In pop culture, your stereotypical conspiracy theorist has crazy eyes and an overgrown beard, lives in the backwoods and tries to convince the Internet on the existence of UFOs.
John Wall doesn’t fit that description. And yet, on Wednesday night, Wall sat isolated in his corner spot of the Washington Wizards locker room, his eyes lighting up and rapid-fire voice picking up as he spoke on a favorite topic: how the Wizards get no love. This time, he has proof.
“It’s a prime example to that conversation we had that day,” Wall told The Post. “We don’t get national exposure.”
After the Wizards finished off the Indiana Pacers, 111-104, a game in which Wall performed like a closer and scored 36 points, he spent time explaining why he publicly retweeted information about his team being bumped from an ESPN showcase game on Jan. 11. Wall didn’t sound crazy, just convinced about how the Wizards (15-14) are treated as a little brother in the league.
On the same night when Pacers star Paul George received a $15,000 fine for essentially inferring how the league refuses to call fouls for him, Wall’s belief that TV-schedule-makers overlook his team didn’t sound so absurd. As far as NBA conspiracy theories go, this one grew legs after Washington got one of its five nationally broadcast games taken away — even though the team currently is surging toward respectability and has climbed to within a half-game of the playoff picture.
LolRT @InsideHoops: ESPN has removed Wizards vs Celtics from their January 11 NBA broadcast schedule and … https://t.co/jAXdiEZhre
— John Wall (@JohnWall) December 28, 2016
“I know you got to be able to win,” Wall said. “We didn’t get off to a great start [like] we wanted to, but we do have an all-star that’s been in the All-Star Game three times: me. And hopefully I can be [an all-star] again, and hopefully we can add Brad [Beal] and somebody else. We had five [national games] at the beginning of the year, and now we have four. And you never know, they might take another one. I feel like it’s back to what I said before: If you don’t have League Pass or NBA TV, you don’t see the Wizards.”
To Wall’s point: He is a prime-time draw, and yet — who is watching?
Through 14 games in December, Wall has 10 double-doubles, including one Wednesday night in which he added a season-best 11 rebounds and nine assists (against five turnovers) to his 36 points. When it became evident that Beal (sprained right ankle) wasn’t returning to the game, Wall went from facilitating to scoring and finally carrying his team down the stretch like a leader should. Wall wasn’t a superstar in the fourth (1-for-3 shooting), but he still was special by putting pressure on the Pacers on the defensive end. He also attacked the basket and earned trips to the free throw line, hitting 9 of 10 in the fourth quarter.
Still, as confident as Wall looked toeing the line for clutch free throws, a scattered serenade of “M-V-P” filling his ear, he admits to a self-conscious trait. Wall spends time searching for slights, on Twitter and from blogs, to find inspiration from what he perceives to be hate.
“Oh, for me, it’s easy to find anything that motivates me, because there’s always somebody [saying], ‘Oh, he’s not a top-five point guard! Oh, he’s not a top-25 player!’ ” Wall said. “I want to be the best. I want to be No. 1. That’s the mind-set I have. That’s why I work so hard; that’s why I dedicate myself to what I do. It’s a lot more fun knowing I can work out and do the things that I wanted to do and not have to worry about injuries this season. It’s easy for me to find anything as motivation, even the little things that fans say to me: ‘Oh, he had eight turnovers this game and didn’t do well!’ That’s motivation for me to do a better job.
“Those are the types of things that fuel me to make me want to keep going,” he continued. “I motivate myself, but those other things get me over the hump.”
With ESPN’s decision to feature Oklahoma City and Memphis over his Wizards’ game in Boston, Wall has found easy motivation. In his world, aliens will land before the Wizards get national recognition — but he will play on like everyone’s watching just the same.
“To be honest,” Wall responded when asked whether he felt the Wizards’ latest streak would earn them some respect, “I think the two years we made the playoffs and went to the second round, we come back the next year and still didn’t have that, I think we had maybe three or four NBA TV games.
“Maybe we will, maybe we don’t, but at the end of the day, I play this game because I love it. I give 110 percent effort, and my teammates know it. I enjoy playing with these guys, and they enjoy playing with me. My coaches enjoy coaching me, and our fans see what we do every night. We didn’t get to a great start that we wanted. We’re playing a lot better now. We want to close out the year on the right path. If the guys start to respect us, so be it, and if not, you still got to play the game that you love and keep it moving.”