After John Wall and the Houston Rockets beat the Washington Wizards, 107-88, Tuesday night, Wall, the former face of the Wizards franchise who was traded in the offseason, made it clear that he did not have any issues with his former teammates, even if he felt personally slighted by the organization. In fact, he still feels a kinship with several of the Wizards players, including Bradley Beal, Thomas Bryant, Ish Smith, Jerome Robinson, and Garrison Mathews, and finds time to watch all of their games.
“I don’t have a problem with those guys,” Wall told reporters. “They ain’t do nothing wrong to me. Brad is a talented basketball player, so outside of [being] my brother, who wouldn’t want to watch a guy like that who performs at a high level every night? I definitely want to see him play basketball. Yes, I watch the games. Me and TB have a relationship, I want to see him do great. Me and Ish go back to being in North Carolina together. Jerome went to the high school that I went to one point in time. Garrison Mathews, we’re pretty cool. He said, man, he missed me. That was pretty interesting to hear after the game. I told him, ‘I wish you the best of luck, keep playing well. I’m happy you got the opportunity to be on the team, not a two-way guy, and go make yourself some money.’ I think he’s proven a lot of people wrong.”
The reunion of Wall and the Wizards in Houston dominated the game’s headlines heading into the contest. In an interview with NBC Sports Washington’s Chris Miller recorded prior to the game, Wall expressed his disappointment in how the trade unfolded. He told Miller that he felt misled by the Wizards and that he believed some in the organization had given up on him.
Wall took the trade personally.
“I just wish I would have known up front and not have to beat around the bush to figure things out,” he said in the interview. “That’s just my motivation there. They thought I was done. Basically, that’s how I feel. This is my opportunity to show them that I’m not done. But the most important thing for me is get the win. I don’t care how many numbers I have, it’s about getting the win. That’s the most important thing because if I get 40 and then we lose, the trade don’t look as bad from their aspect because they beat us that one game they did play us. So, my ultimate goal is to try to get a win for my team tomorrow.”
Wizards coach Scott Brooks saw the comments and disputed that the organization had given up on Wall.
“I mean, it’s not true from our standpoint,” he said. “I told you guys [the media] from Day 1 last year that he was improving every day. He was tackling his rehab at a high level and very diligent … I knew that he would be back. The guy works hard. He’s a young player, but he’s battled through some injuries. Basically, I coached him for four years, but I only really coached him for one. His first year was the only healthy year, so I didn’t have the last three years, but what I do know about him is that he worked his butt off and he didn’t give up. He had a contract that he could’ve just gave up. Let’s face it, it’s generational wealth, but he just kept fighting and kept fighting and kept fighting, and that’s admirable. I wish him well … The basketball gods haven’t been good to him, and they weren’t good to us the years we were together, but it’s deserving that it turns around. He deserves it.”
On Tuesday, Wall, who had missed five games earlier this month with left knee soreness, was his vintage self, slamming down left-handed dunks and aggressively attacking the basket. In one highlight reel moment in the second quarter, Wall dribbled behind his back to blow past Wizards guard Raul Neto and finished with a left-handed layup. Houston led 53-45 and would go on to a take a 56-52 lead into halftime.
Wall scored a team-high 24 points for Houston and added five assists and two rebounds in 24 minutes of play.
“I’m always happy for him to get back on the floor and showcase that he’s healthy,” Beal said after the game. “But it definitely felt weird playing against him, but at the same time, it’s kinda like we’re both competitors. It’s almost like a practice setting, and we’re just going at it. He’s going hard, I’m going hard. It is definitely weird him being on the other side, but I’m happy for him. He played a great game tonight. He’s just continuing to showcase what he’s capable of doing. I’m just happy that he’s healthy.”
While Wall and the Rockets (7-9) found their rhythm, the Wizards struggled shooting the ball and played poorly down the stretch. The team committed 20 turnovers with Beal, who scored 33 points, and Russell Westbrook combining for 11 of them.
With just over five minutes left the game and Houston up 94-81, Wall and Westbrook received double technical fouls after exchanging trash talk as Beal stood silently next to his former teammate.
“I think they just start talking shit ’cause they started winning at that time, you know,” Westbrook said. “We’ll play them again.”
“That’s what two competitive guys do,” explained Wall. “Russ been kicking my ass for years. It’s only my third win against Russ since I’ve been in the league. He’s a hell of a talent.”
The loss dropped the Wizards to 3-10 and with the bulk of their roster still out due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols, the team is running out of time to find a winning formula. Toward the end of the game against Houston, cameras caught Beal shaking his head with his eyes closed.
After the game, Wall gave Beal a few words of encouragement. The two will meet again when the Rockets play the Wizards in D.C. on Feb. 15.
“Brad’s my brother no matter what,” Wall said. “I told him, ‘Keep being yourself and keep leading.'”
Photo by All-Pro Reels, used under the Creative Commons BY-SA 2.0 license.