One unexpected part of the NBA's months-long hiatus has been the unearthing of stories from Wizards and Bullets past. We have learned some amazing things like the fact Gilbert Arenas was behind John Wall doing 'The Dougie' before his NBA debut, how Arenas mistakenly talked trash to Kobe Bryant while on the tarmac after his 60-point game and how Jerry Stackhouse hated playing with Michael Jordan.
This week brought another revelation from Wizards lore. Wall appeared on the Team 980 and told host Kevin Sheehan he had a good feeling how the summer of 2016 would go for the Wizards.
If you remember, the Wizards lined up everything to go after Kevin Durant in free agency, including by letting defensive specialist Trevor Ariza leave. Turns out, Wall still wonders 'what if' and says he knew Durant wasn't coming to Washington.
"One thousand percent. We still think about that to this day. I feel like that was the biggest piece we lost," Wall said whether he felt they should have kept Ariza.
"We felt like we weren't getting Kevin, just from knowing everything and thinking ahead. Like, okay we know Kevin's not coming here so just keep the core we have. We have a great core with Trevor Ariza and all the guys we had. Don't get me wrong, Paul was great for us. Paul Pierce was great for us, but we just felt like that experience we had with Trevor and the way he was shooting the ball and things and the way he defended, he was the perfect person we needed for LeBron [James]. Even though nobody's going to stop LeBron, he just made it tough on LeBron."
The Wizards not only missed out on Durant that summer, they famously never even got a meeting with him. The plan didn't work out, but that doesn't mean it was a bad plan.
To this day, you could argue the Wizards did some things right along the way. They found two young stars in Wall and Bradley Beal, cleared cap room and then went after a star player who would have complemented their core perfectly. The reason they ultimately had no chance to sign him was not their fault, he admittedly just didn't want to play at home.
Could they have sensed that? Maybe, maybe not. Durant didn't express that publicly until after he signed with the Warriors. That said, it sounds like Wall had an inkling Durant wasn't coming to D.C.
Where the Wizards truly erred that summer was not in chasing Durant, it was not having a viable back-up plan. Their Plan B was to sign Al Horford, but he went to Boston. That led them to Plan C, which was to hand out a slew of multi-year contracts that strapped their salary cap for years to come. The decision to sign Ian Mahinmi to a $64 million deal is still affecting them now.
In hindsight, it's hard to disagree with what Wall said. The Wizards thought they couldn't afford Ariza, but then the salary cap spiked and his contract became a bargain as he helped the Rockets become one of the best teams in the league.
Who knows how things would have turned out for the Wizards if they kept Ariza. Easy to say now, but clearly it remains on Wall's mind.
Stay connected to the Capitals and Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.
MORE WIZARDS NEWS:
- Stop it: John Wall won't play in NBA return
- NBA return: 22-team format includes Wizards
- Top 5 moments: Unseld's career