In a column I wrote about John Wall for Sunday’s paper, in which I essentially said the Wizards’ 22-year-old point guard is a work in progress but is also worth keeping in Washington and appreciating anew, this paragraph was typed:
“A prominent NBA agent, whom I’ll save from embarrassment here, told me a year ago the Wizards needed to unload Wall before the rest of the league found out he didn’t have trade value.”
And Emeka Okafor.
And Trevor Ariza.
And the Wizards’ alleged rebuild.
But he mostly wanted to go off on any perceived homer who believes Wall can eventually make Washington a contender.
“I’m going to save you from embarrassment,” Michael Jordan’s former agent said as an introduction Monday night when he called.
A Wizards season ticket holder, Falk added: “You guys are in dreamland. Because this team [stinks] so bad you guys want John Wall to be someone he will never be.
“Before Wall becomes Nene, I would trade him and get rid of him.”
Come on, really?
“I’m serious. He doesn’t have a feel for the game,” Falk said. “He only knows how to play one speed. Magic Johnson had a great feel, a court sense, by the time he was a sophomore in college. Chris Paul had it by the time he was a sophomore in high school.
“You can develop your jump shot all you want, but if you don’t know how to play more than an up-and-down game by the time you’re about 20 as a point guard, the chances of learning are very slim. I don’t see it happening.”
“Let me ask you a question,” Falk said, maybe 28 times over 30 minutes, often answering for you. “Who’s bigger, Kyrie Irving or John Wall? John Wall. Who’s a better athlete? John Wall. Who’s faster? Who’s stronger? John Wall.
“Now, who’s a better player? Kyrie Irving,” he said of Cleveland’s all-star point guard who was rookie of the year in 2012. “John Wall will never be as good as Kyrie Irving was in his first week in the NBA.
“You want to know the reason why just nine teams have won an NBA title in 40 years? Because if both of them came out today, 99 percent of all general managers would still take John Wall instead of Kyrie Irving. They’d take the athlete over the ballplayer. And they’d be wrong.”
It should be noted that it’s highly unusual for a working agent to eviscerate a current player. So I asked Falk, who often likes to be right instead of happy, why he has so much contempt for Wall’s stop-and-pop game?
Is it because 76ers swingman Evan Turner, one of a handful of clients to sign with Falk since he got back in the agent game after handsomely cashing out on his company, went No. 2 behind Wall in the 2010 NBA draft?
Does Falk yearn for the days when he was the game’s biggest power broker, not John Calipari or some Liaison to the Stars everyone calls Worldwide Wes?
Did he just receive his Stan Van Gundy Starter Kit in the mail? (“I don’t think he’s good enough that you can build a franchise around him,” Van Gundy said earlier this year.)
Either way, Falk picked an odd time to drop an anvil on a third-year player who’s been tearing it up lately. Since returning from injury, Wall has led the Wizards to 10 wins in 18 games and, more important, created real hope for a Wizards team that started the season an embarrassing 5-28.
Yes, Wall needs to slow the game down, wait for a secondary break or a pick on the perimeter. But he’s also clogging passing lines like Scottie Pippen used to. And when he forces a steal, he weaves through the other team as if they are traffic cones instead of people. He’s growing, he’s learning. What’s this really about?
“I’m not down on John Wall,” Falk said, before being further down on John Wall. “I just think people want him to be something he’s never going to be. He’s a big tease. He doesn’t have a good enough feel for the game to be an elite player. I don’t think he’ll ever be the player you think he is. ”
Again, Falk is not down on John Wall, whom he said has about an 18-month window to develop court sense and become a special player. “He might, but I don’t think he’ll be a much smarter player,” he said. “You can’t become a smart player. You either are or you aren’t.”
“If I own this team, the only guy I’d keep is Bradley Beal,” Falk continued. “I would trade John Wall before what you wrote [Sunday] is wrong.”
Okay then, time for lightning round.
Falk on Okafor and Ariza: “You paid about $29 million for them when [you] could have had [Falk client] Elton Brand for $2.1 million after he was amnestied? Would you rather have a Mercedes for $20,000, or a broken-down Chevy and broken-down Yugo for $250,000?”
On why Falk has attended just four games this season: “ ‘Cause the team is going nowhere. Randy [Wittman] is doing a great job with minimal talent. You’re one of two things in the NBA: either one player away from contending or you’re rebuilding. The Wizards are in limbo. I love Ernie [Grunfeld] and Ted [Leonsis], but I’d rather have Orlando’s team in four years. I wouldn’t want [Jordan] Crawford. You think [Jan] Vesely is going to turn into this year’s number six pick, Damian Lillard from Portland? No, he’s not. And [Trevor] Booker isn’t going to turn into Blake Griffin. . . . I like Beal. That’s it.
(In this insta-Web world where this story was originally posted on The Post’s site at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Falk has already apologized, via Michael Lee, to the Wizards and Wall for airing his comments publicly. He called me late Thursday afternoon after some incendiary backlash for his comments. I was convinced again that his frustration as a longtime fan had gotten the best of him and he was merely tired of me and other local media using a small blip of progress to mean Wall had arrived as a premier point guard and that it provided real evidence he should be re-signed to an extension this summer.)
I had communicated with Wall on Tuesday night via the Internet. You always want to get the other side. But this was awkward, essentially grade-schoolish: “Hey, John, Falk thinks you’re lousy. What do you think of that?”
Apprised of the gist of Falk’s comments, Wall wrote back that he had no desire to issue a response — which, if you think about it, is actually the big news.
A proud 22-year-old is skewered by the agent who represented the greatest single performer in basketball at the height of Jordan’s fame, during a chaotic year in which Wall, barely mentioned anymore in conversations about the league’s top young point guards, had real doubt about whether his knee was going to hold up and afford him the explosiveness that gave him this great life.
And it comes on the heels of the team’s recent four-game winning streak, led by a suddenly hungry and healthy . . . John Wall.
That kid, whom Falk says isn’t going to get it, let the words float by, lost in the ether of nothingness.
Let me ask you a question: Is there a better feel for the game than that?
For previous columns by Mike Wise, visit washingtonpost.com/wise.