John Wall asking to be fined by the Wizards’ coaching staff when he sulks or shows poor body language is a good thing. But is too big deal being made out of it?
Yes, at face value it’s refreshing to hear. In an NBA that’s getting younger, these are the situations that coaches like Flip Saunders have found themselves with … managing feelings and attitudes in addition to game plans. So when a player makes a request to be disciplined, ears perk up … because it’s new to us, but it doesn’t make the act any more valuable than someone who is able to keep themselves in check on their own.
Toward the end of the Wizards’ 18th game of the season, when the team was only 0-9 on the road (5-12 overall), was when I first noticed prevalent signs of Wall’s waning attitude and focus — in a tight home game against the Portland Trailblazers that the Wizards were trying to win no less. Here’s an excerpt:
With 33 seconds left, after Brandon Roy had scored to cut Washington’s lead to 79-74, coming out of a timeout, the Wizards were taking the ball side-out on their end. Instead of using an Andray Blatche screen to run toward Kirk Hinrich, who was taking the ball out of bounds, Wall listlessly scrambled away from Hinrich. The Wizards were forced to take a 20-second timeout. Flip Saunders chided Wall on his way to the bench, pointing toward the corner where he should have been.
The Wizards eventually inbounded the ball, and Blatche was sent to the line to shoot two free-throws. As the players lined up, Wall reluctantly guided his body in the other direction, frustrated. That’s when Flip asked his question, “Are you okay?”
Wall gave a slight nod, but kept the deadpan look on his face. In 40 minutes on the night, he had 10 points on 3-13 shooting, four turnovers and two assists. He’s had bad games before, but this one seemed different.
My essential conclusion: John Wall is 20-years old, no biggie, but this is also an area which needs vast improvement.
Since, including the win versus Portland, the Wizards have gone 7-16, 0-11 on the road … and clearly the frustration from Wall, even though he hasn’t always shown it, has festered.
Wall first divulged the fact that he asked the coaching staff to fine him for attitude transgressions after the Wizards beat the Utah Jazz on Martin Luther King Day, a story which was initially relayed by Michael Lee of the Washington Post.
So now we reach the crossroads where… Is a $50 fine really a big deal to a millionaire? Or is it simply a gimmick on top of what an individual needs to accomplish alone, separate from monetary concerns and who might be judging and doling out punishment? One fact of life, no matter how much money one makes, and in some senses, heightened when one makes above-average pay, money can be a motivator. Just ask the Pittsburgh Steelers, one of whom has evidently written NFL playoff bonus amounts on the team grease board with the suggestion: “Don’t f*ck with my money” in preparation for their game versus the New York Jets this weekend. For many, that’s more powerful than anything Rex Ryan’s bunch can say though the media.
Money is a type of motivator, but it means nothing. It means nothing when John Wall asks to be fined for sulking unless he makes a conscious effort to stop the action. If putting a price on attitude helps, then great … but again, it means nothing.
What’s more valued than money talking are the words from Wall as he explained part of the relationship between him and Flip Saunders, or any of his coaches for that matter. After the Jazz game, he said:
“…Told them to keep pushing me, to keep making me better … that’s what I tell all my coaches and that’s what I told them the first day they drafted me … is that I want to be a great point guard so keep working…” -John Wall
Wall is aware that he can’t become great on his own, that he must have the help of others. He wants to be coached and he’s not afraid to ask. Those are the aspects which are far more important than requested fines and meaningless dollar signs. Can’t wait to see where this kid goes next.