When asked whether he had requested a trade, as The Washington Post reported Friday and Wizards General Manager Tommy Sheppard denied Monday, the 30-year-old point guard said, “No comment.”
“All I can say is this, man: I worked my tail off all summer to prepare myself for the season,” Wall said, “and that’s all I’ve focused on.”
The five-time all-star sidestepped a number of Wizards-related questions during a small, socially distant news conference Tuesday before he helped hand out 1,000 hot meals to a line of people that stretched a couple of blocks along Alabama Avenue SE. As Wall was speaking, one man in line yelled, “Don’t leave us, man!”
Wall’s reticence was notable for a player who has long been more forthcoming with reporters than most NBA superstars when something is on his mind.
His communication with Sheppard, however, has been free-flowing. The Wizards executive has attended multiple workouts as the point guard prepares to play in his first NBA game since December of 2018 next month after recovering from a torn Achilles’ tendon. Sheppard said Monday the team has no plans to trade Wall.
“It’s been cool; just talking,” Wall said of his relationship with Sheppard. “Talk and try to figure things out. That’s the best we can do. We all understand it’s a business.”
Asked what it is that Wall would like to figure out, he clammed up again.
“No comment,” he said.
Asked whether he is looking forward to playing with fellow all-star guard Bradley Beal, Wall was vague. Sheppard said last week that the team is building around Beal moving forward, comments that were no surprise given Beal’s franchise record-breaking season in 2019-20. In the locker room, Beal’s leadership role has expanded greatly in the past two years — in large part by necessity as Wall rehabilitated his injuries.
“Just ready to play basketball, man; that’s all I’m ready to do is play basketball,” Wall said.
Wall did praise the Wizards for a productive offseason. He credited the team for re-signing three-point specialist Davis Bertans and snapping up Deni Avdija when the forward slipped to No. 9 in last week’s draft.
But as for how he envisions his role amid the new pieces Washington has added since he has been injured — Bertans joined the team last season — he delivered another quip: “Just be John Wall. That’s all I can do. That’s all I can be.”
Physically, Wall said he feels “110 percent” and has been working out with Wizards coaches for the past few months. It has been a long recovery; Wall had surgeries to remove bone spurs in his left heel in the early days of 2019, then ruptured his Achilles’ in a fall about a month later.
Wall had improved enough by March to scrimmage with the Wizards’ G League affiliate before the NBA shut down amid the coronavirus pandemic. When gyms closed, his progress naturally stalled until he could begin training in NBA-caliber facilities again over the summer.
He is looking forward to returning to basketball not just because he wants to prove doubters he can recapture his all-star form, but because the sport has always been an emotional and mental outlet. Wall has been through a lot in his time away from the court; his mother, Frances Pulley, died nearly a year ago. Wall has been raising two sons, the younger of whom was born in the spring and is named Amir Francis Wall, while grieving.
“My last year has been probably the toughest year ever in my whole entire life,” he said. “Losing my best friend, dealing with injuries. But I’ve got a great support system around me, great friends and family that were there for me. I have my two beautiful boys that I play for. So that’s what I do it for.”
He also had a public misstep. In September, a video of Wall throwing up gang signs at a party in New York surfaced. The guard apologized shortly after.
“I’m just ready to play. Everybody’s been doubting me, so I use that as motivation,” he said.
With his return to the NBA looming, Wall also takes solace in days such as Tuesday, when he can give back to the community — particularly those in Washington’s historically underserved neighborhoods. After talking to reporters, Wall donned his face mask and started handing out meals.
“Since Day 1 when I stepped here, June 25, this city, these fans ain’t do nothing but show me a lot of love. That’s the same thing I want to give back to them, give my same love back, and that’s what I’m always going to continue to do no matter what goes on,” Wall said. “We can’t control certain things that happen in life, but one thing I can control is my heart will always be in this city.”