Rarely do players talk about individual goals before the season begins, but John Wall did something different this summer: he said he wanted to be MVP.
It’s an individual goal, sure, but it’s one a player can’t accomplish without leading his team to the playoffs with expectations to win a championship.
For Wall to win the MVP, the Washington Wizards would need to compete—and beat—the few serious teams in the Eastern Conference.
Right now, the Wizards are sitting near the bottom of the East standings at 2-7. Wall neither has the wins nor the numbers to back up his MVP goals. The Wizards gave up more points through eight games than any team since 1990. They’ve been so bad defensively that even Ted Leonsis is poking fun at them.
So what happened?
There’s a lot to unpack. An entire book can be written on Ernie Grunfeld’s failures, Leonsis’ stubborn take on continuity and Scott Brooks’ refusal (or fear) of making lineup changes. Washington’s awfulness runs deep. It stems from poor draft picks, amateurish coaching and the constant game of playing catch-up as a franchise instead of getting ahead of the curve. That part is understandable and shouldn’t come as a surprise. That the Washington Wizards special—it’s what they are and what they have been since 2003.
But Wall? His struggles are more perplexing.
He’s supposed to be different—and was until this season. He was the saving grace; the light at the end of the tunnel. No matter how little support he got, Wall was there to give them a chance—to make them competitive.
This year, Wall has been anything but the player the Wizards have grown accustomed to seeing. He’s shooting 27.9 percent from three—hist lowest mark since 2012-13—and averaging 4.2 turnovers per game, the most of his career. This goes beyond stats, too.
The waning effort, the lack of accountability and absence of energy is more than puzzling. It’s concerning.
Perhaps it’s just a major slump and the Wizards manage to turn it around, just like they did in 2017. Maybe Wall isn’t in great of a shape as he thought and he’s merely exhausted.
But there seems to be more to it.
After eight seasons with the Wizards, Wall has never had a shot at the championship. He’s largely been surrounded by players entirely dependent on his skill set, forcing him to do all of the heavy lifting on both ends of the floor. That’s not the case this year—Bradley Beal is an all-star, and on paper, the team is deep. They have scorers, versatility and an athletic big man Wall’s always wanted. Yet somehow, they’re just as bad as they’ve ever been since Wall became a Wizard in 2010.
Maybe this is a result of over eight seasons trying to battle for a title that’s out of reach. Maybe this is the beginning of Wall’s decline. Maybe he’s finally calling it a career in Washington and ultimately finds himself wearing another team’s uniform.
Whatever the cause is, this season has been different for Wall. If a divorce is imminent, both parties need to expedite the process and sever the relationship. But if this really just a major rut Wall has found himself in, doing the little, yet immeasurably important things—like playing disciplined on both ends—will be a solid start.