With New Contract, Wall Sets Sites on Bringing NBA Title to Wizards
WASHINGTON — John Wall has a new contract and big hopes down the road for a championship, something Washington hasn’t done since 1978.
At a news conference Thursday to announce a contract extension for five years and $80 million, the Wizards’ star point guard sat beside owner Ted Leonsis, team president Ernie Grunfeld and coach Randy Wittman.
In the front row was Wall’s family, including his mother, Frances Pulley. She raised her children by herself after Wall’s father died when he was 9.
Asked about his family’s support, Wall looked into the crowd and began answering. He couldn’t finish, turning his tear-filled eyes toward the floor. Leonsis patted his back.
“I was trying not to look at my mom for one,” Wall said later. “She’s the most emotional person. It was like a breathtaking moment, seeing my mom and seeing everything she worked for.”
With his contract set, Wall said he would donate a million dollars to charitable organizations in the D.C. area.
Grunfeld drafted Wall with the first overall pick in 2010. Now he has him through the 2018-19 season.
“The day we drafted John, we said we wanted to build this franchise with him and around him,” he said. “The last three years, he’s shown he’s capable of leading this franchise where we want to go and that’s back to the playoffs.”
Wall’s ailing knee last season cost him considerable time, and the Wizards any shot at the playoffs. The team rose up when Wall returned, playing near .500 ball after a 5-28 start. Washington last reached the postseason in 2008.
“My main thing as a person, I’m not a follower. I like to be a leader,” Wall said. “I feel like I would have had the opportunity to go anywhere,” Wall continued. “I feel like I’d be a follower trying to build a legacy somewhere else. I feel like I’m a person who gives my word and my commitment to where I started and that’s where I’d like to finish.
“We haven’t been to the promised land of winning a championship for years. I know we’re a long way from there, but that’s my main goal before my career is done, to win one here.”
That’s exactly what the team owner wanted to hear when he flew out to California last month to meet with Wall and his agent.
“The discussion really was that I want to make sure I heard from (John) that this won’t amp up your personal goals, but it will be more about team goals,” said Leonsis, who also signed off on contracts this offseason involving Wizards swingman Martell Webster and free-agent guard Eric Maynor.
“I also made a commitment to having a drama free offseason. I think this organization has had enough drama. To get these people signed and in, get it all done so the focus is just on basketball I thought was the right strategy for us to pursue.”
For his three years, Wall is averaging 16.9 points, 8.0 assists and 4.4 rebounds. He joins Clippers guard Chris Paul among active players averaging at least 16 points, eight assists and four rebounds for their career.
Before the start of training camp last season, the team announced Wall would be out about eight weeks with a stress injury in his right knee. It turned out to be a lot longer. He missed the opening 33 games.
Without their point guard, Washington labored. The Wizards eventually found the right formula, and Wall led the team with a career-high 18.5 points and 7.6 assists.
When Wall, rookie guard Bradley Beal and veteran big man Nene played together, the Wizards went 15-7. Washington finished 24-25 overall with their point guard.
“That was a really big determining factor I think in all of our minds of what and who John Wall will become,” Wittman said. “He showed last year in working through that to become and do what he did at the end of the season when he finally did get himself into basketball conditioning. …That’s what you kind of look at who you want to build a team around.”