John Wall called himself the Rockets’ franchise player after they traded James Harden.
That sounded tenuous, at best, when he said it in February. It’s even more specious now that Houston has remade its roster around four first-round picks and other young players.
So, Wall and the Rockets are headed toward a breakup.
Shams Charania of The Athletic:
After meeting and seeing eye-to-eye on the direction of the Houston Rockets, the franchise and John Wall have agreed on working together to find a new home for the five-time All-Star guard, sources tell The Athletic.
The plan is for Wall to remain present around the Rockets entering training camp, which begins late this month, and to not play in games for Houston this season, sources said.
Sources said there are no buyout plans
It will be difficult to trade Wall, who’s due $91,677,600 over the next two years. His contract is toxic. Though he could help some teams in a limited role, potential trade partners will struggle to match his $44,310,840 salary this season without including players more valuable than him.
Wall has declined considerably. He shot 45% on 2-pointers and 32% on 3-pointers last season. His assists (10.1), rebounds (4.7) and steals (1.5) per 100 possessions were career lows. He missed 32 games.
Maybe a team will be tantalized by his 20.6 points per game last season and All-Star history. But it’s tough to find reasonable trades.
Which leaves releasing Wall. Teams nearly always say a buyout won’t happen right until the moment a buyout happens. That could easily get revisited after the trade deadline (or sooner).
Wall might not be rushing to leave Houston. At 31 with an extensive injury history, he could stay fresh while not playing for the Rockets then still join a winner well before the playoffs.
The question: How long will the NBA allow this arrangement to persist?
The league let the Thunder sit Al Horford the last couple months of last season (helping Oklahoma City tank and preserving him for an offseason trade to the Celtics).
However, the league threatened to fine the Pelicans for sitting Anthony Davis after his trade request in 2019. The NBA also warned the Bulls for resting healthy players in 2018.
The league has taken a particular interest in player availability for nationally televised games. The Rockets have only one game scheduled for ABC, TNT or ESPN – Nov. 10 against the Pistons. Cade Cunningham vs. Jalen Green will be the main attraction. Not Wall, regardless.
Which is Wall and Houston have reached this point.