On Monday, Washington Wizards guard John Wall was asked how he would describe his relationship with backcourt mate Bradley Beal.
“We’re just two competitive people,” Wall started off by saying.
Later during his media day session when Beal was pitched the same question, he flatly responded: “It’s great.”
Then, Beal paused before lobbing back the query to a room full of reporters: “How do you think it is?”
These comments can serve as a Rorschach test for Wizards fans. Either you see Wall and Beal addressing their aggressive yet harmless disagreements, or rather, a pair of young stars whose on-court relationship continues to cast a cloud over the 2016-17 season.
Last month, Wall and Beal addressed their competing ideals and how they must align for the future. By Monday, neither Wall nor Beal used their separate time on the dais — they were the only players who were brought into the press conference room during media day — to portray a perfect marriage. Instead, the pair simply tried to downplay the perception of an irreparable rift.
Though Wall had previously said the two “dislike” each other on the court, on Monday, he flipped his usage of the word.
“Whenever you have your two best players and they both want the game-winning shot and they want those types of plays, you’re going to have disagreements on the court. But other than that, we’re fine,” Wall said. “We talk. We’ve talked about it. We’re both two grown men. Everybody wants us to dislike each other. No, we don’t dislike each other. It’s just at times any team that has two great players [or] players who want to be great, we’re going to have disagreements from time to time.”
Beal said he never took Wall’s comments as “a shot” fired at him. When a reporter asked Beal about similarities between his relationship with Wall and his four brothers, he jumped on the analogy.
“Sometimes you don’t always get along with your bigger brother or your little brother but you love them at the end of the day. They’re family. That’s how John and I are,” Beal said. “We don’t always agree on the court. You’re not always going to agree with Coach [Scott] Brooks and something that he says but at the end of the day, we’re backcourt mates, we’re teammates, we’re the two leaders of the team. We’re going to help win us games.”
— John Wall (@JohnWall) September 27, 2016
Teammates took up affirming Wall and Beal’s bond. Markieff Morris said the two sit next to each other on the team plane, “so there’s some kind of relationship there,” and echoed several others who described the disagreements as overblown.
“It’s foolishness,” Morris said. “You let the media play with that and move on.”
Veteran Marcin Gortat was even more direct.
“Well I heard this one comment that we have moments when we dislike each other on the court and stuff like that. That’s true. I mean, it is true. But at the same time, there’s nothing crazy that we have to panic,” Gortat said. “Obviously media, they have nothing to do. You guys don’t have nothing to do in the offseason so you’re making a big story than it really is. You know, me and John and Brad, we say this to each other all the time, and we work with that. We function around each other all the time, so it’s not like we’re hating each other, but we’ve got those moments.
“Hey listen, these guys are growing up as basketball players,” Gortat continued. “I’m maybe not growing up, but I’m a 10-year veteran so I know how it is. Situations like that, you’re going to have on a team, and whoever said that — John or Brad — I mean it was like that. It was like that and it’s probably going to be again, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t win basketball games. It’s just how you’re going to work this thing out, you know, but we had those moments.”