PHILADELPHIA — Washington Wizards teammates John Wall and center Marcin Gortat engaged Tuesday in a long distance back-and-forth.
With his team in Philadelphia to conclude its road trip, Wall hit the satellite interview circuit to promote his corporate partnership with Kumho Tires. And the five-time all-star, in his first interviews since undergoing left knee surgery last month, sparked interest for comments directed at Gortat.
Wall, sidelined until at least mid March, took apparent exception to how the team’s ball movement has been portrayed in his absence. Also, Wall referenced a tweet that Gortat sent on Feb. 1 after the Wizards defeated the Toronto Raptors. “Unbelievable win tonight! Great “team” victory!” Gortat wrote, with quotation marks around the word team.
“I know I’m a team player. I average almost 10 assists a game,” Wall told SportsCenter on Tuesday. “I’m very prideful in finding my teammates and getting guys easy shots. Even more just shocking hearing it from him and understand he gets the most assists from me and gets the most spoon-fed baskets ever.”
Wall also had thoughts on the recent “everybody eats” line — first used by Bradley Beal following the win over the Raptors in which Washington shared the ball for 30 assists. That phrase was interpreted by some fans and media outlets as a shot against Wall.
“That was funny to me. That’s a joke. If you want to say team win and put it in exclamation points or everybody eats and all that. I’m one of the top point guards that passes the ball more than anybody. I hear a lot of times I pass too much sometimes,” Wall told NBC Sports Washington during his first interview of the circuit. “I know what I do for my team, I know what I bring every night. Like I said, if any guys have a problem with me they can talk to me face to face as a man. And if you can’t do that then I lose a lot of respect for you.”
Following the Wizards’ 115-102 loss to the 76ers Tuesday night, which snapped a five-game winning streak, Gortat was asked if he cared to comment on Wall’s comments. Gortat paused for 13 seconds to gather his thoughts, then responded.
“Well, my comment is that it’s clearly the whole drama that was stirred up from a few days ago, a week ago, whatever,” Gortat said. “It was definitely not even me or Brad or anybody on the team was trying to hit him with anything that’s going to make him pissed or that’s going to make him frustrated. And there wasn’t definitely any hit at him, basically.
“We talk about team win with 30 assists a game, everybody played for each other. We enjoyed the game,” Gortat continued. “And basically I see that, you know, he felt different way. He felt it was a different way and he came back with that kind of a comment. So, now we got to ask each other questions, who’s attacking who?”
Gortat said he has spoken to Wall since sending the tweet and believed that the two had come to an understanding.
“I talked to him a few days ago,” Gortat said. “I thought we verified that. I told him that it was nothing personal and I definitely didn’t think about him when I was writing that or whatever I was saying. We never thought about attacking him and I thought we had this verified.”
Gortat was asked three questions before a member of the Wizards’ public relations staff ended his availability.
Beal, who has previously expounded on his “everybody eats” comments in light of the backlash, gave another lengthy defense of that phrase after Tuesday’s loss.
“I keep telling everybody it’s not a shot at John,” Beal said. “Especially not me, and I’m sure Gortat didn’t mean anything by his [tweet]. We understand — nobody is sitting here saying we’re a better team without John. That’s just nonsense. I’ll say it a thousand times if I have to. I’ll go on every media outlet if I have to to get that point across: We’re not a better team without John. I want to nip that in the bud ASAP. He’s a tremendous player. He’s our leader. We need him back but we want him to be 110 percent before that happens.
“I hope he didn’t take offense to what I said because it’s ‘Paid In Full,'” Beal said, referencing the movie from which he took the “everybody eats” line. “‘Paid In Full’ is one of [Wall’s] favorite movies. I know he shouldn’t take offense to it. It’s going to be the same thing when he gets back. We just need him to be healthy. We understand he was playing injured and that’s never fun for the team or for yourself. I think it was blown out of proportion. The media is always trying to stir it up and create a story out of something, rather than focusing on our success and what we’re doing as a team. They always try to break you down. We’re tight in here. We don’t feed into it. John, he’s not going to feed into it. We’ll talk about it when we get back to D.C. You know, scratch it all out because there’s no beef in here.”