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Report: John Wall’s lazy defense at center of squabble with Marcin Gortat

Raptors Wizards Basketball

Washington Wizards guard John Wall (2) smiles next to Marcin Gortat (13) during the second half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series against the Toronto Raptors, Friday, April 20, 2018, in Washington. The Wizards won 122-103. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)


As John Wall and his Wizards teammates – particularly Marcin Gortat and Bradley Beal – traded seemingly loaded comments about Wall’s offensive involvement, Wall delivered the most highly charged line. Of Gortat, Wall said, “It was more just shocking to hear from him and understanding that he gets the most assists from me and the most spoon-fed baskets ever.”

Apparently, Wall and Gortat weren’t copacetic on the other side of the ball, either.

Stephen A. Smith of ESPN:

My sources tell me, obviously earlier in the year, Gortat had a real big-time issue with John Wall as teammates with the Washington Wizards. Scott Brooks constantly allowing folks to switch all the time instead of manning up and forcing them to guard folks, because Scott Brooks is known for not liking confrontation, basically took heat off individual players by allowing switches to take place every second. As a result, because John Wall wasn’t considered somebody too eager to guard anybody, Gortat found himself in the precarious situations of having to guard guards – quicker, smaller players. He’s older, clearly devoid of the lateral movement that will enable him to guard guys, was lamenting the fact that he was put in bad situations by John Wall’s lack of defense, said so in a team meeting. John Wall turned around and M.F.ed him to death. From that moment forward, Gortat wanted out of Washington.

Gortat got his wish, as the Wizards traded him to the Clippers (for Austin Rivers) this week.

Wall is an uneven leader. He’s clearly Washington’s franchise player, and at times, he takes that responsibility seriously. But he too often drifts defensively, which sets a poor tone. James Harden went through something similar with the Rockets.

Wall has other leadership issues, including how he communicates with teammates. He and Gortat particularly clashed.

But credit both for playing through it. They remained effective together, Washington outscoring opponents by 4.0 points per 100 possessions when those two shared the court. That’s aided by plenty of minutes with other good teammates, Beal and Otto Porter. But these disagreements can completely ruin chemistry and sabotage teams. Wall and Gortat never let it get that far.

Still, their issues with each other took a toll on everyone involved. It’s draining to manage that day after day, and the Wizards largely looked joyless last season.

With Gortat in L.A., not only should he be happier, so should everyone left in Washington.