WASHINGTON — Each game brings a new challenge for John Wall as he tackles the steep learning curve of becoming an NBA point guard.
On Tuesday night, in his home debut, the overall No. 1 draft pick from Kentucky learned that the officials won't hesitate to call fouls — no matter how small they may be.
Wall picked up two fouls in the game's first five minutes, earning a quick trip to the bench, then bounced back to score 19 points and lead the Washington Wizards to a 107-92 preseason victory over the Atlanta Hawks.
Like everything in his rookie season, Wall will use his foul trouble as a learning experience.
"The second foul, I should have let it go. I should have let the play go on," Wall said. "I'm more valuable to the team than getting a cheap foul. The preseason is good for learning things that will prepare me for the season, and hopefully, in the season, I won't pick up that cheap foul."
Wall didn't need to be too hard on himself. He sparked Washington in the second quarter, when the Wizards (3-1) took control of the game. He had five of his seven assists in the period as Washington built an 18-point lead.
"You just try to get everybody involved, and whoever has the hot hand, you keep going to them," Wall said. "As a point guard, it's your role to keep everyone happy."
Nick Young, starting in place of an allegedly injured Gilbert Arenas, had 24 points for the Wizards (3-1).
Washington coach Flip Saunders said that Arenas' left knee was hurting him, but the mercurial Arenas said he had another reason for his absence.
"I told (Nick) I'd sacrifice playing tonight so he can get some time in because I know he's kind of frustrated he's not getting a chance to crack the 3 position, especially since we're going three guards," said a smiling Arenas. "So I told him I'll go and fake an injury or say something's wrong with me so you can start."
Reserve JaVale McGee scored 16 points on a variety of dunks and layups against Atlanta's smaller frontcourt — the kind of spark Saunders is looking for from his big man.
"I liked his intensity, I liked his ability ... he showed some good rebounding range," Saunders said. "There's no question he's going to play a lot, it's a matter if we can get him to play at that same intensity all the time, which is what we are striving to do."
Jordan Crawford played 47 minutes and had 30 points for the Hawks (0-3), who didn't have starters Jamal Crawford (back) and Marvin Williams (flu).
Washington shot 63 percent from the field, including going 7 of 9 shots from beyond the 3-point arc, in the first half, while Atlanta shot 57 percent, paced by a fast start from Joe Johnson, who finished with 14 points.
Wall got the Wizards going midway through the second quarter when he was fouled on a driving layup. The ensuing three-point play sparked a 15-2 run that included 3-pointers from Andray Blatche and Adam Morrison, both on assists from Wall. Kirk Hinrich stretched Washington's lead to 63-45 with another 3-pointer.
Wall hit his first 3-pointer of the preseason in the second half and he brought down the house with a one-handed, breakaway slam.
NOTES: Wall and Hinrich were named team captains, a title the rookie said he could handle. "It's a big role. We're going to go through bumps and bruises, but the best thing to do is compete every night," he said. ... Washington's Al Thornton missed the game with a left ankle sprain.