Happiness and Respect Missing In the District

John Wall pulled the scab off of a festering, oozing wound no one knew was there. A few days ago, when summing up the best NBA backcourts, the Wizards tandem of John Wall and Bradley Beal ranked an impressive fourth behind Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, and Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. While Wall is respected for his speed, playmaking abilities and defense, and Beal is a notoriously dangerous perimeter shooter, neither Wall nor Beal are feared. Their absence from this year’s playoffs and another Beal in-season injury put in bold italics the underachievement label on the District’s young guns and frankly it got Randy Wittman fired. Now add one more thing: Wall admitting publicly he and Beal aren’t compatible on the court. They both have egos. Neither wants to be submissive. What Wall was really saying was that individual success comes before team success.

“I think a lot of times we have a tendency to dislike each other on the court.” (John Wall)

That may seem like an innocuous thing to say because elite NBA players have been at odds with each other and have been successful because of, and not in spite of, creative tension. Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen weren’t friends, with Jordan often reminding whoever would listen that Scottie needed him. The Kobe Bryant-Shaquille O’Neal melodrama has been relentlessly documented. But in those two particular cases, they had on court chemistry but off court issues. They understood they needed each other and, more importantly, they respected the skills and talents of their not best friend and used that to their advantage. On the court, it was only about winning and to win you need to pull in a compliment of talents in an unselfish manner.

Phil Jackson’s belief about coaching is that the job of a coach is to “rid players of their innate selfishness.” With that being said, Scott Brooks has a hell of a challenge. Both Wall and Beal have selfish tendencies that corrupt the team.

In his interview with CSN Mid-Atlantic, Wall referred to Beal as his sidekick, as A-1. Not exactly complimentary phrasing because who wants to be thought of as someone’s sidekick? Beal wants to be equal to Wall, that was the point of his contract. That is where this disconnect begins, where the rubber meets the road and it is the root of all things chaotic. Wall not respecting Beal as his equal is his flaw as a leader. Wall also said, “guys have to know their role” as if Beal needs to just stay in his damned lane and the Wizards would be fine.

Wall also challenged Beal to “improve his game” as if Wall has cornered the market on his own work in progress game, as if he still is not a ridiculously mediocre shooter who is a turnover machine. Those who live in glass houses…

In discussing their lack of chemistry, Bradley Beal tried to be more diplomatic than Wall. “It’s always tough when you have two guys who firmly believe in themselves and who want to be that guy.” It was the same thing said in a different way. I am no one’s sidekick.

John Wall is the face of the Wizards franchise. He is their leader. He is their playmaker and best on ball defender. He plays with an aggressive toughness on the court. But he hasn’t mastered offense. In late game situations he is a liability, not just in scoring the ball, but in turning the ball over. Beal is counted on to pick up the slack.

But Wall doesn’t seem to want to make Beal feel respected or entitled. Wall wants everyone to know he eats first, he is the top dog so everyone else fall back. What he fails to acknowledge is that on championship teams everyone feels important and invested in the process. There are no egos.

One of the familiar criticisms of both players is their unwillingness to listen to others. They know what they want to do and damn you for saying otherwise. They have incentivized stubbornness and immaturity.  At some point, you have to listen to those who have more experience because, frankly, what have Wall and Beal ever accomplished?

After reading Wall’s quotes which can only be translated into his weak attempts at leadership,  it brings to mind Rodney King’s most repeated line, “Can’t we all just get along.”

Not yet. Not in the District. Welcome to D.C. Scott Brooks.


photo via llananba