NEW YORK — Like a president-elect awaiting inauguration, John Wall is seemingly just biding his time until he can officially begin cleaning up Washington.
Life hasn’t been so simple for DeMarcus Cousins, who has been crisscrossing the country battling Derrick Favors in hopes of getting picked soon after his college teammate.
It’s been a decidedly different draft process for the Kentucky freshmen, but Cousins thinks it will yield the same result once they become pros.
“John’s an incredible player, I believe I’m a pretty good player and we’re going to play our roles,” Cousins said Wednesday.
Though NBA rules prevent them from confirming it, the Wizards have been expected to take Wall from the moment they landed the No. 1 pick. They were in dire need of something good to happen after a disastrous season, and it did when they surprisingly won last month’s draft lottery, which offered the all-American point guard as the top prize.
Wearing a cardigan sweater with a large ’J’ on it, Wall appeared relaxed Wednesday when he met the media, but said that isn’t entirely the case.
“I’m excited, but at the same time a little nervous,” he said. “I probably won’t get any sleep tonight or tomorrow before the day starts.”
The Philadelphia 76ers are likely to take national player of the year Evan Turner from Ohio State with the No. 2 pick. Turner said he talked about the notoriously tough Philly fans with new coach and former Sixers guard Doug Collins and was told “as long as you play tough, you’re a competitor and play with passion, you’ll survive here.”
Then the confusion starts.
The New Jersey Nets, who had the NBA’s worst record but missed out on a chance for Wall when they dropped to No. 3 in the lottery, were believed to be debating between Cousins or Favors, before speculation in the days leading up to the draft that they’d turned their attention to Syracuse forward Wesley Johnson.
If so, Johnson understands why.
“I went in there and just tried to kill the workout,” said Johnson, a self-described “late bloomer” who at 22 is an old man next to some of the other expected high picks.
Favors and Cousins worked out against each other in Philadelphia, New Jersey and Sacramento, which has the No. 5 pick, both realizing the result could mean a difference of a couple of spots in the draft.
“I guess you could say we’re considered the best big men in the draft right now,” Cousins said. “They’re trying to make a big decision, they’re putting a lot on the both of us, so they want to make the best choice.”
Yet both are facing criticisms that could force them to slip, none particularly tied to their basketball abilities.
The six-foot-10 Favors is considered an outstanding athlete, but perhaps far from NBA ready after averaging just 12.4 points in his lone season at Georgia Tech.
“A lot of people question me about that, about my age and how long it’ll take for me to be a regular contributor,” the 18-year-old Favors said. “But I think it just all depends on how hard I work during this off-season and next season.”
The 6-11 Cousins has the potential to become a dominant big man in a league where there are fewer every year, and his size and skill would seem to make him a lock to be taken in the first few picks. He said Wednesday he’s the best player in the draft. But questions about his attitude and coachability could sound enough alarms to make him fall back, a drop that could prove costly with the NBA’s rookie salary scale.
The quicker adjustment to the league lately has come from the little guys. The last two Rookie of the Year winners, Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans, were point guards, and the Wizards will be hoping for the same instant impact from Wall.