WASHINGTON — John Wall wants to play his entire career for the Wizards.
“I’m a guy that wants to play for one team my whole career if I can get the opportunity to do that,” Wall told 106.7 The Fan’s Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier on Friday, the same day the team held a press conference to formally announce Wall’s contract extension.
The Raleigh, North Carolina native is now locked up through the 2022-23 season, and says D.C. is “great for me, being three-and-a-half, four hours away from my family.”
“It’s an easy drive,” he added. “My dad was born and raised here. And [the Wizards] showed nothing but loyalty to me from day one, so I showed the same back to them. I’m not one of those guys that wants to chase rings. I don’t give a damn about all that.”
Wall is coming off the best season of his career, his seventh since being drafted first overall by the Wizards in 2010. He made his fourth consecutive All-Star appearance and, for the first time, the 26-year-old was finally recognized as an All-NBA talent (third team).
When Wall says he doesn’t “give a damn” about chasing rings, it’s not because winning an NBA title isn’t a priority, it’s that he wants to win here.
“My thinking is I want to win here,” he said. “I promised that I want to win a championship here in D.C., so I would be going back on all my words if I go to another team and win one. I want to win one in D.C. and I want to be one of those guys that plays for one team.”
“There’s nothing wrong with guys going to chase rings, because everybody wants to ultimately have a ring,” he said. “That’s the ultimate goal. You play the game to win. I feel like we’ve got an opportunity that we can win here.
“Things are changing throughout the whole NBA, and I think it’s going to keep changing. The grass is not always greener on the other side. I can go to another team and we still don’t win one, so why even take that risk?”
Promising titles should sound familiar to D.C. sports fans. Bryce Harper of the Nationals, who’s set to hit free agency after the 2018 season, offered similar words way back in Feb. 2015. We’ll see if he has the same level of commitment to his word as Wall did.
The Wizards offered Wall a “supermax” extension at the start of July. He mulled the four-year, $170 million offer over for several weeks before ultimately agreeing to the deal on July 21, making him the third NBA player to agree to a designated player “supermax” extension this summer (James Harden, Stephen Curry are the others). So what did Wall have to think over?
“Just sit back and let my agency and my management team do the full negotiations,” he said, adding he was seeking things like a player option and trade kicker be included in the deal. “So I just sit back and let them do their job.”
Many wondered if Wall was waiting to see what the Wizards did with Otto Porter, who also re-upped with the organization — to the tune of $106 million over four years — but Wall says that was not the case.
Asked if Ted Leonsis and Ernie Grunfeld sought his opinion about Porter, Wall said, “Nah. They did their job. I sat back and let them do their job. I just was working, trying to get better.”
“You’re not at a point where you’re part decision-maker as well like a lot of guys get to,” Paulsen asked.
“Well, we tried that before,” Wall said. “It didn’t work out in our favor trying to get Kevin [Durant], so I think we had to solidify a guy that’s been well for us, doing well for us, got better each year and improved for our team.”
The 2016-17 Wizards recorded 49 wins, the franchise’s best record in 38 years (1978-79, the Bullets’ last NBA Finals appearance). Their prominent season, which began in complete disarray with a 2-8 start, ended with their deepest playoff run in years, a Game 7 loss to Boston in the second round. All in the first season of a new head coach, Scott Brooks.
“You give a lot [of credit] to Scott Brooks,” Wall said. “But you also give a lot to us too because we put in the work. Every day we worked, every day we got better. And like I told everybody. Everybody thought I was bashing [Bradley Beal], but I said let him earn his money. Let him go out there and play and earn his money.”
“It’s the same thing I told people when I got paid,” he said. “Let me go out there and play and see if I deserve my money. If not, then you can bash me. But if I go out here and play, and have a career like Brad had — he should have been an All-Star for the first time, he earned his money.”
How close are the Wizards to being able to contend for a championship?
“I think we’re right there,” Wall said. “I think the last series kind of hurt us a little bit of not having a deeper bench. Our bench didn’t play well for us. That’s not the only reason why we lost. I mean, we had games won, we lost them. But I think just having a deeper bench where guys can get a little bit of rest and we can still keep our lead or manage the game to be even closer.”