Why a Washington Post Columnist is So Concerned About John Wall’s Tattoos
Because you are reading it. People are talking about it. I am blogging about it. Good for Jason.
In the latest edition of his “Get off my lawn!” chronicles, the Post’s Ried makes several points:
#1: “Wizards point guard John Wall hasn’t proven himself on the basketball court.”
OK, technically yes. It’s tough to know what sets the standard for “proven,” especially as Reid is surprisingly buoyant, floating on the surface and only comparing Wall to LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose—the players who practice accepted usage of tattoos because they “are considered the best players in the game.”
Here comes the hyperbole:
“Even if Durant had tattoos all over his face, the Thunder would have offered him a maximum extension. He’s that good.”
I dunno, Jason… Wouldn’t it be contingent on what kind of tattoo Durant got on his face? A butterfly? Kosher. A tribal design (a la Mike Tyson)? Um… OK, but we still need to have a serious talk. An etching of a puppy impaled on a unicorn horn while said unicorn is ridden by a shirtless David Stern? About that max contract… it contains a psychological clause.
But enough with totally feasible reality, let’s turn back to Reid’s absurdity. Point numero dos:
#2: “Many NBA players do have tattoos, and Wall isn’t breaking new ground in sharing his ink with fans through social media. But not every player flip-flops on a topic in such a public way. Factor in that Wall is expected to receive a huge payday from the Wizards next month, and the timing of his tattoo revelation raises questions about his decision making.”
Flip-flopper? Perhaps. True, upon his draft and entry into the NBA, John Wall was overtly concerned with appearance, partially due to advisement from agents and handlers, but mostly per recommendation of his mother. In any case, Wall has flipped entry-level appearances and after his third season in the NBA, has gotten some new tattoos, and has been public about them. Apparently, in Reid’s mind, Wall has reversed his growth on the basketball court last season all for some silly body ink. But for Wall to actually flop on his stance, he would have to see a specialist for laser tattoo removal.
Wait, is this really just about a 22-year-old kid getting tattoos? No, not exactly.
Reid’s column is specifically titled, “Washington Wizards should think about John Wall’s ink before signing him to a max deal,” which has already spawned the prerequisite titles on other outlets that have been searched, engined, and optimized… “John Wall’s tattoos should concern the Wizards, says columnist.” Tattoos are the theme, but not necessarily the point.
#3: “Perhaps Wall decided to let his guard down because it seems he’s about to get paid. Maybe he believes he has arrived. He hasn’t. He’s coming off a season in which he didn’t play until January because of an injured left knee. And while he showed flashes of being an improved scorer, he’s hardly a proven commodity.”
Again with the “proven” part. We get it. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a player who has truly arrived after NBA season three, but those who proclaim that they might be ready shall be given the third-degree… because, microscopes. Reid:
“This isn’t about the merits of body art. Wall, 22, has the right to put whatever he wants on his body, and one of the advantages of youth is that you can reinvent yourself. As the face of the Wizards’ franchise, however, Wall is going to be scrutinized more than the last man on the bench. He’s always under the microscope.”
Not about body art? Do tell… we’re starting to get to the heart of Reid’s intent. He’s once again taking issue with Wall overtly expressing that he ‘thinks’ he’s a max contract player. Reid took to defending his position on Twitter late Monday night:
@REVuvuzela Again, the column is based on what Wall has said publicly about who he is and what he deserves. I Wall had shown he's a star
— Jason Reid (@JReidPost) June 25, 2013
@akbar264 @REVuvuzela There are ways to get around giving any answer. In that situation, he could have said he's letting his agent handle
— Jason Reid (@JReidPost) June 25, 2013
@akbar264 @REVuvuzela that stuff. Trust me, his answer raised a lot of eyebrows around the league.
— Jason Reid (@JReidPost) June 25, 2013
Wall Said, Wall Said
In mid-March, Grantland’s Zach Lowe had a wide-ranging interview with Wall in which he asked the simple question: “Do you feel like you deserve a max contract? That you’re a max guy?”
Wall’s much ado response: “I feel like I am. I do, definitely.”
The Washington Post’s Michael Lee helped clarify soon thereafter:
“You never know, but I feel like I proved myself for them to give it to me,” Wall said. “I feel like the organization, the ownership knows what I’m capable of and what I bring to the table as a point guard. I feel like I put the pressure on myself to push myself to show that I’m willing to be a max player. . . . I feel like I did what I have to and still want to prove myself. I’m still not done. I still haven’t reached my peak and I feel like it’s up to them to make the decision.”
Negotiations between Wall’s agent, Dan Fegan, and the Wizards cannot begin until July 1. Wall said he would be disappointed if an agreement isn’t reached by the end of October.
“I would be hurt. I feel like anybody should that feels like they are a franchise guy and proven themselves and still working to develop and get better. But this is a business and you have to deal with the stuff that comes with it and goes with it. I leave that up to those guys, but I love playing for D.C. I love this team, my staff, my teammates.”
And by mid-April, there was Reid with another Wall take-down column, this one called, “John Wall will get his maximum contract, although he doesn’t really deserve it.” It’s like Reid keeps these write-ups in a can resting safely on his shelf.
His arguments then are eerily similar to his arguments now: the Wizards have a history of failure, losing counts, and Wall has not won anything. This is what’s considered news? No, but league eyebrows have evidently been raised, and that constitutes a column.
Hard to argue against the lack of measurable, sustainable accomplishment from Wall. But that’s the difficultly in what lies ahead between Wizards brass and those on Wall’s side responsible for managing his future. It’s politics, ego-massaging, book-balancing, and ensuring that all parties are in fairly close agreement regarding the path to winning. It’s why lots and lots of money is involved, while those like Reid and myself have the luxury of prognosticating with a limited window of information and a big ol’ microphone.
But the fact that Reid has recycled a column that he wrote barely two months ago with a fresh coat of ink, if you will, should not cloud the real issue. The fact that Reid can only muster an argument of who Wall isn’t when compared to three of the best players in the world, or who Wall is when he takes off his shirt, should not distract from the question at hand.
When the calendar turns to July, does John Wall have a case to be a max contract player?
Probably not. Not for what he’s done so far—what he’s proven. And not for his fleeting concern over image, at least when it comes to ink on the skin. But that’s not necessarily what max contracts are about. Or maybe Reid is prepared to move to Cleveland and write the same thing about a tatted-up Kyrie Irving next summer; to-date, Irving has missed over 25 percent of Cleveland’s games during his first two seasons while the Cavs have won just 30 percent of their contests. And he has tattoos. Proven?
Truth About It.net’s John Converse Townsend in mid-March, four days after Wall’s interview with Lowe was published:
While he’s showing signs of improvement, Wall is still behind schedule. Lately, however, I’ve often responded to John Wall’s critics with a quick history lesson. Wall last year became the sixth-fastest player in NBA history to reach 2,000 points and 1,000 assists (124 games). (Only Oscar Robertson, Damon Stoudemire, Tim Hardaway, Phil Ford, and Chris Paul did it quicker.) He joined that exclusive club on April 5, 2012. Wall put up 28 points and 10 assists in a 99-95 loss to the Pistons in Detroit.
Wall may not have mastered the pick-and-roll like Chris Paul (a mySynergySports.com report shows the Wizards produce at least one point 38.2% of the time when Wall is the handler in the pick-and-roll; CP3 produces at least one point on 45.6% of his P&R possessions). Nor does Wall possess the smooth, full-court game Kyrie Irving has (Wall is a career 22.6% 3-point shooter; Kyrie Irving won All-Star Weekend’s 3-point contest). But Wall knows how to get people open, which has helped the Wizards become the best 3-point shooting team in the NBA with just two shooters on the roster, Martell Webster and Bradley Beal.
Sports Illustrated’s Rob Mahoney on Wall and a max contract, days later:
Wall, 22, is a terrific athlete. He possesses the balance and straight-line speed to perhaps become an elite penetrator. But lingering concern over his shooting ability makes it difficult to project his effectiveness. Elite perimeter shooting may not be a prerequisite of high-level point-guard play, but it certainly helps in executing a solid offense. By projecting a threat as a shooter, Wall would twist the defense and carve out lanes to the rim or to the open man, to say nothing of the more creative play design that would feature him as an off-ball cog rather than a ball-dominant instigator.
For now, Wall helps offset his shooting limitations with his terrific vision — a defining characteristic that separates him from other rangeless, drive-centric lead guards. Wall is already a better passer than off-the-dribble creators such as Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose were at similar stages of development, giving him an opportunity to grow into a more balanced skill set.
You see, it’s all about potential, and max contracts are a gamble of the highest degree. And yes, we are debating over a pass-first point guard who just might be the fastest in the entire NBA with a basketball. Is this what it’s come to?
Most certainly the Wizards, most likely Wall, and quite possibly Wall’s agent, Dan Fegan, understand that winning benefits everyone. And often that path to winning is cultivated when a team is able to disperse the concentration of salary. John Wall clearly wants to get paid like a franchise player, mind you, but that doesn’t mean he’s demanding the ‘max’ (unlike college teammate DeMarcus Cousins). John Wall cares about winning.
Wall, when asked again about a max contract on Wizards exit interview day on April 18:
“I think I’m taking the steps I need to take to keep improving and help my game develop, offensively and defensively. Just try to keep getting better and try to lead these guys and lead this organization back to the promise land, that’s all my goal is. That’s what I’m worried about. Nothing else, but just winning here.”
And when asked about his comments alluding to the idea that he would take less than the max, Wall said:
“If we’re winning, I’m cool with anything.”
What if Wall does take less money? Remember when Gilbert Arenas took $16 million less than he could have over six seasons ($111 million instead of $127 million). OK, so that didn’t work out so well. But max contracts now have much more of a ceiling under the new CBA, and Arenas opted-out of a contract to sign a new deal in 2008 at age 26. In 2014-15, as his four-year rookie deal comes to a close, Wall would be entering the first season of his max (or max-lite) deal (lasting four seasons, five at-most), at age 24.
Reid’s broad brush paints Arenas and Wall in a similar light. They both have tattoos, right? Thus, if the Wizards and Wall do agree on a less-than-max payday, don’t worry, Reid’s clunky typing fingers won’t stop at points rendered moot; he’ll find some other lame reason to downgrade Wall.
If you’re the Wizards, you don’t have much of a choice. Part of every GM’s job is keeping a superstar happy, and people like money. If a hapless franchise can’t contractually attach themselves to a first overall pick and aspiring leader who relishes in the assist, who wants to be in D.C., and who yearns to win, who can they invest in?
The Wizards should be investing in John Wall… whatever it takes. He is a team-maker and a game-changer. And because Bradley Beal can’t do it alone. Plus, Beal has a lot of tattoos, “anti-business tattoos” to be exact. At least Reid will have ink for his next senseless, piece-of-shit column.
— Bradley Beal (@RealDealBeal23) June 9, 2013