John Wall was set to make $41.3 million, with two more guaranteed seasons after that, and he hadn’t set foot on an NBA court in pushing two years due to injuries. He didn’t think he could be traded or that the Washington Wizards would be shopping him.
But this is the NBA, where no contract is untradable. Wall was traded to Houston for Russell Westbrook in what was essentially a swap of problems.
Wall gets the trade and the business of the NBA, but told Fred Katz of The Athletic that the Wizards didn’t handle their business well or professionally.
“…I know it’s part of the business. I said all I ever wanted from the start was honesty. You know what I mean? Just tell me the truth, what it was. I can deal with it…
“I felt like I deserved the honesty and respect because I’ve been there for 10 years. I’ve been through the bad times, when we had s**** teams and when we had good teams in D.C.,” he continued. “I never turned my back on the organization. I played through damn near every injury that a lot of people wouldn’t have played through. I played through broken hands in the playoffs. I think I did everything I could and gave everything I had, heart and soul to the organization on and off the court.
“Then everybody kept telling me, ‘No, it’s not true. Don’t believe it. Don’t believe it.’ And I’m like, I know Houston probably called them first. But it’s part of the business. Why wouldn’t you call if somebody wants to be traded? You know what I mean? And it’s not nothing, just having conversations. And that’s all I wanted. If you’re having conversations, that’s cool, I get it. Nobody could ever tell me the truth about it.”
It’s a fine line to walk for GMs with name players, being honest with them while not damaging the relationship — and potentially an ego — should a trade not happen. The best are able to do it, to be up front with players, and earn respect.
We don’t know everything about how this trade came together and what kind of communication really went down, but we know how Wall feels — and we can be sure other players and agents took note of Wall’s perspective.
Wall has played well in Houston, averaging 19.5 points and 5.7 assists a game, helping Houston stay within striking distance of the play-in games in the West. Houston seems to have gotten the better end of that trade so far.