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Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld on how John Wall's game will age and develop over the course of his contract

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USA Today Sports

Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld on how John Wall's game will age and develop over the course of his contract

Often times in the NBA long-term contracts are as much about paying a guy for the player he is someday going to be as they are paying what that player is worth at the moment. It's a futures game and front offices are tasked with projecting what players will become over the course of three, four and five years.

In John Wall, the Wizards have a firmly established star who turns 27 this week. He's a safe bet with four All-Star appearances already to his name.

That said, his recently signed four-year, $170 million extension will keep him in Washington through at least his Age 31 season. The final year of his deal, his Age 32 season, includes a player option.

In brokering this deal, the Wizards had to project how Wall's game will develop over the course of the next five or six years. That's a long time, but as team president Ernie Grunfeld explained in detail, they feel very comfortable about Wall's future.

"Thirty is still very young in the NBA nowadays. But we’ve seen John grow every single year. He’s improved every year he’s been in the league. The last four years he’s been an All-Star. This past year he was an elite-level player making the All-NBA team. He’s improved his shooting, he’s improved his knowledge of the game. The game has really slowed down for him. His first two or three years he was just up and down the floor trying to get to the basket and get layups. Now he reads the floor and he reads the situations and makes the right plays at the right times," Grunfeld said.

[RELATED: BROOKS WANTS WIZARDS TO EMBRACE EXPECTATIONS]

"John is one of the rare players, I can’t even think of two or three others besides maybe LeBron [James], who makes players around him better. That’s very hard to find. John is a true pass-first point guard. The way the league is changing now, the point guard position is obvously the most important position. It’s like quarterbacks in football. It’s really more scoring point guards who can also get assists and get their teammates involved. I think John’s primary goal is to get that assist, to look to help a teammate. And then when he needs to score, he can also score, as he’s shown."

Grunfeld drafted Wall in 2010 with the first overall pick and has seen him mature on and off the court. This past season was his best, as he put up career-highs of 23.1 points, 10.7 assists, 2.0 steals and a 45.1 field goal percentage. Grunfeld insists there is another level or two Wall can reach and the Wizards are confident he will get there.

"He’s improved his three-point shooting. I think he was working on it very hard to continue to improve it. [Coach Scott Brooks] has said now he’s going to be working on his defense a little bit also and see if he can improve in that area. At his age, he hasn’t reached his peak yet," Grunfeld said. "That’s the good situation about our team right now. Now we have stability, we have continuity with three very young players who are not even close to reaching their prime yet."

Grunfeld was referring, of course, to Bradley Beal and Otto Porter, two 24-year-olds who signed contract extensions of their own in the past 13 months. The Wizards are banking on their core three to continue growing together. They have done their best to project the future and like what they see.

[RELATED: CAN WALL FOLLOW THROUGH ON KOBE'S CHALLENGE?]

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John Wall embracing role as assistant coach during injury rehab

John Wall embracing role as assistant coach during injury rehab

WASHINGTON -- John Wall has already made enough money during his basketball career to last a lifetime and his new supermax contract worth $170 million is just kicking in. When he is done playing in the NBA, he doesn't have to do anything at all if he doesn't want to.

But there is at least a small part of Wall that believes coaching could be in his future. He loves the game enough to not rule out the possibility.

This year will give him a taste of what being a coach is all about. While he rehabs his ruptured left Achilles, he will serve as an unofficial assistant to head coach Scott Brooks. Wall will be asked to break down film with players, advise on plays to run and help the team's young point guards in practice.

Wall isn't sure as of today whether he wants to coach when his playing days are over. But he may have an answer in just a few months.

"I think this year will tell me whether I can be a coach or not," Wall told NBC Sports Washington on the Wizards Talk podcast. 

"I think you have to have a lot of patience and you've gotta know how to interact with every player. Every player's attitudes and character and mood swings are totally different. I learned from when a coach tried to coach me when I was young and I wasn't the guy to coach."

Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard envisions Wall as an important part of the locker room, even when he isn't playing. Part of his role may include some tough conversations with players. As Sheppard says, Wall may be able to deliver some messages that resonate more from a peer than if they came from a coach. 

Wall knows he can help in that regard. He has long been a vocal presence for the Wizards and had to assume the role as a team leader at an early age. After coming in as the No. 1 overall pick, he was a franchise player from the time he was 19 years old.

Wall's personality may also lend itself to those duties. He is very honest, whether it be with teammates or the media. 

"I like to speak my mind," he said. "It's like my momma always told me, 'I'd rather you speak your mind and say what you want to say, but say it in a respectful manner and a respectful way.'"

Wall, in fact, has a detailed philosophy on being honest. He doesn't like to lie whether it's in a media setting, to teammates or in everyday life.

It's not quite a Jim Carrey in 'Liar, Liar' deal, but Wall sees no point in beating around the bush. If he has something to say to a teammate or the media, he will say it.

"I don't know how to not give you the truth," he said. "What I've learned is that when you lie, you've gotta remember that lie exactly the way you said it for the next 12 people you tell it to. So, why make it that tough?"

Wall is set to miss at least the first few months of the Wizards' 2019-20 season and he could be sidelined the entire year. He said he hopes to have a similar impact that Kristi Tolliver did with the Mystics this past season where she remained active as a veteran leader in the locker room despite not being able to help the team on the floor for weeks due to a knee injury.

Missing so much time due to injury is not the ideal situation for Wall, but he plans to make the most of it.

"It will make my game a lot smarter and better for when I come back," he said.

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After setbacks in rehab, John Wall is appreciating the little things in life

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After setbacks in rehab, John Wall is appreciating the little things in life

WASHINGTON -- John Wall has been all smiles in public when discussing his rehab from Achilles surgery. He has even remarked how smoothly this recovery has gone compared to others he's underwent in the past.

But his road back from a ruptured left Achilles has not been entirely free of obstacles. He revealed to NBC Sports Washington on the Wizards Talk podcast recently that he dealt with an infection that delayed him getting out of his walking boot.

That was already weeks after he first had surgery to remove bone spurs from his heel in January. He had a series of infections following that procedure, one of which helped doctors discover his Achilles had torn during a fall in his home.

Wall can admit now after the fact it was a difficult time for him.

"I've just put in a lot of hard work," he said. "For me to be where I'm at right now, with all the setbacks and infections and then finding out my Achilles was ruptured and then going through another infection, it was like 'man, when can I ever get past that point of just getting out of the boot and walking?'"

What made that last part particularly frustrating was where Wall makes his offseason home. He summers in Miami, a place notorious for its humidity.

"I was in Miami during the summertime in a boot. Like, man, I don't want to be in hot Miami in a boot, sweating," he said.

Nowadays, things are much better for Wall. He is doing on-court work at the Wizards' practice facility. He can shoot jumpers and do individual ball-handling and passing drills. He can jog and lift weights.

After months of waiting to just have his walking boot come off, Wall is very appreciative to simply be able to do anything on the basketball court.

"Just to do the ball-handling and be able to shoot and do the weight-lifting, that's a great aspect [of my progress]. It makes it easier for me because I'm in a great space where it's fun," he said. 

"I'm able to do what I'm able to do, even if I'm not playing at a high speed and running up and down, I'm able to shoot and do ball-handling. That's what I love to do."

Wall continues to make progress, now nine months removed from the Achilles surgery he had on Feb. 12. He is likely to be out at least three more months, and he could miss all of the 2019-20 season.

At some point, Wall may get restless, but he continues to preach patience towards his return. When asked by Chris Miller if he will start bothering the coaches soon to play, he said he's just happy to be back on the court in practice.

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