Fourteen months ago, John Wall had 27 points and 13 assists to make up for a poor three-point shooting night in Houston with nine free-throw attempts. He ended two pickpocketing dunks by showing the open-court burst that defined his streak of multi-year All-Star Game appearances before suffering heel and Achilles tendon injuries.
In the words of a friend and opponent, he then received the kind of recognition few in the league had matched, having played just 113 combined games in his previous four seasons.
“He’s someone I’ll always root for,” Clippers winger Paul George said that night. “He’s like a brother to me, and I couldn’t be happier to see him back on the ground doing what he loves to do and continuing to make the pieces that everyone loves him for.”
Wall hasn’t played in an NBA since, as Houston was so dedicated to creating backfield opportunities for his younger guards that it paid Wall his $44 million salary, 31, not to play last season . This exile is now reportedly nearing its end. Ahead of Thursday’s free agency, Wall and the Rockets are reportedly negotiating a buyout of the $47 million Wall would earn if he exercises his player option next season.
The buyout total on such a deal could be staggering, and it remains to be seen if it actually materializes. Should Wall become available, it’s worth remembering the relationships, track record, and needs of the last opponent he faced when considering which team Wall might join.
It was last week that Lawrence Frank, the Clippers’ basketball operations president, described George and co-star Kawhi Leonard as avid participants in roster-building discussions with executives, with Frank describing their opinions as passionate and “very, very valuable.” .
When the front office approaches these stars about Wall, history suggests what George’s response might be.
Wall and George trained at the same facility before becoming first-round draft picks in 2010. They trained together for Team USA. In 2017, Wall openly attempted to recruit George, then in Indiana, to Washington.
“We both had similar paths, starting out running our organizations and suffering major hurts and setbacks,” George said in April 2021. “But I love John. Me and John go way back to our early days in the league. I saw him train, he saw me train and we had a mutual respect and bond from the start.”
Any decision about Wall could affect retaining the Clippers’ own free agents, which Frank said was his top priority. The team’s early bird rights to Nicolas Batum allow the team to break the salary cap to re-sign him, while not birding backup center Isaiah Hartenstein, a popular addition to last year’s dressing room, whose Market Value Could Exceed Taxpayers The mid-level exception is expected to be worth approximately $6.4 million.
Frank has noted that the NBA has shifted toward offense initiated by both veteran wings and traditional point guards, a shift that matches Leonard and George’s abilities. However, league watchers expect the team will seek to bolster its role as the lead ball-handler in some way. The question is how high the current version of Wall would be on a list of targets after 14 months. When Wall is available at a buyout discount, he becomes a much more serious topic of discussion in the league because even during his prolonged absence from the NBA, the bigger hit against Wall has always been centered on the prohibitive cost of his max salary rather than his game.
That’s not to say there aren’t questions about his physical readiness to consistently contribute next season at 32. Wall’s end-to-end speed and first step quickness put the defense in distress, either scoring shots to the rim for himself or shots for teammates around the arc, and would seemingly become a drive-and-kick offensive philosophy by coach Tyronn Lue – if this outburst persists.
On June 21, University of Miami coach Jim Larranaga tweeted a picture with Wall and thanked him for using the Hurricanes’ practice facility. Larranaga’s son Jay is a member of the coaching staff of Lue, who has taken on distressed, reduced assets over the last two seasons and earned sizable dividends, sparking the late-career revival of previous buyout signings Batum and Reggie Jackson, who came as one longtime friend of George who is overcome by injuries.
How much the Clippers would eventually court Wall, how favorably he views them in turn, and how long suitors will be willing to wait should his buyout talks drag on after free agency begins remains more confused than clear. But if there is a pursuit, the track record of the coaching staff would be a strong factor in confidence that, as George once approvingly said, Wall could become a player who “continues to make the plays that everyone loves him for”.
https://www.latimes.com/sports/clippers/story/2022-06-27/los-angeles-clippers-john-wall-houston-rockets-buyout John Wall to the Clippers? There might be mutual interest