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NBA AM: Time Waits For No Franchise

The Wizards may have big free agent dreams, but they may have problems closer to home to deal with first… Teams do not have to fill all those open roster spots.



Time Waits For No Franchise

The Washington Wizards entered the 2015-16 NBA season with a plan: be as competitive as possible while remaining salary cap flexible with an eye on a 2016 free agency prize named Kevin Durant.

The Wizards do not have all their eggs in one basket. They understand that landing Durant may be a long-shot, but they wanted to be a in a position to pitch Durant if he indeed wants to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Sitting at 26-30 today and three games out of the playoff picture, the Wizards may have a more pressing problem.

Michael Lee of The Vertical spent four days with Wizards guard John Wall and road the roller coaster of emotions that comes with the ups and downs of winning and losing in the NBA.

The Wizards may have eyes for Durant, but they may have a bigger issue brewing closer to home with Wall.

“I know what our goal is, to try to go after Kevin, which is not a bad situation. But my ultimate goal is this year. I ain’t trying to waste a season,” Wall said to Lee.

“I’m in my sixth year. Time don’t wait for nobody and I’ve dealt with it my first three years of not being in the playoffs. I know how it feels to have a longer summer, a longer vacation. I don’t want that. I want to be seen on TV. I know the city wants to see that. And as a point guard, you get known as being a winner in this league, not being a loser. And that’s something I never want to do. Since I’ve been in the playoffs, I want to finish my career making the playoffs every single year if I have the opportunity.”

If the season ended today, the Wizards would not make the postseason and not being ultra-competitive each year is starting to wear on Wall, who very desperately wants to win in Washington.

The Wizards made a trade at the deadline, landing forward Markieff Morris from the Phoenix Suns in an attempt to stave over playoff elimination and add another starting-caliber player to the mix.

Wall was pleased with the move.

“I don’t think we were throwing [the season] away but it kind of felt that way because we had nine guys on one-year contracts. We definitely want to win, we don’t want nothing to drop,” Wall said.

Like most budding All-Stars, Wall is starting to sense that his own career isn’t going like he expected or like some of his peers, and the lack of respect he receives personally is tied to how his team is performing.

“I still think I get overlooked sometimes,” Wall said. “Some people say I’m not a top-five point guard. In my opinion, I think I’m top three. I only see two people ahead of me: Steph [Curry] and Russ [Westbrook] right now. Steph is on a heck of a pedestal and Russ is putting up triple doubles and they’re winning. That’s my opinion. That’s just being honest, but I just go out and compete and if I’m winning games, my game will do the talking for itself.”

Wall is starting to understand that the fruits of pro sports come from winning, and while he is giving everything he has, he can’t win games by himself.

Wall is also starting to notice his personal brand isn’t what it could or maybe should be.

“The type of player I am, and person I am, character I have, I should be seen on commercials, in the nation’s eyes and the people’s eyes. And I haven’t,” Wall said. “I want to leave a legacy and you can’t leave a legacy hiding behind the doors, and I think that’s what I did my first six years really. It ain’t like I want to be bigger and better than anybody; I just think it’s an opportunity to be seen. Where’s my little share?”

“[At Kentucky] I was everywhere,” Wall said. “I ain’t got no billboards in D.C.”

That might sound self-centered, but there is some truth to the idea. Wall is the Wizards’ franchise player and they do have the power to leverage their existing partnerships to include Wall and feature him more prominently in the advertising they do as a team. Take a stroll around New York City, you’ll see Carmelo Anthony’s face everywhere.

If all of this sounds eerily familiar, it’s because other stars have taken this track. Carmelo Anthony said similar things before demanding a trade out of Denver. Dwight Howard said almost the exact same thing before leveraging his way out of Orlando.

Wall wants to win in Washington; he wants to do that badly. The problem is he can’t do it all by himself.

It’s great to have a swing-for-the-fences plan in July; however, the Wizards might have a bigger problem closer to home if they fail to make the postseason. How much longer can the Wizards expect Wall to wait around for them to figure things out as a franchise?

The good news for the Wizards is Wall is under contract through the 2018-19 season, the bad news is we’ve seen players under contract force their way out of situations before.

Time waits for no franchise… The Wizards do seem to be on the clock with Wall and that could derail the entire Kevin Durant plan. If Wall isn’t on-board, it’s hard to imagine that Durant joins the party.

Those Open Roster Spots

We are at the point in the NBA season where teams are mindful of how many roster days they are paying out, especially if roster spots are open.

While every NBA team is allowed to carry 15 players, they are not required to. The NBA’s minimum roster is 13 players and teams have two weeks from a roster change to get to the 13-man minimum. So if a team falls under the 13-player minimum due to a trade or a roster cut, they have two weeks to sort it out.

Equally, there is another caveat teams have to consider. While 13 players is the minimum, the Collective Bargaining Agreement says teams will carry an average of 14 players or pay a surcharge to the union if it falls under that.

This is calculated by the number of service days. There are 170 days in the NBA regular season. If you take the 14 roster spots pledged in the CBA and multiple that by 170, you get 2,380 service days per team – or 74,410 service days as a league.

At this point in the season, teams that may have run a little lean have to start picking up service days. Given that each team has a requirement to meet their minimum service days, some teams start signing D-league guys to the end of the bench.

Teams that may have met their service day commitment from carrying 14 or 15 guys up to the trade deadline may leave those roster spots open as every service day is an expense.

While it’s fairly normal to see teams have more guys than they can have active, teams are not required to fill those open roster spots. So for a heavily taxed team like the Cleveland Cavaliers, they may choose not to fill the two open chairs they have at this point since they are not required to.

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Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 17 seasons.

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