When Dwight Howard was given the floor to offer opening comments at his introductory press conference this week, he made a point to thank his new teammate, John Wall. The reason why, as Howard expounded on later, is that Wall was a pivotal reason for why Howard signed with Washington.
It wasn't just about their potential fit on the court. Wall helped bring Howard to D.C. and Howard wanted to make that clear.
"Shoutout to John for reaching out to me and asking me about joining this team," Howard said.
Howard, in fact, hadn't really thought about the Wizards much at all when he began contemplating his next step as he proccessed a trade by the Hornets and a looming buyout by the Nets. It was while he was considering his options that he received a message on Instagram from Wall.
"No lie, when I saw the message on Instagram, I really got so happy. I was like 'John just DM'd me, oh man this is crazy!' After that, I really just started to put on my thinking cap," Howard said. "I just thought about all the possibilities. I was like 'man, this could be the best spot for me.'"
If there is one thing clear about the Wizards' offseason so far, particularly their two biggest free agent signings in Howard and Jeff Green, it's that recruitment by NBA stars definitely works. It has been effective for other teams, most notably Draymond Green's recruitment of Kevin Durant to the Golden State Warriors, and now it has led to success for the Wizards.
Wall, interestingly enough, has been averse to free agent recruiting in the past. He has said on numerous occasions that he isn't a fan of doing it.
He even said it this past April in his exit interview with the media following the 2017-18 season.
"I think people understand what they'll get if they come here. They've seen our team. They kind of know what it is," he said.
Wall decided to change his tune and the results are undeniable. Howard admitted that it didn't even take much convincing.
"He just said 'do you want to come to D.C.?' It wasn't too much to be said. After he said that, I was like 'bro, I'm with it.' That conversation was like a confirmation for me," Howard said. "Him reaching out, I've never had a guy like John Wall as a point guard, so why lose that opportunity?"
Team president Ernie Grunfeld was surely appreciative of Wall's role in landing Howard. There are strict tampering rules for league executives for when and how they can contact free agents. Wall was able to have a conversation with Howard just player-to-player.
"We always talk to our players and who is available and who can help our team," Grunfeld said. "We realized it was a good opportunity for us to get [an athletic big man]. John did his part in it and he was very happy about it."
Howard liked the thought of playing with Wall and appreciated his communication so much that he says it helped sway him from signing with the Warriors. Golden State ended up doing well for themselves by signing DeMarcus Cousins, but they did reach out to Howard.
Howard, though, liked Wall's pitch better.
"Golden State called and I thought about them. But once John sent me that message, I was like, man. I couldn't tell him at first, but I was like 'man, I'm going to be a Wizard.' That was my mindset," he said.
Perhaps this experience will have an effect in the future on how Wall and the Wizards approach free agency, knowing this method worked out quite well for them.
Tyler Byrum contributed to this report
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