A Discussion About John Wall and His Wizards | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

A Discussion About John Wall and His Wizards

By
Updated: June 28, 2018

The 2017-18 Washington Wizards season has been over since late April, and the preparations for the 2018-19 season have already begun. Marcin Gortat — the thorn in John Wall’s side last season— was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers for Austin Rivers on Tuesday.  Prior to that, Washington’s front office opted to make the slightly head scratching draft selections of Troy Brown, Jr. and Issuf Sanon — both very young and far from ready. Next, on July 1, the LeBron James sweepstakes NBA free agency season will commence, and everyone, from coaches to GMs to owners to players to maybe even bloggers (excluding the author of this article), will let the good and bad memories of last season expire in favor of the promise surrounding a new one.

While that is certainly an understandable sentiment, the disappointment of last season should not come and go without a mention. And since we’re addressing the Washington Wizards, the discussion — despite the fact the he missed 41 games — must begin with John Wall.

Right now, Wall is deep into intense summer workouts, maybe smarting a bit that they Wizards and Ernie Grunfeld didn’t fulfill his wish of drafting a pace-and-space friendly big man … but optimistic that Gortat is gone. But prior to that, Wall had to endure a season that saw the franchise he leads regress from being on the brink of the Eastern Conference Finals to internal sniping, expectations not met, and watching teams like the Philadelphia 76ers, Milwaukee Bucks, Boston Celtics (without Kyrie and Gordon Hayward) and Toronto Raptors make significant improvements to their roster and overall play.

So the question is, how much responsibility falls on the shoulder of Wall, and going forward, what, if anything, can he do to lead this franchise to a place of significance? My colleague Adam Rubin (@LedellsPlace) and I decided to delve into those topics and more.

@rashad20:

In some ways, I feel like this was a lost season for John Wall. He asked for a better bench and he kind of got one with the emergence of Satoransky, but he was saddled with a coach who failed to maximize that bench in the playoffs. He missed a big chunk of the season after the All-Star Break, but it is fair to say his team was disjointed and flawed before, during, and after his injury. And after the prior season’s disappointing playoff loss to the Celtics in Game 7 when the Wizards seemed to be on the brink of something special, Wall’s team has regressed, while Philadelphia, Indiana and Milwaukee have risen. There seemed to be an ascent to Wall’s career prior to this year, and it stagnated a bit.

Do you think it is fair to question his leadership this season?  Or was Wall not part of the problem?

@LedellsPlace:

It’s interesting you raise this question because I posed a similar question to Wall during his much ballyhooed exit interview in May. He talked about team chemistry issues and the difficulties of being a leader. So, on the very last question of the day, I asked if he felt the locker room issues could be solved with the current roster or if another veteran voice was needed. I was not intending to single out his leadership, but he may have taken it that way:

“You can fix it, but it’s the same as if I don’t like you for asking me a certain question, we might argue, right? You might take it the wrong way, I might take it the right way. See what I’m saying? It is what it is. Certain people you talk to can handle certain situations — like I might can yell at you, but I might not can yell at him. You got to know how to talk to certain people, then when certain people feel offended by that, it’s kind of hard to balance it out. If I have a problem with somebody, we might argue here but when I get on the court, I throw it to the side because I’m trying to win. Some people can’t function both of those ways. Sometimes it escalates from having a problem in the locker room or disliking somebody and taking it on the court and not playing as a group.”

My takeaway from Wall’s response — and the ones that preceded it — is that the Wizards current roster is broken and Wall does not have enough super glue to put it back together. He’s got enough scotch tape to piece together a decent playoff squad, but that’s about it.

Does Wall shoulder some of the blame? Sure. With all due respect to Bradley Beal, Wall is the Washington Wizards and the team will only go as far as he takes them. But it’s also true that despite being in D.C. for eight years, the front office still has yet to surround him with a roster tailored to his skills (versatile 3-point shooting wings and an athletic big man).

So, do you still think Wall can be the center piece of a contender with the right pieces around him? If not where does he fall short?

@rashad20:

I absolutely think Wall can be the centerpiece of a team that goes to the Eastern Conference Finals and beyond, but that magical milestone cannot be reached with the roster as it is currently constructed. Beal and Gortat took subtle swipes at him this past season, and if we’re being honest, Scott Brooks isn’t an authoritative enough presence to galvanize the troops and get them focused. A change in roster is needed, a come-to-Jesus talk with Beal is also needed, and then Wall could flourish.

But Wall still does shoulder some of the blame. His end-of-the-game decisions need to be more efficient, and he needs to cut down on the turnovers. Yes, he still has the uncanny ability to get the ball to his teammates in their respective sweet spots, but he needs to step it up one more level. Kevin Durant has done it, DeMar DeRozan did it last year, LeBron does it every damn year, and at age 28, Wall has to do it, because last season, with or without the injury, his game and leadership abilities left a bit to be desired.

I find myself wondering what Wall was thinking when he watched Ovechkin and the rest of the Washington Capitals as they paraded through D.C. with Ted Leonsis. Was he thinking that he had to double his efforts this summer to get there, or was he resigned to the fact that it may not happen?

Now that Gortat is gone … can Wall gain the trust and respect of Beal and Porter? Because a small part of me thinks that Wall wants this team blown up and re-made with more complimentary players.

@LedellsPlace:

Wall is not perfect by any means. But he’s in a tough spot. He gets criticized — sometimes fairly — for the team’s inconsistency and inability to get over the hump. However, he is also asked to carry the team’s entire offense for large stretches of the game. You could see it in the Toronto series when the Wizards got off to slow starts and Wall had to single-handedly keep his team afloat. You could see it during the 2016-17 season when Wall could not rest for two minutes without watching hard-earned double digit leads vanish into thin air.

I keep coming back to the fact that Wall was playing with a front court of Marcin Gortat, Ian Mahinmi, Markieff Morris and Jason Smith. Wall is one of the best players in the NBA at getting into the lane and creating scoring opportunities for teammates. Imagine what he would do alongside Clint Capela? Imagine Chris Paul’s exasperated facial expressions if he had to make pocket passes to Mahinmi? As good as Wall is, he could be so much better with the right personnel. So, I tend to give him a pass for those turnovers and forced shots when he is trying to do too much.

You asked about Wall’s on-court relationship with Beal and Porter. I think Wall respects Beal and has no problem running the offense through him. Otto is another story. Wall views him as a nice complimentary player who can hit an open shot but who cannot create for himself. I think Wall would rather have a more aggressive running mate on the wing. Basically, I think Wall meant exactly what he said when he was recruiting Paul George last summer: Otto is not a third star. In fact, outside of Beal, I don’t think there is another player on the team that Wall truly trusts. That’s a big problem and it speaks to the chemistry issues that have plagued this team.

@rashad20:

Based on your description, Wall may be feeling a bit trapped which makes me wonder if he’s put any real pressure on the Wizards front office to give him some help.  Sadly, he’d have more leverage if it hadn’t signed that super max contract last summer, I still think he has enough clout to go to the front office and ask them to be real players this offseason.  Or maybe he could pull a Kawhi and passive-aggressively sulk his way out of town by demanding a trade … but I digress.

I will say this about Wall: he’s devoted a great deal of his offseason to getting his body into shape; he’s calling it the summer of separation. If he comes into shape, he’ll feel even more empowered to lead this team no matter what personnel moves are or are not made. And provided he and Beal can stay healthy, which at this point in their careers is a 50-50 proposition, the Wizards should be better than an 8-seed, but still not ready to content in the East. And that has to frustrate Wall.

We aren’t painting a very rosy picture here, but this is the reality right now.

@LedellsPlace:

It’s crazy that we are only one year removed from pushing the Celtics to seven games, and Bradley Beal just had an All-Star season … yet the only positive spin you could muster is that if everyone is healthy next season “the Wizards should be better than an 8-seed.” Think about that for a second. Beal took a major step forward. Otto had another efficient year. Kelly Oubre improved (although not as much as I would have liked). Mike Scott and Tomas Satoransky excelled off the bench. Yet the team took a significant step backward. That’s a big, big problem that speaks to fundamental issues with this organization. And that’s exactly why I enjoyed Wall’s exit interview so much. He was the only member of the Wizards franchise — from player to coach to general manager to owner — who told the truth: the Washington Wizards are not that good and they need a lot of help in a lot of areas.

 


Rashad Mobley on FacebookRashad Mobley on InstagramRashad Mobley on Twitter
Rashad Mobley
Reporter/Writer at TAI
Rashad has been covering the NBA and the Washington Wizards since 2008—his first two years were spent at Hoops Addict before moving to Truth About It. Rashad has appeared on ESPN and college radio, SportsTalk on NewsChannel 8 in Washington D.C., and his articles have appeared on ESPN TrueHoop, USAToday.com, Complex Magazine, and the DCist. He considers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar a hero and he had the pleasure of interviewing him back in 2009.