Here is the third part of our roundtable on John Wall requesting a trade from the Washington Wizards.
Kevin Broom: I finally got a chance to listen to Sheppard talking to Zach Lowe on his podcast from Nov. 12. In full context, I’m seriously wondering what’s really behind all this. Sheppard was answering a question about whether they would trade Beal. He praised Beal and then pivoted to praising Wall. He went on to talk extensively about how excited they are to get him back on the floor, he praised Wall’s talent, and talked about how good he looks in footage of extended pick-up play Sheppard’s been able to review.
When the “gang signs” video came up, Sheppard said it was disappointing and then immediately praised Wall’s character with specifics. Either Wall hasn’t heard the whole thing or something else is at work here. I just can’t imagine someone finding a way to get offended by what Sheppard actually said.
Matt Modderno: Regarding my point on Chris Miller’s tweets on Wall in the last few months, it may not have been Chris specifically (I wish there was a better way to search for specific tweet topics) but one of the connected media crew had some interestingly worded tweets when Sheppard called out Wall’s video as being disappointing.
Maybe I read too much into but it was like “John Wall has been made aware of Sheppard’s comments” or something like that. And similarly themed stuff about Wall being made aware that Sheppard said he would no longer play 38 minutes per game. It just gave off a vibe like Wall felt like he was hearing these things through the media and not the organization.
Kevin: One of things puzzling about is that Sheppard talked about meeting with Wall several times during the offseason. You’d think things like load management and minutes would come up. I mean, from my interactions with Sheppard over the years, he’s been direct — even when we were touching on subjects that were sore spots — and straight. It seems like a communication problem, which is strange because they’ve had so many opportunities for direct discussion.
Lyndie Wood: So what is the path forward here? Let’s assume that 1) Any Wall trade involves giving up assets and taking back mediocre-to-bad salary and 2) The situation is dire enough that the team is motivated to get a deal done soon after the season starts, if not before.
The Wizards are still roughly in the same spot, with one All NBA caliber player, a couple of other valuable players, and their own future first round picks. Is there a path to being a 5th seed? Or are we stuck on the treadmill of late lottery picks for the next few years?
I guess there’s a potential universe where they do the Wall/Westbrook trade and Westbrook shows something closer to his MVP form and the Beal+Westbrook combo, with Bertans Behind the arc and some improvement from the young guys makes this team interesting.
Trading Wall feels huge from an emotional standpoint, because he’s been here is whole career and been the face of the franchise. The memories from the broken hand series in 2015, the Toronto Raptors sweep, and the 2017 Boston Celtics game winner at home still feel pretty fresh.
And I think it’s worth dissecting how we got to the point of Wall asking for a trade, because others have pointed out, it seems like we might not have the whole story here and whatever that is, it’s worth knowing.
But from a basketball standpoint? Is there a way for a Wall trade to force the front office to pick a “lane”? What is the likelihood that the trade has an impact on the next two-ish years of Wizards basketball?
Quinten Rosborough: IMO the Wizards must pay what it costs to move him before training camp.
We know Beal is a no-bullshit guy, and starting the season with a grumpy Wall is a recipe for a whole lot of bullshit. I feel like if the team tosses him out there to try and improve his value they might as well just prepare to trade Wall AND Beal at the deadline. The Wizards aren’t expected to contend next season anyway.
Marcus Atkinson: I will add another layer to this conversation that I think could possibly fuel what the team should do one way or another.
J Michael retweeted a comment that David Aldridge made that basically implied that the deeper issue here is that Wall and Beal don’t want to play with one another. I kind of pushed back on that said well if that’s so then why is Wall just now getting to this point instead of sooner. J Michael basically insinuated there is a lot more going on than is reported and that Leonsis wasn’t proactive enough.
Words on the Wizards, in @TheAthleticDC:— David Aldridge (@davidaldridgedc) November 21, 2020
•Ted Leonsis must resolve what can't be fixed: his two star guards don't want to play with one another any more. So it's time to trade one, or the other, and move on: https://t.co/itWmnGgQj0
With that said, if there is indeed an underlying issue with Wall and Beal that is lingering, this is something that management should get a lot more blame for. If you know (assuming there is something wrong) there is an issue, you don’t let it fester to this point. Now you basically have to accept any deal, not just because of Wall but what it could potentially do to the player you are building around. But do you all buy that an issue exist between them and that’s what is driving this? That changes this whole conversation.
Kevin: It’s plausible there are problems between Wall and Beal. There was reporting on it several years ago and even comments from them indicating there were issues.
And, it does fit in with other things we’ve seen from Wall — getting offended by Marcin Gortat’s “‘team’ win” tweet and “Everybody Eats” and making negative comments about teammates to reporters (calling Beal his sidekick, saying they needed a third star, etc. — y’all know the list better than I do).
That’s not to blame Wall. It’s difficult for any human who doesn’t feel he’s respected to be anything but sensitive to things that could be signs of disrespect. And, the Wizards franchise has been a cesspool of dysfunction. That he could help lead this franchise to 49 wins and to the second round of the playoffs (twice) is testament to how good he was.
It would have been great if the Wizards had invested in him as a leader rather than anointing him. It takes skill and knowledge to be a good leader and they left him to figure it out on his own. Sometimes that can work, but most people benefit from structured training and mentorship.
Albert: And on that note Kevin, “Everybody Eats” sort of split the Wizards fanbase. Some loved it. And others were whom I would call “Wallway” fans, or the folks who thought Wall could do little wrong.
John Heiser: Sure sounds like Wall and Beal never recovered from past grievances and not liking each other on the court. There just wasn’t any friction because John’s been gone. Now his name is being mentioned in trade discussions when it used to be him getting other guys traded. That’s a seismic shift for John. John feeling disrespected by trade talks so he demands a trade himself is the NBA player version of ”You can’t fire me, I quit”. Is someone telling him that saves face?
And yet, the only way he gets out of D.C. is by playing well first. But if the Wizards don’t play well, they may have to trade Beal away sooner.
From the Wizards perspective, you can’t make a terrible trade for the sake of moving John somewhere/anywhere. That’s a recipe for losing games, then losing Bradley Beal and then those picks you traded with John aren’t there for the rebuild.
Best path forward is for all the professionals to agree to some basics. The team is willing to accommodate John’s request. They can’t afford to spend picks to dump him. So he has to get back out there and perform to create a real market.
Albert: John, I feel you. But I tend to agree with Quentin more on this one. Washington won’t succeed with a star player who is disgruntled and another who is on many teams’ wish lists. They should pick one guard or the other, but that’s just me.