John Wall turned around Washington Wizards’ season once teammates demanded he lead

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If players were robots, the Washington Wizards’ contract extension for John Wall last summer would have made no sense.

The Wizards gave Wall a maximum contract a year before they had to. Why not wait to see whether Wall stayed healthy this season or progressed as hoped?

If all went well, re-signing him would remain on the table. If not, Washington would have avoided a costly mistake.

But players aren’t robots. They’re human beings with thoughts and emotions.

That’s why Washington extended Wall when it did — for moments like this, when the Wizards started the season 2-7.

Shams Charania or RealGM:

Essentially, teammates gave Wall the room, centered him in a classroom setting and asked: What should our roles be? You’re the heralded franchise star, the organization’s maximum salary designation. How about you tell us?

“From that day forward, I knew I was the guy, the leader, and I knew that they trusted me,” Wall told RealGM. “I let everybody know what I thought about our state. I think we were passing the ball, but when you’re not playing good for a stretch, frustration sets in. So guys find a way to blame it on somebody else or something else. Nene told me to stand up in front of the whole team and told me, ‘You’re our leader, you’re our franchise guy, so tell us what you think everybody’s roles are.’

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The Wizards made no secret making the playoffs this season was their primary goal, and with 19 games remaining and a an 8.5 game buffer, they’re going to do it.

Wall’s improved leadership has played a major role in that happening.

Earlier in his career, the Wizards filled their locker room with some real clowns. Gilbert Arenas, Andray Blatche, JaVale McGee and Nick Young were his veteran leaders.

But empowered by management to lead and undistracted by a looming free agency, Wall has set a new agenda in Washington.

I’m not totally convinced the Wizards handled Wall’s extension the best way possible, but there was a method to their madness. Wall’s locker room speech showed it.