John Wall on his relationship with Bradley Beal and taking the Washington Wizards all the way
The star guard hopes to stay in ‘Chocolate City’ and bring the franchise a long-awaited victory
Imagine what it would be like if John Wall and the Washington Wizards brought the nation’s capital a long-awaited NBA championship this year. The franchise’s only championship was in 1978 when the Washington Bullets won it all. But if Wall and the Wizards pulled it off, a red, white and blue ticker tape parade could take place alongside all the monuments and museums with the NBA All-Star guard proudly waving like a beauty pageant winner as he passes by the White House on a float.
With Wall and the Wizards 13-5 since Jan. 1 and 2½ games behind the reigning NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference race, D.C.’s team could be a real title contender.
“It would be crazy. It would be amazing. My ultimate goal is to win one there in Washington. I know how amazing it would be,” Wall recently told The Undefeated. “Just to see how much love we’d get … The city is real diverse. You got your longtime Wizards fans and then you got the people that moved there and became fans.
“Ever since we started playing well and had that winning streak at home, it has been amazing for us. Everybody has been great for us. We know we can win at home. We know we can have our crowd behind us. The main question for us is can we win on the road. We haven’t figured it out. But I know D.C. would be ‘lit.’ It would be spectacular.”
Wall sat down with The Undefeated to talk about his Wizards, his improved relationship with fellow star teammate Bradley Beal, his old Kentucky teammate DeMarcus Cousins, being a dog breeder after basketball and much more.
How serious should the Wizards be taken?
Everybody should take us serious … All we have to do is keep playing like this. That’s the main focus for our last 20 games. Lock in for 48 minutes. When we lock in, we’re a tough team to beat. When we don’t lock in, everyone can beat us in this league.
Can you even envision an NBA championship for the Wizards?
It’s a long shot. Nobody would think about it the way we started. Like I always say, you never know what can happen. It’s all about being healthy. It’s all about being the hot team …
Our main goal is to get to the conference finals. We feel like we should have been there before if nobody got injured. Our goal is to get there. In seven games [in a playoff series], let’s see who can win four games first.
Will the real respect for what you’ve done in your career come with playoff success?
I think so. I’ve been to the second round twice. People know about me. Getting over that next hump or that next hurdle is going to be a big factor …
I feel like my respect is getting there. It comes with winning. We’re winning more games than we’ve probably ever won in my career so far. I feel like I can get more respect. But the way I’m playing and the way my team is playing, we’re winning, more respect will come if we keep doing that. That’s the biggest key.
I read it. It was great. We both are young, talented players that want to be great, want to be special. But when you have two young guys like that, they’re going to bump heads. Every superstar [duo], they’ve bumped heads before. We both respected each other to a certain extent [before]. But we know we can’t be the players we want to be without each other. We understood and respected that.
We both took another step. I’m having a career year. He’s having a career year. He’s helping me with my game. I’m helping him with his game. I just try to do my best to know that I have to get these guys shots and I try to be a great leader. Coming from my running mate, [the compliments] mean a lot. We know what we want to be. It’s a lot more fun when we are both out there together and we’re both healthy.
When were things the toughest between you and Beal?
Basically, us both coming off of injuries. I’d be in a rhythm and he might be coming off of injury. Or he’s in a rhythm and I might be coming off of injury. We try to figure out who is going to get the last shot. Who is going to get the guy [defensively]? Who is going to do this? Who is going to do that? The good thing is we understand this, ‘Go out there and play your game. When you’re in a rhythm, you’re in a rhythm.’
We understand how to find each other, at the same time play our game. That’s where I excel a lot. I normally have the ball. I’m going to get my shot whenever I want to. But my job is to get him going. That’s where we are a better team.
Was there a moment when you and Beal figured it out collectively?
Everybody said I tried to play him or something. I was watching his money. I was mad. That wasn’t it. All I said was, ‘Let him be healthy. Let him earn his money.’ It’s the same way they said I didn’t earn my money. ‘How did he get $80 million? He didn’t deserve it.’ But then all of the sudden when everybody was getting paid, nobody was saying nothing.
I was like, ‘Let him be healthy and let him earn it.’ We had interviews about it all [last] summer and the beginning of the season. We went out there and just played and let our game do the talking.
How would you describe the relationship between you and Beal now?
It never was bad. But now we spend more time together off the court. He had [former Wizards guard] Garrett Temple [now with the Sacramento Kings]. That was his guy. I had my guy. But now we spend a lot more time together. We’re just building a bond. We always joke and have fun. We play cards on the plane with each other. All that stuff equaled up to us making a better bond.
We never disliked each other. There are times on the court where you are going to dislike a player. You want the ball. They want the ball.
I talked to him. He said he would come to D.C., but he didn’t know what was going to happen. I didn’t know he was going to be traded like that. We thought it was going to be later on or he was just going to stay [in Sacramento]. It shocked me just like it shocked him.
Were you disappointed the Wizards weren’t able to get Cousins?
It was so crazy because he walked past me when I was talking to the media [after the NBA All-Star Game] and he said something about the trade. I was like, ‘Huh.’ It didn’t register what he said. So I called him right when I got to my phone. He said, ‘Yeah, I’m at the airport. I don’t know where to go. Do I go back to ‘Sac’ or do I stay here?’
He was just hurt. I feel that with all the tough times he had been through [in Sacramento], he never gave up on the city. There was so much he did for the community. So much that he gave back. He always showed that he wanted to be there whether they were losing bad or not. In six years, he never said he wanted to leave.
For a guy to give that type of a commitment, you would think he would stay there. I guess they didn’t like the way it was going. I hope he’s in a better place now. He’s happy. Hopefully, they can make the playoffs and get a push. If not, he’s got a free summer this summer to figure out where he’s going to be.
The Wizards didn’t make a mammoth trade at the trade deadline, but two additions were made that really gave much-needed help to your bench in forward Bojan Bogdanovic via trade and veteran point guard Brandon Jennings as a free agent. What do you think of those two additions?
Brandon brings a lot of excitement to the game. He plays with a swagger. He pushes the pace. He hasn’t been scoring well right now, but he’s trying to find a rhythm where the offense is. He comes in and plays with the same type of pace I play with. He picks it up [defensively] 94 feet and he’s finding you with the ball.
‘Bogdan’ has come in shooting the heck out of the ball. We knew he could play. When we played [Brooklyn], our main focus on the scouting report was him and Brook Lopez. Now that he is on our team, he is getting a lot more open shots. He’s more free. The last game I asked him at shootaround, ‘You can shoot this well?’ He said, ‘Yeah.’ Nobody really knew because he never got as many open looks [before]. He’s coming in playing his role. He’s being aggressive. He’s another guy that can put the ball on the floor for us and knock down shots. It’s making us a better team. It’s making our bench a lot deeper. It’s helping us out.
What are your hobbies?
Bowling. I bowl a lot. Playing cards and being with my dogs.
How many dogs do you have?
Seven total, but my mom has two. Three of my cousins stay with me and they take care of them when I’m on the road. I always had a dog when I was little. My mom always had a dog. I’ve always been big on dogs.
I get my dogs fixed. I don’t have time to do all that. That’s too much of a hassle. But when my career is over, I think I’m going to start getting into breeding. I’ll have more time then to have it set up the right way. I don’t have the time now to set it up the right way.
What are your dogs’ names?
Shiesty, Lucky, Diamond, Dark Night, Storm, Southside and Riley.
Do all your dogs hang out in your house?
They get a lot of freedom. I got a big backyard so with my pit bull, I let them run around a lot since it’s nice in D.C. My Frenchies are more like house dogs for the people. I try not to let my [pit bulls] be so friendly. If someone breaks in, you have to have them protect. If they are too friendly, they wouldn’t be able to.
I got a kennel outside for all three [pit bulls] to sleep. I set it up pretty good. I love dogs. When I got to the NBA I got a boxer, but he got hit by a drunk driver near my driveway. That’s when my mom fell in love with dogs.
When he got hit, I was at the Reebok camp I had. My mom called me crying, ‘They just hit him. They just hit him.’ [The veterinarian] was like, ‘He can live, but he will be paralyzed in a wheelchair. His back two legs are gone.’ I couldn’t have a dog like that. Nothing against it, but I can’t have fun. It was tough. He was probably like a year-and-a-half old.
Did you have a dog as a child?
As a kid I had a big rottweiler. I didn’t have too many, but I had a couple.
Do you let your dogs sleep in the bed with you?
I have when they were puppies, but not while they were big dogs. Now, they’re too big. One of my dogs is like 9 months old and is 99 pounds. That’s big. Can’t let him sleep with me no more.
What kind of escape do you get with your dogs?
Just joy sitting back in my backyard. Relaxing. Thinking about a lot of stuff. I just play with dogs. Being free. It’s like having kids. You have to take care of them. With kids, you have to be more hands-on. But it’s the same. When I’m right there chilling, they jump on me. I feed them. I play fetch with them with footballs and basketballs.
Can you envision yourself being a Wizards lifer?
Yeah. Totally. This is the place where I was drafted. My dad was born and raised here. It’s a place where I love to be. I love the city. The city loves me back. My ultimate goal is to try to win a championship. I don’t see myself wanting to go anywhere else. But you never know what can happen in this business. It’s a tough business. You have to respect and understand what is going on. My goal is that I want to be there.