Not Always A Beef
Washington Wizards guard John Wall created something of a mini controversy this week when he revealed to CSN’s Chris Miller that he and teammate Bradley Beal had to put aside their “tendency to dislike each other on the court” if they wanted to win.
The honesty from Wall is refreshing in a media world where athletes tend to play the politically correct card more times than not, especially when it comes to airing issues like the one Wall disclosed.
What gets lost in this story is that most teams have issues like this. Some have pretty significant issues, especially when things do not go as expected – which has been the story for awhile with the Wizards.
There is no question that Wall is growing impatient with the process in Washington. His honesty about the situation between he and Beal isn’t about outing his teammate or trying to create controversy, it’s about being honest about what’s wrong and accepting the role he and Beal have to play together to fix it.
Wall and Beal are far from the only teammates to struggle with how to make it work on the court. Dwight Howard and James Harden struggled last year to co-exist in Houston and there have long been rumors of the Los Angeles Clippers having similar on-court struggles in making it work as a unit, despite having great off-court relationships.
The very special teams – the ones usually standing at the end of the season – are the ones that figure it out on the court. The bond and the sacrifices guys in Golden State make are real and it’s a key reason why they have been so good the last two seasons. The same can be said of the Cleveland Cavaliers; success came when they put aside personal goals and focused on team goals.
While that’s an easy thing to say, it’s pretty hard to do when adversity strikes. Most of the high-level players in the NBA want to make an imprint on the game and when the going gets tough, they tend to become selfish – often because they feel like they are not doing enough to help their team overcome that adversity. Wall and Beal both have had moments where they have tried to do too much or have disagreed on the court and that’s why they find themselves on the outside looking in.
It’s also one of the key reasons new Wizards head coach Scott Brooks was appealing, mainly because he figured out a way to make things work with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City.
It is easy to say “be a good teammate, don’t be selfish,” but when you have to live with each other for more than 170 days a season and you struggle, it’s hard not to cast blame, feel slighted or (more importantly) take it out on each other. This is a big reason why young teams struggle. It’s not because of the talent, it’s because of the willingness to give in to a bigger concept and sacrifice when it does not seem smart to sacrifice.
Players like Toronto’s Kyle Lowry struggled for most of his career to trust his coaches and his teammates, not because he is a bad guy, but because the culture of basketball doesn’t always reward that mindset. It wasn’t until Lowry found DeMar DeRozan, a teammate he could genuinely trust, that his game changed and ultimately he found success.
It’s easy to look at Wall’s comments and think they were negative. In reality, his honesty was likely the biggest step he’s taken in not only being a leader for his team, but in being the guy that could maybe bring it all together.
There is no doubting that the Wizards will go as far as Wall and Beal lead them, so both of those guys trusting each other on the court is going to be key. The fact that they are very good friends off-the-court should make it easier to overcome and that’s really the next step the Wizards have to take to be a very good team.
The Insiders Podcast
Basketball Insiders’ publisher Steve Kyler and Senior NBA writer Joel Brigham get into Jerry Colangelo’s comments after the Olympics, what happens with J.R. Smith and the Cavaliers and how the East might shake out.
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