WASHINGTON — Rajon Rondo hates to lose, even in a season such as this when the Celtics and losing have been synonymous.
Still, the 118-92 loss at Washington on Wednesday night was different, and not because of the lopsided final score.
The Wizards' victory meant Washington point guard John Wall was playoff-bound for the first time.
Both are point guard alums of the University of Kentucky, a bond that at times like this can trump the competitive juices of the ultra-competitive Rondo.
"I wish him well," Rondo said of Wall. "It will be fun, exciting. I'm sure he's been waiting for this opportunity."
While there was little doubt that Wall was excited about making the playoffs, the former No. 1 overall pick in 2010 is doing his best to keep it all in perspective.
"It's great for me," said Wall who added, "I mean you celebrate tonight and get ready to go on the road and win another game. That's the main thing for me is to try and finish the season as strong as possible and prepare ourselves for a great playoff seed spot. But I put all the pressure on me in anything we do, losing, winning, or anything like that. That's just the way I am and that's how competitive I am so for this [to happen], to do it with a great group of guys means a lot."
Washington's success this season has indeed been about the collective efforts of many, but few will argue that Wall's evolution has been pivotal to the Wizards' rise to the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
And in terms of Wall's progress, nothing stands out more than his much-improved perimeter touch.
Trevor Booker was part of the 2010 draft class with Wall and recalls his teammate's shooting at first, left a lot to be desired.
"Big difference," Booker told CSNNE.com. "When we first came in our rookie year, he couldn't shoot a lick. But now, if they [opponents] go under the screen he's knocking it down."
He certainly did in Wednesday, finishing with 13 points and 10 assists in just three quarters.
Wall said his improved shooting comes from hours spent in the offseason and in-season taking shot after shot until he finds a rhythm.
And from there, he just keeps on shooting.
"It's all repetition to me," Wall told CSNNE.com. "Just seeing the ball go into the basket and getting a good feel for it. And the rhythm of how you want to shoot it. That's all it is to me."
This is Al Harrington's first season with Washington.
Having competed against the 6-4 guard in the past, Harrington has gained a newfound appreciation for Wall now that they are teammates.
"As an opponent, for some reason you just felt he was good but didn't work at his craft," Harrington told CSNNE.com. "But once he became a teammate, I realize how hard he works. He's really trying to be one of the top point guards in our entire league. I'm happy to see that. He takes his craft very seriously."
Wall's efforts were rewarded earlier this year when he was selected to his first All-Star game.
Being selected as an All-Star is certainly one of Wall's greatest accomplishments thus far.
But getting the Wizards into the playoffs for the first time since 2008?
"I told y'all that," Wall told reporters after the game. "All-Star is my own separate goals and what I wanted to accomplish for myself but everything I do is for the team first. I wouldn't be able to be an All-Star and have these individual accolades without those guys and a great group of teammates."
But there's still room left to improve, says Harrington.
"He can get better managing the game, realize who needs shots and who's hot and what plays are working on his own without the help of coaching. That's just part of the process," Harrington said. "The more he continues to get with coaches and watch film and stuff like that, that's when you become a dominant point guard."
Rondo is a player that Harrington has talked with Wall about as someone he can learn a lot from in terms of on-the-floor leadership.
"The reason why I'm such a fan of Rondo is it seems like every time we play them, it seems like he ran all the plays and defensively, every time our team called out a play he knew exactly what the play was," Harrington said. "That just goes to show you why he's so dominant."
And now that the Wizards are in the playoffs, Wall will have an opportunity to bring his game to a much larger audience and establish himself as one of the league's elite playmakers.
But with that increased attention will come even greater expectations which has been something Wall has had to deal with ever since he arrived in town as the No. 1 overall pick in 2010.
"For such a young guy to have so much pressure on him," said Rondo, adding, "you know having the franchise on his back and he's finally able to get to the playoffs I'm sure it's kind of a burden lifted off him. I'm sure he doesn't want to settle there. I'm sure he wants to win."