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The relationship between John Wall and the Washington Wizards has reached a point where the public perception of a once happy couple has now shifted toward a possible untimely divorce. The wandering eye in this situation is the Wizards front office, which, according to the Athletic’s Shams Charania, expressed interest in a possible trade that would send Wall to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Russell Westbrook.
Once Wall knew there was legitimacy to the rumors of him possibly being traded, the trust was already broken. Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard went on the radio with Kevin Sheehan of Team 980 on Nov. 18, one day after the trade rumor started circulating, and downplayed the report.
“I think it’s fair to say we talk about every player on every team … I wouldn’t dwell on it,” he said. “I’m excited to have John Wall back, looking forward to having him in training camp.”
It was naive for Sheppard to think that Wall would not dwell on the rumors.
Since 2010, when Wall was drafted as the No. 1 overall pick, he has been the Wizards’ franchise player. For a franchise that has not won 50 games or made a conference finals since 1978, Wall’s tenure has been highlighted by both his individual success as a five-time All-Star and 2017 All-NBA first team selection, and the team’s three trips to the conference semi-finals.
Whether Wall is ultimately traded or not, his jersey should hang in the rafters of Capital One Arena because of the things he has done on the basketball court. After all that, Wall deserves more than whispers in the middle of the night about him possibly being moved from the place that he has called home for the last decade.
While the Wizards were celebrating re-signing their marquee free agent Davis Bertans on Nov. 20, Charania reported that Wall had requested a trade from the Wizards. Sheppard spoke to local media over Zoom a few days later and denied that Wall requested a trade.
Where there is smoke, there is fire surrounding these rumors of trade talks and trade requests, and Sheppard has spent nearly as much time playing fireman as general manager over the last week.
At the end of the day, it does not really matter whether Wall formally requested a trade or not. What matters is that the Wizards’ star knows that the Wizards tried to trade him and to him, the damage is already done. Instead of preparing for his triumphant return to the court after not having played in an NBA game since December 2018, Wall has been blind sided by the reports of his name being brought up in trade talks.
NBC Sports Washington’s Chris Miller reported that a video of Wall displaying “gang signs” from September “kind of rubbed a lot of people within the organization the wrong way” and could be one of the reasons the trade talks moved forward.
Wall immediately apologized after the video went viral.
This video incident isn’t enough of an indictment on Wall’s character to make him seemingly expendable to a Wizards franchise to which he has given so much.
Wizards training camp is slated to start in less than a week and the uncertainty of Wall’s status within the team casts a large shadow over the organization as they try to appease the new franchise player, Bradley Beal, into staying in Washington long term. Sheppard made it a point to anoint Beal the centerpiece of the franchise by claiming on numerous occasions that the Wizards are planning to build around Beal. He could have just as easily said they plan to build around Wall and Beal, as the team has had no problems doing in the past, but with the uncertainty of Wall’s health, it appears that the trajectory of the organization has shifted in the past two years.
Wall underwent surgery on his torn achilles in February 2019 after initially having a procedure to address the bone spurs in his heel. Wall said on The No Chill Podcast with Gilbert Arenas that the Wizards’ medical staff misdiagnosed bone spurs in his knee as tendinitis that led to Wall having double knee surgery in the summer of 2016.
The Wizards should be just as committed to him as he is to them.
Unlike Beal, it did not take much convincing to keep Wall in Washington as he is one of just a handful of players to accept a super max contract offer from his current team to stay with the franchise. In the age of NBA player empowerment, which has become synonymous with players taking their destiny in their own hands, Wall has shown a level of loyalty that most other NBA stars have not shown to the franchises that drafted them.
John Wall is D.C. The way Wall talks, his brazen style of play, the way he is able to connect and give back to the community, and the unabashed Blackness with which he operates are all things that serve as a kinship to the city formerly known as Chocolate City. Despite all of the rumors, Wall did not let the drama keep him from doing his service in D.C. as he was out in the community on Tuesday evening handing out hot meals and grocery gift cards in Southeast.
At the event, Wall responded “no comment” to questions about the trade reports. Wall appeared visibly perturbed to even have to address the rumors.
Ultimately, both the Wizards and Wall will have to get comfortable being uncomfortable. With three years and $133 million left on his contract, it is highly likely that Wall will put on the Wizards uniform again. It’s a tough sell for any other team to believe that Wall can ever be the same player again after missing two years of game action.
All relationships go through ebbs and flows, and it is clear that the one between Wall and the Wizards is at an all-time low. But with everything that Wall has given to the Wizards and the District, he deserves more than a messy breakup.