It’s been two weeks since free agency started. For the past two weeks, every time my phone buzzes, I expect some league-changing news coming from either Woj or Shams. There were certainly a fair share of league-altering news pieces that circulated the NBA world, especially surrounding the Brooklyn Nets and the drama that follows Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Combine that with multiple max contract extensions, a Rudy Gobert to the Timberwolves trade, and a Dejounte Murray coupling with Trae Young in Atlanta’s backcourt, this offseason has been chaotic. But for now, let’s shift our focus to a very intriguing player and his offseason move: John Wall signing with the Los Angeles Clippers.
Sadly, we live in an era when NBA narratives run the entire league. You hear one crazy take on ESPN or First Take and it’s circulating the NBA world as if it’s been set in stone. John Wall has been the victim of this epidemic, partly unwarranted and partly with good reason.
In 2017, Wall signed a monstrous extension paying him $207 million until 2023. For the 2021-22 season, Wall was making upwards of $44 million a year. The reason why Wall has been on the back end of some slander is due to his long absence from the court. Wall, once an elite starting point guard who has 19.1 pig and 9.1 assists per game averages for his whole career, has had a recent rough stretch in his career. Whether it’s been devastating injuries or personal loss, in the past four seasons, Wall has only played 72 regular season games.
In December of 2018, Wall had surgery on his heel and was out the rest of that season. Not more than a month later in January of 2019, Wall tore his achilles while at home. Yes, you heard that correctly. Probably the saddest way to get hurt, Wall tore his achilles and was out another year. Finally in 2020, Wall was traded to the Rockets in exchange for Westbrook. Unfortunately, he didn’t fit the Rockets timeline (a bunch of young players who aren’t primarily focused on winning games, but rather player development and securing a high draft position). Because of this, the Rockets and Wall came to a mutual agreement to sit him for the entire year. This is where some of the ugly narratives rolled into place with NBA Twitter enthusiasts claiming Wall is making $40 million a year to sit on the bench.
Finally, when free agency began, Wall agreed to a buyout with the Rockets and signed with the Clippers for the upcoming season. Wall signed under the mid-level TPE (Tax-Payers Exception) getting him a 2 year $13 million deal. This is a bittersweet moment for Clippers fans because signing Wall meant that we didn’t have the cap space to sign Isaiah Hartenstein, an underrated center with incredible passing vision and a Clipper fan favorite. Going back to Wall’s deal, it was just mentioned that the 2nd year of his deal is a team option. This is a huge win for the Clippers front office because if Wall performs poorly this year, they don’t have to keep him and the money they owe him. On the flip side, if Wall significantly outplays his deal and gains interest from other teams, the Clippers have the rights to lock him up and keep him on the squad.
From a broader lens, I like this signing. It’s a low risk-high reward signing that the Clippers have mastered in recent years. For example, Nicolas Batum and Reggie Jackson have had complete career resurgences since joining the team and I think Wall can follow suit. The Clippers have built an incredible roster filled with wings who can defend and shoot, the two most valuable traits in the game. One thing they are lacking, however, is pace. Enter John Wall. Back when he was on the Wizards, Wall was a blur. Some said he was the quickest player on any court he stepped onto. This type of reputation is exactly the type of player the Clippers need: a guard who can blow by a defender and kick out for a 3.
With that being said, we all need to calm down. John Wall is not that guy anymore. He’s not the same player he was back in Washington. He isn’t the bullet train that averaged 22 points and 10 assists per game in his playoff career. This is, in no way, a knock at John Wall. It’s just a realistic understanding of his physical shape. I hope that he proves me wrong and thrives in a system that perfectly complements his game. I just don’t want to see graphics on ESPN saying that the Clippers now have a “BIG 3”.
Since signing with the team, I am already impressed with Wall’s mindset. He’s been working out in the Clipper facility and was sitting courtside at the Summer League in Vegas supporting his new squad. When asked about his new situation, Wall said that the Clippers are a “first class organization, great team, great talent. I think it’s a great place for me to be. I feel like they’re a championship contending team.”
“I don’t have to be Batman every night for us to win.”John Wall on his fit with the Clippers
When asked about what his role with the team will be, Wall responded by saying that he is “Someone who can break down the defense, get into the paint. Find guys. That’s what my job was. That’s what I’ve done my whole career. And getting people paid. That’s what I do. You tell me the 3rd-best defender is going to have to guard me? Good luck.” I love this mentality. The idea that he’s already buying into the Clippers’ identity is extremely encouraging to hear.
It has already been reported that John Wall and Reggie Jackson will be competing for the Clippers starting point guard position in training camp. I genuinely cannot wait for next season to start and I truly hope that Wall can be a positive difference maker that can add value to an already extremely talented and hungry squad.