In 2014, Gary Neal and Larry Sanders got into a a heated locker-room argument — an incident later used as evidence of Sanders’ erratic behavior that led to his exit from the NBA.
Maybe it should have said more about Neal, too.
Neal, a free agent who played for the Wizards last season, posted on Facebook yesterday:
I Was The Leading Scorer of The Bench (40) Games and The Best 3PT Shooter On The Washington Wizards And The Contracts My Fellow 2nd Unit Members Received
8 Mil Per Year
6.5 Mil Per Year
10 Mil Per Year
3 Mil Per Year
One problem with this method: He’s publicly denigrating other players to promote himself. Maybe that wasn’t Neal’s intention, but that was result of his post.
Not that Neal will get the benefit of the doubt from the players he alluded to, anyway.
he wasn’t well-received in the Wizards’ locker room. He won’t like hearing that, but it’s true. That’s how they felt.
The word “selfish” often was used after postgame losses by various players — something that was rarely said in the previous two playoff seasons — and though Neal’s name was never used publicly that’s who was the primary target. That term also was used by some on the coaching staff.
Teammates complained about his locker room behavior to the point that Drew Gooden, CSNmidatlantic.com was told by someone there at the time, asked, “What is wrong with that dude?” He rubbed some players the wrong way because, it was interpreted, all of Neal’s concerns about the offense involved getting himself better statistics so he could get paid this summer.
Another former teammate, reflecting on the season Sunday, spoke about feeling as if Neal was trying to show him up in front of teammates — this conversation with CSN took place almost 24 hours before the Facebook post — and concluded: “I should’ve punched him out.”
Said another teammate from 2015-16 after seeing Neal’s post Monday, via text: “Terrible teammate. All about himself.”
During a game against the San Antonio Spurs last season, Neal openly complained about Gregg Popovich, who got rid of Neal after three seasons, on the bench during an actual game. Neal also has been known to recite his statistics and what he shoots from certain spots on the floor better than others who, in his words, weren’t as good as him and making more money.
Neal has carved out an NBA career despite going undrafted out of Towson. He has played for five teams in six years.
Why should he feel loyal to a structure that only minimally gives him the time of day?
No team wanted him at first. None has made him a mainstay. For Neal to remain in the league, just as he did to enter it, he has to scratch and claw for every opportunity. That means pushing for playing time and scoring opportunities — not kowtowing to players, even teammates, perceived to be better than him.
I’ll say Dudley, Nene and Sessions are better than Neal. That’s my role analyzing the game. But why should Neal make the same acknowledgement? He’s competing with them for a job, even when they were teammates — a nuance often lost when discussing veteran leadership and mentoring.
That said, front offices and coaches want players to get along. Cohesion leads to better performance on the court. Neal must find a middle ground where he’s worth having around. Turning 32 before the season and coming off injury, Neal has less margin for error. If he just pisses off teammates — distracting them from producing — he’ll have to contribute plenty himself.
Maybe he will. Neal has a proven record of providing a scoring spark off the bench, and teams always need more shooting.
At least one of his former teammates is sticking up for him, and Neal also has redeeming qualities.
This isn’t about the type of husband or father Neal is — he’s spoken of highly in these terms by even those who have criticized him as a teammate
Being a good husband and father is generally more important that being a good coworker. Neal should be celebrated for his successes.
But he should also realize, fairly or not, he’s making it harder for himself to stay in the NBA.