LOS ANGELES — The Washington Wizards are in a re-tooling and development season in 2019-20. In large part, that is because five-time All-Star John Wall continues to recover from his February surgery to repair his nearly completely ruptured Achilles tendon. With zero timetable of when Wall will play in a game, practice, or even contact drills, the chances that he returns this season decrease by the day. One person within the organization believes there is little reason for Wall to play before 2020-21 because even though he may be healthy soon, he will be “healthier” later. Regardless, the point guard is looking good in non-contact drills.
During the Wizards’ West Coast trip, I asked several players what Wall’s role was like this season. The overwhelming and resounding commonality was his communication. Wall will give all of his coaches and teammates advice. Early this season, Scott Brooks credited (without revealing the actual tip) Wall for a couple of suggestions that the team immediately implemented. Even though he favored the younger players when it came to distributing information, the Kentucky product would not be afraid to approach veterans. This despite Isaiah Thomas joking that there was nothing Wall could teach him after praising Wall’s leadership.
The other rotation point guard on the team, Ish Smith, is also grateful for Wall.
“We play the PG situation alike with how we push the pace, look to pass before we score. He communicates to me what he sees out there. He’s constantly engaged in the game, he ain’t just sitting there and he’s not just talking to me, he’s talking to all of us,” Smith described. “He’s a gamer, he loves basketball. He loves to hoop. When you get a guy like that who is so engaged, he is always trying to get better and always trying to improve.”
Essentially a front of the bench NBA assistant coach, John Wall sits to the right of recently hired assistant coach Mike Longabardi. On the other side of Wall is Jordan McRae more times than not. As such, McRae has a unique perspective and insight into Wall’s in-game contributions.
“He’s just constantly talking to everybody. He’s using his basketball knowledge that he has, he’s helping everybody out. For me personally, he helps me out a lot. I ask him questions. If he sees something, he always gives me advice,” McRae shared. “He’s just out there being positive, he’s trying to have an impact on everybody and that’s what we need from him.”
Never shy, Wall will work with more than just the young point guards (although Chris Chiozza did share that Wall constantly reminds him to always continue working). Second-year wing Troy Brown Jr. and starting center Thomas Bryant can confirm Wall’s work outside of his position.
“He does that a lot, probably every game,” Bryant said. “He always talks to me, tells me key things I can do out there and key things I can help with the team whether it is defensively or offensively.”
At the end of the day, there is one person within the entire organization that Wall should be helping the most. It’s Bradley Beal and Wall is doing it. The relationship between the two franchise guards has been misconstrued for years, but they have grown into brothers who would ride and die for one another. Wall wants nothing but the best for Beal and vice versa. They both know they need the other to get to their ultimate goal of winning a championship in D.C. So, to no surprise, Wall is guiding Beal the same way he is advising every other player on the roster.
“I get the point guard’s point of view. Just what he sees, how I can make better reads. If teams are doubling me, what passes I can make. If I want to avoid doubles, what plays I can call, what decisions I can make. He does a really good job of staying locked into the games and giving feedback to everybody, me included,” Beal detailed. “I’m always open ears from John. He’s a leader on our team and he has a huge IQ of the game. So every time he speaks, I respect it and go out there and try to execute it.”
John Wall is used to assisting his teammates on the court. During this time that he physically is unable to do so, he’s settling for assisting them off the court and excelling at it.