The guess here is John Wall and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander are both smiling today.
That’s because of Tuesday’s NBA trade in which the Washington Wizards sent center Marcin Gortat to the Los Angeles Clippers for guard Austin Rivers.
The No. 1 pick in the 2010 NBA Draft by the Wizards after playing one year at Kentucky, Wall never quite jelled with Gortat. The two reportedly were not the best of friends off the court and had difficulty getting their games to mesh on the court.
Meanwhile, Gilgeous-Alexander was taken No. 11 in this month’s draft by Charlotte, then traded to the Clippers, where he was proclaimed to be the point guard of the future. With Rivers traded to Washington, it looks like the future is now.
Rivers averaged 15.1 points and four assists per game last season for the Clippers, where he played for his father, Doc Rivers. The former Duke guard will become a free agent at the end of the 2018-19 season but adds some depth behind Wall and Bradley Beal in the Washington backcourt.
"Me and pops did something that has never been done in our sport!!,” Rivers wrote on Instagram about playing for his father. “Which was hard for a lot of people to understand but I am grateful for the time I experienced playing for him and the Clippers."
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN wrote that in Gortat, the Clippers acquired an insurance policy should center DeAndre Jordan opt out of his $24.1 million contract by Friday’s deadline.
In her report of the trade, Candace Buckner of the Washington Post chronicled the relationship between Gortat and his Wizards teammates, including Wall.
“Wall missed half of the season with various injuries, but in February, as he was rehabilitating from knee surgery and the team was racking up wins without him, Gortat celebrated on Twitter by describing a victory over the Toronto Raptors as a ‘team’ win,” Buckner wrote. “Never dull nor shy in expressing himself, Gortat seemed to be taking a passive shot at Wall. Even if he wasn’t, that’s how Wall interpreted the message, and he responded by quoting Gortat’s tweet with an ‘Lol.’ Wall went on the offensive, rebutting Gortat’s claims in interviews. Although the teammates never seemed to let their distant off-court relationship affect their game, Wall called out Gortat without using his name.”
As Buckner wrote, now the Wizards can “reset the locker room following a season in which friction between longtime teammates spilled into the open.”
Gortat averaged 8.4 points and 7.6 rebounds last year for Washington, which lost to Toronto in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
After losing Chris Paul to Houston and trading Blake Griffin to Detroit, the Clippers finished 42-40 and missed the playoffs for the first time in five years under Doc Rivers.
They were happy to get Gilgeous-Alexander and draft fellow guard Jerome Robinson, who starred at Boston College.
“We knew we wanted Shai and we didn’t take any chances,” said president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank this week. “Jerome, likewise, was another player we targeted early and was a clear choice with our 13th pick.”
2018 NBA Draft first round