Through the start of his seventh season, John Wall has consistently spoken about leadership, specifically his primary role with the Washington Wizards. However after receiving two ejections in as many games, Wall recognized that if he is to lead his team, he must remain on the floor.
“For me to be the leader,” Wall said Thursday, “I got to be able to stay in games and close out games and lead my team until the end.”
Wall, a standout point guard on Coach John Calipari’s first Kentucky team, explained how his game-long frustrations boiled over and he decided to commit a hard foul against Celtics guard Marcus Smart in the final quarter of Washington’s 118-93 win on Wednesday. After a review, officials ruled the foul as a flagrant-2 — “unnecessary and excessive contact committed by a player against an opponent,” according to the NBA rule book — and Wall was ejected. In the early hours of Thursday morning, Wall sent an apologetic tweet directed at his teammates and coaches.
“In a game like that with five minutes left, the game’s never over. They could’ve had an opportunity to fight back and have a chance to win the game. I just got to do a better job as a leader,” Wall said Thursday at the team’s practice facility. “That’s not my intentions to be a dirty player or anything. It’s just frustration got into it where things weren’t going the right way. With the game, it was fine but I’m talking about certain calls and getting beat up. So I let frustration get the best of me.”
After seven games, Wall leads the NBA with three points from flagrant penalties (two points from the flagrant-2, and another point from his flagrant-1 foul against Memphis Grizzlies veteran Vince Carter on Oct. 30). If Wall’s season total grows to five points, he will automatically be suspended for one game.
“You got to control yourself,” said Coach Scott Brooks, who reminded Wall of his point total. “The last thing you want to do is have your points add up or have your technicals add up and miss games. That puts a lot of pressure on your teammates. You want to be able to be there at all times.
“Part of being a good basketball player and a good basketball team is keeping your composure in some tough situations. When you’re up 20, nothing should bother you. The only thing you should be focusing on is closing out the game and thinking about the game. He’s learned from it and he’s moved on. He’s a very competitive guy, which I like. I don’t ever want to take that away from him. I like that about him. I want him to keep doing that.”
After Thursday’s practice, the Wizards greeted several members of the military community as part of the team’s annual Salute to the Stars event. The guests, which included veterans, those injured in combat and military family members who have lost a loved one, watched the end of the team’s light practice then met with the players on the court.
“It’s great. It’s an honor, it’s a privilege just to be able to interact with these guys, take pictures, sign autographs, talk to them,” Wall said. “They’re doing a lot for us to give us a free country, fighting every day. We complain about little things when we have problems but they have way more problems than us and their family is way more stressed out than us. We have to respect that and honor that and I think this is just a day to calm us down.
“Everything we go through in life is (not) more important than what they go through and it’s an honor for them to come out and see us play a sport that we love and (we) get to see what they do for us.”