There was a time when John Wall rubbed elbows with the best of the best at the point. Chosen first overall in the 2010 National Basketball Association draft following a one-and-done All-American showing with the Wildcats, he promptly made the All-Rookie Team en route to claiming five consecutive All-Star berths. And so good was he that the Wizards practically lived on his playmaking savvy, the presence of Bradley Beal notwithstanding. Which was why few dared question the four-year, $171-million supermax extension he received in 2017. The duration of the contract projected him to be tied to the franchise until 2023, seemingly covering his peak.
Unfortunately, reality often gets in the way of even the best-laid plans. In Wall’s case, his relatively brittle legs handicapped him to the point where he was either unable to suit up due to injury or far from effective on the court. Multiple trips to the operating table cost him his speed, the single biggest factor underpinning his skill set. Without it, he wasn’t otherworldly; without it, he was simply ordinary. In fact, advanced metrics deemed him below average; borne of a high usage rate on a squad with few options, his gaudy numbers underscored his inefficiency.
Little wonder, then, that the Wizards grew tired of paying him megabucks just to stay the sidelines or, in the few times he did burn rubber, engage in ultimately useless stat stuffing. They dealt him to the Rockets (who were as willing to start fresh), getting Russell Westbrook in return. That he became in the eyes of his previous employers an even bigger headache than the league’s most traded marquee name in recent memory speaks volumes of how much stock he has lost. And that he now finds himself looking for another landing spot is no surprise.
Heading into the weekend, the biggest news in hoops circles focused on the Rockets agreeing to work with him to “find [him] a new home.” According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, the plan “is for him to be present at training camp, but not play in Rockets games this season.” In other words, the red and white will be forking over $44.3 million for him to stay away; they prefer to hand over the minutes to the likes of Kevin Porter, Jr. and Jalen Green instead. Imagine that.
To be sure, not all is lost for Wall. The ball, as the cliche goes, is round, and, at 31, he still has enough time, if barely, to make the kind of career renaissance that, say, Kyle Lowry did. Again, however, there’s a difference between thinking it and actually doing it. And where he will be when his albatross of a deal expires in two years is anybody’s guess.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and Human Resources management, corporate communications, and business development.