As of Friday night, John Wall wanted out of Washington.
By Monday morning, at least according to Wizards General Manager Tommy Sheppard, all was hunky-dory between Washington and its five-time all-star. Sheppard said in a virtual news conference Monday afternoon that the Wizards do not plan to trade Wall and that the point guard did not request a trade.
“There’s no plans to trade John. Obviously, it’s unfortunate this time of year — I think the bait and tackle shop’s wide open for business,” Sheppard said. “There’s a lot of people that get excited on the Internet or whatnot, but I was with John this morning. I watched him work out. He had another fantastic workout. [I] talked to all of our players. I talked to Bradley [Beal] today — he’s excited about getting back here, getting ready to get to training camp.”
Sheppard took every opportunity Monday to refocus the conversation on the Wizards’ future and reiterate both Wall’s and Beal’s importance to it, all while addressing the reports of Wall’s unhappiness that have trickled out in the past week.
NBC Sports reported last week that Wall was taken aback by Sheppard’s statement that Beal is the cornerstone around which the franchise is building, an unsurprising — and familiar — comment given Beal’s franchise record-setting season in 2019-20 and Wall’s extended injury absence that dates back to December 2018.
But Sheppard painted a picture of organizational serenity. At Wall’s workout Monday morning, Sheppard said he and Wall talked about their children and their shared joy over the Dallas Cowboys’ win over the Minnesota Vikings the day before. Sheppard has attended Wall’s workouts throughout the summer to watch him play. This time, business was not on the docket.
As for Beal and Wall’s relationship, Sheppard restated their mutual respect and promised a new chapter when the season begins late next month. Wall is expected to return from his Achilles’ injury for his first NBA game in two years.
“It’s a new story now with John and Bradley. It’s not a sequel,” Sheppard said. “They haven’t played together in two years, but they both look forward to playing with each other. That’s where we’re at. That’s where we move on to.”
Asked whether Wall might have to make a mental shift to accommodate the expanded leadership role Beal took on during the point guard’s recovery, Sheppard reinforced the stars’ desire to get on the court together after a long hiatus.
“Every comment I’ve ever made about we’re trying to build around Bradley follows with the respect that I always give to John Wall,” Sheppard said. “It’s just, you have to acknowledge two years is a long time. And I think John is aware of that and John, he completely respects the level — he’s said that on record several times — what Bradley’s been able to do, how much he recognizes that in his growth, and he can’t wait to play with him. I think Bradley’s said the same thing. … And quite honestly, you know whose team this is? This is Ted [Leonsis’s] team. We all work for the ownership group. But I stand by where we were before: Bradley has earned the right. He has done everything possible, and he’s carried a big load for two years. Now Bradley gets his backcourt mate back. That’s pretty exciting stuff. We look forward to it.”
Sheppard said he also looked forward to seeing Wall and Beal play alongside the new additions to Washington’s roster.
Drama-filled few days aside, the Wizards largely achieved their stated goals for the draft and free agency. With the No. 9 pick, they selected Avdija, a versatile player they think has a high ceiling who could slot into multiple lineups. They re-signed Bertans, their top offseason priority, to a five-year, $80 million deal. They also reinforced their defense with piecemeal signings including center Robin Lopez and forward Anthony Gill, who has spent the past three seasons overseas.
But Wall and Beal remain the franchise centerpieces, and to hear Sheppard tell it, all is well. The Wizards are expected to begin training camp in the next few weeks and finally start experimenting with the roster Washington has waited years to get healthy.
“There’s no issues with John and I. There’s no issues with John and the Wizards,” Sheppard said. “There’s no issues with anybody other than we just want to go out, get between the lines where life makes a little bit more sense. … We’re getting ready for whatever’s ahead of us.”