive basketball league.
In fact, it's worth just saying this outright: absolutely nothing negative at all is indicated about Wall by his being cut from Team USA. Not only does it not prove that dancing=morally corrupt, it doesn't prove or indicate or suggest or support anything at all except that the coaches of Team USA felt that his particular set of tools and skills weren't necessary among this exact mix of circumstances. We all already know this: in the coming weeks, Damian Lillard is likely to be cut from Team USA as well, while Kyle Korver is likely to stay, and this will not mean that Kyle Korver is a better basketball player or a better teammate or a better professional or a better person than Damian Lillard, only that the coaches want what Korver does more than they need what Lillard does. Every NBA fan should understand this: the sport is deep in quality point guards these days and thin on knockdown shooters at wing positions. It really is that simple.
As further proof of Wall's irreversible corruption and professional inadequacy, Cowherd points out that Wall led the league in turnovers in the 2013-14 NBA season. This evidence is flimsy and absurd, but let's go ahead and get into it just a little bit.
In the 2013-14 NBA season, Wall did, in fact, lead the NBA in turnovers, with 295. It's not, like, a great number. Throughout his career, Wall has been perhaps more turnover prone than he'd like to be, and no one on earth would say he shouldn't work to cut down on his 2013-14 regular season turnover rate (16.3). On the other hand, the suggestion that this number reflects a troubling lack of judgment is, well, first of all, it's hysterical right there on its face to suggest that whatever causes a person to turn the ball over in an NBA game is related to whatever inspires a person to dance for 30 seconds when music is playing. But more to the point, turnovers aren't often the result of subversive or arrogant or even selfish plays, which is why the NBA is very often led in turnovers by the same players who lead it in assists. Turnovers are, by and large, the result of passing and dribbling, and John Wall did more of those two things in the 2013-14 NBA season than just about anyone. Wall led the league in total touches, time of possession per game, and total assists, and finished second in total passes behind Ricky Rubio, who played one more regular season game than Wall. Of course he was going to have a lot of turnovers. Turnovers are often, in fact, a byproduct of being good and important.
How do we know? Because the next four players on the total turnovers list are, in order, Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, LeBron James, and James Harden. John Wall edged out Curry, whom Colin Cowherd held up as one of the players tellingly not cut from Team USA, for the lead in total turnovers by a single turnover, and despite playing 3 more games than Curry. Huh.
There are other ways to look at this that will inevitably lead towards the same conclusion (that this criticism of Wall is a cherry-picked crock of shit): in the previous ten NBA seasons James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Steve Nash, Dwight Howard, Allen Iverson, and Paul Pierce have all led the NBA in total turnovers with at least as many as Wall had in the 2013-14 season. Nash and Westbrook did it twice. Rajon Rondo has never in his entire career had a turnover rate as low as Wall's was in 2013-14. The total turnover stat means absolutely nothing.
Cowherd's final blow, or anyway, the last one I registered before all I could any longer hear was the loud whistle sound of steam gushing out of my ears, was that John Wall shot poorly in the playoffs. And he did. In his first trip to the playoffs, Wall shot an ugly 37% from the floor, a disappointing 22% from the three point arc, and a not-good-at-all .387 eFG%. He shot poorly. It's true. And, what's worse, he put up these putrid numbers on more than 21 attempts per game. It's not pretty, folks. Perhaps ol' Colin is right: maybe this John Wall fella is a soulless piece of shit from hell after all. How dare he shoot that poorly?
Or, wait, hang on a minute, we're supposed to be talking about whether this stuff indicates any particular flaw in Wall's judgment or reveals anything fundamentally busted in Wall's core. So, though I may have wanted to smack him over the head with my TV remote during the Wizards' second round series loss to the Indiana Pacers, we may be jumping the gun on condemning him to the fiery pits for all eternity.
See, bad judgment, and not just the kind that would allow a teenager to move his trunk and limbs rhythmically when loud music plays in an arena full of revelers, might be demonstrated in this case by the player taking bad, selfish, irresponsible shots. The kind that, say, are known to be inefficient and are therefore explicitly discouraged by one's coach. A player who dismissively launched inefficient shots from a forbidden part of the floor in the NBA playoffs might reasonably be accused of exhibiting bad judgment, and his coach should be pretty pissed off about it.
Except #SoWizards exists for a reason.
Randy Wittman, coach of the Wizards, wanted his players taking those shots. His offensive philosophy demanded they take those shots. Passing up those shots, in Washington, was an act of open rebellion.
And, more importantly, Wall is not yet a brilliant shooter (although he's moving in that direction significantly), and it was his first postseason.
None of this is lost on Cowherd, of course, and this particular criticism is just as cynically cherry-picked as the turnovers number: he picked on Wall's playoff numbers - an obviously and absurdly small sample - because Wall was a perfectly average shooter from all areas of the floor in the 2013-14 regular season. Did he perform poorly in the playoffs? Of course. But here again, the details matter: he managed those poor numbers against the Chicago Bulls and Indiana Pacers, the teams with the best and second best regular season scoring defenses in the NBA for the 2013-14 regular season, respectively.
If all of this seems like a long way of saying that a disingenuous piece of shit troll said some wholly disingenuous shit in a successful ploy to rile up NBA fans and get a little more attention for himself, well, yes, it is that. But Cowherd ended his rant with a particularly annoying straw-man argument, the thrust of which is that his insane antipathy towards John Wall is criticized only for being hastily formed around superficial evidence, or racist. The issue, here, is that, while it is also both of those things, and of course it is, and if you deny either you're an asshole idiot, it's also in direct contrast to what any credible analysis of Wall's stats or unbiased appraisal of his demeanor or play should make absolutely plain: that he's a terrific and improving basketball player and at least no better or worse a dude or professional than any other NBA player. If the irony of an intellectually dishonest asshole using an intellectually dishonest argument to accuse rational NBA fans and media observers of being intellectually dishonest strikes you as funny, perhaps that's the best any of us can get out of this type of shit.
All stats referenced come from either basketball-reference.com or stats.nba.com.