On Monday, as he met with reporters for the first time since news his season would end due to surgery on his left heel, John Wall took a moment to do what he often likes to do. He addressed some criticism of him that he heard in the media. It was unprompted, as in no reporter brought up the subject. Wall clearly had something to get off his chest.
The first reference came in a question about playing through pain in his heel before surgery was prescribed. Wall brought up a conspiracy theory about his motivation to get the procedure done and look towards 2019-20.
"When people say 'you're just shutting down because you're not going to be an All-Star,' that has nothing to do with it for me at all," he said.
Naturally, that brought a follow-up question. Though the source of that theory was never mentioned, Wall said it should be obvious.
"You know who the guy is," he said.
The timing and the details suggest Wall is talking about ESPN's Stephen A. Smith, a man who has had many public bouts with the Wizards' five-time All-Star. Smith, indeed, went on a Twitter rant last week about Wall's motivation to get the surgery done.
Among many things, Smith wrote that Wall is "leaving us wondering if he’s calling it a season because he ain’t about to make an All-Star team."
Included in his five-tweet thread, Smith criticized Wall's effort against teams like the Hawks and Cavs and suggested those bad performances show why he is not on the level of LeBron James.
Though Wall said the rant didn't bother him, he went on to seemingly describe exactly why Smith's assessment was bothersome.
"It's like this, if you have a personal problem with me, come talk to me like a man. If you want to talk about me as a basketball player, that's fine. I'm cool with that. I can take that criticism. That's what comes with being that guy," he said.
"But when you want to take things to a personal level, you can have a conversation with me 1-on-1 as a man. If you don't like me, you just don't like me. I'm fine with that. I might not like you, neither. It's cool."
Smith has taken shots at Wall's conduct off the court before, blasting him on national television for going out to clubs too often and partying too much. Wall wasn't happy about those comments and appears to believe Smith again crossed the line again.
Smith has not only made a habit of criticizing Wall and the Wizards, but when he does he usually makes a point to show up to one of their next home games. The Wizards host the Hawks on Wednesday. It would not be a surprise if Smiths shows up, as he usually does.
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