To be fair, Van Gundy said what a lot of people were thinking. This was Wall's third season, and the Wizards were terrible. Again. What talents had this once-assumed phenom shown that could be construed as worthy of being deemed a "franchise player?"
But as we've seen since Wall returned to the court, the Wizards are 21-17, and Wall had one of the best performances of the season and the best of his career on Monday night. I mean, he ain't half bad, right? And that's where Stan Van Gundy comes back in. He was on ESPN980 this week with Tom Loverro, and he's had a little change of heart on Wall:
"I don’t think anybody has done more for a team this year than John Wall has. Look, they were 5-28 when he came back. Five and 28. The worst team in the league. And they’re 21-16 since then.
"And if you look at the numbers, they’re the ninth-best team in the league if you compare defensive numbers and offensive numbers — the ninth-best team in the league, fourth-best team in the East since he’s come back," Van Gundy continued. "So this is a team that you could project, with John Wall, could be not only a playoff team but be sitting with home-court in the playoffs. And they were the worst team in the league before he came back. Nobody else has done that for a team....
Listen, since John Wall’s come back, the only teams that have been better — you look at a per-possession basis — the only teams that have been better [in the East] have been Miami and Indiana," Van Gundy said. "New York is just barely ahead of them as the third, and then Washington is a clear fourth.
Wowee! Sure sounds like someone's had a change of heart. That's kind of one of the great things about Stan Van Gundy: he's willing to admit he's wrong and willing to adjust his opinions. An open-minded and smart coach like that is an under-valued asset to this league.
And speaking of under-valued coaches, SVG also had some really nice things to say about Randy Wittman:
"And I would say this: one of the most overlooked coaching jobs in the league this year was Randy Wittman, because he’s totally turned them around at the defensive end of the floor. Before this — I can tell you, having played against them — that was a team that couldn’t have cared less at the defensive end of the floor. I mean, just horrendous. And now I look at them, on the entire season, seventh in the league defensively, second since John Wall’s come back. Randy’s changed their whole mentality. They’re playing a lot differently, a lot harder, a lot tougher.
"I still don’t like all their pieces. I think Randy’s done a great job — I don’t know how they’re over .500 with just John Wall and Bradley Beal. The rest of their offense, not very impressive. But they’ve hung in there great. They just need a little bit more offensive talent."
I mean, thanks for the compliment-and-diss combo, Stan. I guess we'll take it, since you're kinda right.
Two things are for sure after reading these quotes: 1) Wall's definitely making a case for that 5-year max contract and 2) Randy Wittman has definitely made a case to stick around next year.
If you want to read the rest of the interview or listen to the whole thing, head on over to DC Sportsbog (and thanks to Dan Steinberg for transcribing the whole thing).