The alarm that immediately comes after candid comments by John Wall, about his complex on-court relationship with Bradley Beal, is to be expected.
There is cause for concern, but going overboard this early in the process isn’t warranted either.
Wall’s comments aren’t really new (and Beal has hinted about it plenty, too, if you listen carefully). This was the first time, however, that Wall faced them head-on with CSN's Chris Miller and on the record about Beal after a summer in which he had surgeries to both knees May 5 and his backcourt mate signed a $128 million max contract.
This is what it all means (and just as importantly doesn't mean):
• Wall and Beal don’t hate each other. They’re just not best friends. That's been common knowledge for a long time. Wall specified his issues with Beal have been on the court, meaning with how they see the game. They've talked about having a "summit" meeting before during the All-Star break that never came to fruition two years ago. It doesn't mean they haven't ever talked. They went at each other during a game last season and Beal voluntarily offered during his postgame comments that they were mad. But they won and that small revelation went over the heads of most people listening.
• Beal’s contract has little or nothing to do with this. While it could complicate matters when it comes to “who’s team is it” with Wall likely on the sideline watching during the preseason, they’ve had issues with being in sync long before this. It preceded Beal’s contract. It didn’t arise because of it. The reason why this topic is at the forefront now is with both being the highest-paid players on the team and with so many veterans gutted from the roster, they have to deal with the elephant in the room before the 2016-17 regular season starts.
• Part of then-coach Randy Wittman’s failure was managing these sort of matters between developing young players who are trying to carve out their own space. Read between the lines with Scott Brooks’ hiring, when president Ernie Grunfeld and majority owner Ted Leonsis introduced him. Brooks was brought here for Wall and Beal – not Kevin Durant. Wittman’s tactics of favoring older players and riding Wall (25 years old) and Beal (23) irritated the situation. It became old vs. young and by the end of a 41-41 season it was Wall who backed up Beal after his comments about certain players needed to sit if they weren’t willing to give 100 percent effort.
• Gutting the roster of vets such as Nene, Alan Anderson and Garrett Temple puts the pressure squarely on the Wizards’ two highest-paid players to do more. It’s about attitude, demeanor and professionalism as much as what their stats show after a game. It’s getting to practice early and being ready to go ASAP. Not walking in half-awake and recognizing what teammates need to excel. Assistant coach Sidney Lowe had this to say to CSNmidatlnatic.com when he was hired this summer about the leadership growth he'd like to see from Wall. "It’s your communication and get your players to feel good about you. And the way you do that is by you getting them to feel good about themselves. There’s something to that. Obviously that’s an area where I can work with and talk to with John and help him out a little bit."
The future is Wall and Beal, but it's actually a good thing that they've put their cards on the table. It puts pressure on them to be better together. Acting like these rifts don't exist would be counterproductive.
If after all this they continue to not function well and the Wizards are winning less than 50 games a year, then breaking them up sounds more viable. Anytime a team doesn't contend for long stretches, changes are made. But that's a long ways off and the committment made to Beal this summer suggests they believe in them both. .
MORE WIZARDS: How B-Mitch says Wall, Beal can be productive despite issues