If Wall truly had his way, the Wizards would return with a different look next season. Instead of replicating the roster blueprint the team used to finish 43-39 and earn the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference, Wall would rather see team President Ernie Grunfeld find players whose style of play matches that of those on the NBA’s elite teams, stock up the small forward cupboard and, mostly, sign guys who simply desire to be in Washington.
While the three max-contract players (Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter Jr.) constitute the foundation of the franchise, Wall suggests a makeover around the core.
“It’s just figuring out what pieces we can add to our team,” Wall said. “What guys can stay and what guys can go. That make us, that really want to be here. That really want to win and really want to take that next step.
“I don’t put the pressure on everybody else. I put the pressure on myself because I am that franchise guy. I am the guy that has to be the leader of the team, that has to get everybody better, make everybody better on my team,” Wall said. “At the same time, if I’m doing my part, the other 14 guys on my team have to do their part at getting better every year. Just being true to the team. Our problem at a lot times is guys don’t understand their role and respect their role.”
In an extended interview with the media, Wall shared plenty of thoughts on improving the Wizards, whose playoff seeding reflected the inconsistency they showed throughout the season. At times, Wall was candid in describing what the team should target in the off season.
“It’s pretty obvious. I don’t need to point it out. I think the way the league is going, you need athletic bigs, you need scoring off the bench, you need all of those types of things,” Wall said. “We don’t really have an athletic big.”
On other occasions, Wall was vague while calling out a problem that he diagnosed as a plague within the locker room: the presence of fair-weather Wizards.
“When things are going well, everybody’s happy, everybody wants to be here. But when things get rough, that’s when you really figure out who’s your brother, who’s really in the war with you, who’s really in the fight with you,” Wall said. “So, I think anybody can see from the outside or the inside looking in who really wanted to be here when things wasn’t going great for us, but when it’s all happy-go-jolly and we’re winning, it’s all fun and games.”
Wall did not name names, leaving his comment open to interpretation. But his statement put the focus back again on the often-examined relationship between himself and starting center Marcin Gortat.
In January, Gortat, who has one more year under his contract, shared how he wanted to end his career with the Orlando Magic, the first franchise he played with in the NBA.
By February, Wall, who missed 41 games because of left knee rehabilitation, was not playing when he took exception to a tweet Gortat shared about a “team” win. Wall tweeted “lol” in response and later conducted several national interviews in which he dismissed the notion that the Wizards played more as a team without him.
During Gortat’s time in front of reporters Saturday, he dismissed any rift with Wall as a media-driven controversy.
“Whatever stuff came out about me, John, it was all nonsense. It was all stuff that’s unnecessary. It was created by the media,” Gortat said. “We did talk about a lot of things. We had no issues.”
When Wall specifically called Gortat by name, he mentioned him as part of the team’s core starting five. Even so, Wall also mentioned Gortat’s name, as well as backup Ian Mahinmi’s, while listing the Wizards needs’ this summer, which starts with an “athletic big.”
“I mean, Ian is older. March is older. They’re not athletic guys, but they do the little things that permit their game to help as much as possible,” said Wall, who was then reminded that both players remain under contract.
“I ain’t go to school for that,” Wall said, laughing while answering how he thinks the front office can address the needs although the current roster provides little financial flexibility.
“I don’t know. It’s up to them to make the decision. Like I said, whoever comes back, whoever stays, what it is, we deal with it because those are our teammates,” Wall said. “Those guys do the best they can. They have the ability to help us out as much as possible. We know what it is, what the situations are. That’s up to the front office to decide. If they want to make any changes or keep guys. At the same time, you kind of know what guys want to be here from what people have said in the past or what they haven’t said.”
Also, Wall referenced the team’s season-ending loss Friday night while highlighting another area for improvement.
Porter missed Game 6 after undergoing what the team called a minor surgical procedure earlier in the day, and he had to be replaced by third-year player Kelly Oubre Jr., who could not live up to the moment while finishing with only three points and committing four fouls in the loss.
“We got this summer that’s really an opportunity to try to make some more switches then make it a deeper team and a more stronger team because you kind of look at O.P. go down and you just have really Kelly as one backup three and we’re trying to play Tomas [Satoransky] in that position where he’s used to being a dynamic ballhandler,” Wall said. “You want to make sure you are prepared in those situations — those positions — that if something happens, you can hold it down.”
On Saturday, a procession of Wizards shared their views on the issues that capsized a season that started with massive expectations. But as the last player to stand in front of reporters, Wall had the final word. And though he looked casual and ready for a long summer, his parting words meant business.
“Some people don’t understand their roles, so if you don’t understand your role and you think you deserve a bigger role, that’s not about to happen,” Wall said, responding to a question about the Wizards not being on the same page.
“If you not built for it, why would you want to be put in that situation? But a lot of people say they want that pressure or that situation and then they get put in it and they act totally different. Don’t ask for something you can’t handle. But at the same time, if we have a team meeting and we’re brothers, if you’re a grown man like you supposed to be, if I have a problem with somebody, I can confront you and talk to you without having to have a problem. You’re supposed to talk to your brother, you’re supposed to have arguments, you’re going to have fights, you’re going to do all that, but at times if you can’t talk to somebody because they always think it’s negative or taking it the wrong way, we’re going to have issues and problems in the locker room and that’s where inconsistencies happen.”