“If there is an inevitability to what you’re having to do, why not turn it into a positive and say: ‘You’re our guy. We believe in you and you’re going to get the max anyway, so let’s get it out of the way,’ ” Leonsis said, adding that other teams would have offered Wall a similar deal based on his talent and potential. “I felt John earned this because of what he’d been through and his level of commitment. I thought he was our foundational player and he deserved to be a max player.”
Coach Randy Wittman praised Wall for his growth over the past three years, noting how he has grown from a player who often bristled at criticism to one that became like a coach on the floor. Wittman said Wall proved his character as a player and a person last season, when he was forced to miss the first 33 games with a stress injury in his left knee but returned to overcome mounds of criticism and finish on a remarkable tear, averaging career highs of 18.5 points on 44.1 percent shooting to go along with 7.6 assists.
“I think that was a really big determining factor, I think in all of our minds of what and who John Wall will become,” Wittman said. “He’s not there yet and I think he knows that, he’s aware of that and he’s willing to work and do that.”
Leonsis said he flew to Los Angeles two weeks ago and met with Wall and Fegan to “show respect” and also make sure that Wall was focused on team goals and understood that “to whom much is given, much is required.” With Wall deciding to commit to Washington, Leonsis believes that it sends a message to the rest of the league that the Wizards are committed to building a winner because “a player of his caliber” was eager to stay.
Wall recalled an early discussion that he had with Leonsis shortly after being drafted when Leonsis explained the difficult challenge of rebuilding a franchise.
“Tough times don’t last long, tough people do,” Wall said. “I'm not a follower. I like to be a leader. I feel like I would have had the opportunity to go anywhere. I feel like I’d be a follower trying to build a legacy somewhere else. I feel like I'm a person who gives my word and my commitment to where I started and that's where I’d like to finish. We haven’t been to the promise land of winning a championship for years. I know we’re a long way from there, but that's my main goal before my career is done, to win one here.”