The Wizards won five straight immediately after John Wall was sidelined with a knee injury.
After the third win – a victory over the Raptors in which Washington had 30 assists – Marcin Gortat tweeted:
And Bradley Beal said, via Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington:
“Everybody eats. That’s our motto,” Beal said. “That’s fun basketball. Everybody gets to touch it, everybody gets shots. It makes life easy. It just keeps the locker room close, it keeps our camaraderie going.”
The way Gortat put “team” in quotation marks, the way Beal was talking after a game without the ball-dominant Wall… were they implying something about Wall?
Maybe, maybe not. But Wall quote-tweeted Gortat’s tweet with “Lol”. Though that was deleted, it elevated suspicions.
Beal responded, via Hughes:
“For us to say that we’re a better team without John it’s, like, that’s comical in a sense. Come on, let’s be real,” Beal said. “The guy’s the head of our franchise, a five-time all-star. Let’s be realistic. I think what benefits us is we figured out how to play without John. Reality is reality… We’re not sitting here saying we’re a better team without him, by no means.”
Beal also noted that he was quoting the movie “Paid in Full,” but that doesn’t affect whether or not he was initially indirectly referring to Wall.
And Wall didn’t rush to push the narrative that Beal’s words had been misinterpreted.
Wall, via NBC Sports Washington:
“It’s funny to hear everybody say, because I’m not playing that they’re getting extra shots or they’re doing extra things. That’s just a laugh and a joke to me,” Wall told NBC Sports Washington’s Chris Miller on Tuesday.
Wall on his reply to Gortat, which Wall , via ESPN:
I put laugh out loud because it was just the way he put the team – you know what I mean? – the way he put the team in the little exclamation points. And I’m like, “whoa.”
It was more just shocking to hear from him and understanding that he gets the most assists from me and the most spoon-fed baskets ever.
Gortat, via Hughes:
“I talked to him about that a few days ago. I thought we verified that,” Gortat said. “I told him it was nothing personal. I definitely didn’t think about him when I was writing that. I never thought about attacking him.”
Gortat, via Candace Buckner of The Washington Post:
“We talk about team win with 30 assists a game, everybody played for each other. We enjoyed the game,” Gortat continued. “And basically I see that, you know, he felt different way. He felt it was a different way and he came back with that kind of a comment. So, now we got to ask each other questions, who’s attacking who?”
This might have started as a non-issue with Beal and Gortat making innocuous statements that were misinterpreted. They also might have been taking shots at Wall.
Either way, the disconnect – especially with Gortat – seems to be escalating as Wall takes offense and shoots back. (Yes, Gortat needs most of his baskets set up, and Wall does that more than anyone.) Now, Gortat feels attacked, and everything snowballs. For what it’s worth, Beal keeps reiterating Washington is better with Wall.
Still, repeated sagas like this are why people think Wall’s teammates dislike him.
Take a step back with facts: The Wizards averaged 32 assists per game in this five-game win streak without Wall. That’s well above their 24 assists per game when Wall plays. However, they’ve averaged 22 assists per game in 12 other games without Wall, including a loss to the 76ers yesterday.
Don’t overreact to a small sample, and that caution extends to players within Washington’s locker room.
Yes, playing without Wall can be freeing. The offense becomes more equalitarian, everyone participating in facilitating. When Wall plays, so much runs through him. But he can break down defenses far better than anyone else on the roster, and that skill is sometimes necessary. It’s hard for a team to survive just on lesser players keeping the ball moving, even if it works against some opponents some nights.