Sometimes, the truth is uncomfortable. It also can downright hurt. While John Wall tried to measure his words carefully about fans of the Wizards who show up at Verizon Center for certain opponents, he couldn't help but be honest before Kevin Durant arrives with the Oklahoma City Thunder for Tuesday's game (CSN, CSNmidatlantic.com and NBC Sports Live Extra, 6:30 p.m. ET).
What does he think of Wizards fans who undoubtedly will be cheering for Durant?
"You're going to hear some cheers tomorrow. You're going to see some chants and you're going to see jerseys but we need more fans supporting us if they want us to do well," Wall said. "That's like us going to another team putting on another jersey, they're (not) going to boo us when we come here?"
This means they're either not very loyal, passionate or too easily allow rival fans to shout them down despite being outnumbered. And I'll take it even a step further than Wall because I have a unique perspective of having covered the league on a national scale for a national publication. At Oracle Arena for the Golden State Warriors, long before they won the NBA championship like last season, this scenario would've never played out. I watched them blow a 20-point fourth-quarter lead to the Memphis Grizzlies on their way to 23 wins in the 2011-12 season, and it was sold out and boisterous that night and just the same two nights later vs. the Portland Trail Blazers. They've never struggled to fill those seats and their enthusiasm didn't come with strings attached.
What Wall was referencing would never happen in Portland or Memphis, or Dallas with the Mavericks or in Toronto with the Raptors, either. And definitely not Oklahoma City. Would it happen in Miami? Well, yes, because all you need to do is compare the number of Heat fans who show up at Verizon Center today vs. when LeBron James wore their colors. That's not the best company for Wizards fans to keep.
"When you play Lakers and Knicks and Spurs and you have all these other fans here, it gets frustrating at times," said Wall, who already has played against the latter two at home this season. "Then they see it turn and you're winning, they all of a sudden want to be on one page. That's frustrating because we go out here and bust our tail everyday to try to compete and win for this city. We deserve the same kind of respect."
During a game vs. the Spurs last week, with the score tied at 96 with 52 seconds left, it felt more like a road game. The jeers were audible as he tried to concentrate. This isn't the 29-win Wizards that they were three years ago. This is a team that made the conference semifinals the last two seasons with a legitimate chance to advance to the conference finals -- without Durant.
"I was getting booed at the free throw line," said Wall, who made both foul shots in what was a 102-99 win vs. San Antonio. "You can't control fans of any team. But I feel like the way this team has progressed in the years since I've been here, my rookie year we were getting no cheers when we played the Lakers and Knicks. It was straight boos fur us. I feel like we're making progress and winning and we have something special and we got the opportunity when we figure everything out, you got to respect and cheer for those guys that's putting in the work."
Wall considers Durant, a D.C. native who will be hotly recruited by the Wizards when he becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer, a friend. They've trained together on the West coast where Wall lives during the offseason in the Los Angeles area and during time spent with USA Basketball in Las Vegas.
"We worked out a couple times. Even years past. That motivated me to want to work hard, not knowing what hard work really was. I worked hard but to see a player work to get to the level he's at it was even more (important)," Wall said. "The USA thing, we had a late-night workout, me him and James (Harden). I got workouts with those guys, multiple guys. Kevin is very selective on who he works out with."
There will be repeated questions about Durant. Everything he says will be decoded, minced and exaggerated between now and his free-agent decision. When July 1 comes, the day free agency opens around the league, let's hope Durant's decision is quick and painless. The rule of thumb is if a team courting a player doesn't get an affirmative quickly -- think of Trevor Ariza two years ago or Paul Pierce this past summer -- that player has other ideas and likely will head elsewhere.
"It's the same as I said last year. We can't worry about what Kevin Durant is doing. He's worried about his OKC team and me and Brad (Beal) and the 13 guys on our team, we're worried about the Washington Wizards," Wall said. "We're not here to tank and not try to make the playoffs and not trying to win a championship and do those things. Our main focus is the 15 guys on our team."
Based on Durant's words leading into this game, Wizards fans who show him too much love when he's wearing enemy colors may have good intentions but are disloyal. If he leaves town with that impression, then why would he ever want to play in D.C.? What if he realizes that often when the crowd gets loudest is during the fourth-quarter -- for a free chicken sandwich promo -- when an opponent misses two free throws?
I don't know the answer, and while there will be complaints about me pointing out this 800-pound elephant in the room (only because Durant and Wall brought it up first), it's certainly a fair question that he'll answer once and for all in nine months.