Although John Wall has a well-documented injury history, there’s another thing about the star guard that should worry the Houston Rockets.
On Wednesday evening the Houston Rockets made surprising headlines when it was announced that they had dealt Russell Westbrook to the Washington Wizards for star point guard John Wall. The Rockets were reportedly willing to start the season with both Westbrook and James Harden on the roster, in spite of their reported trade requests.
In Wall the Rockets are getting a five-time All-Star, a former All-Defensive player, and a former All-NBA guard, much like Westbrook was during the 2019-20 season. Wall has also previously led the league in assists, much like Westbrook previously did in his career, although Westbrook pulled off the feat twice.
Wall brings a myriad of question marks, with his availability being near the top of the list, as he hasn’t played a game in two years and has missed 163 games dating back to the 2017-18 season. But Wall presents another dilemma that hasn’t been discussed much of late: his commitment to basketball.
But how can a player who entered the NBA with the label of a non-shooter and morphed into a 37.1 percent long-range shooter be questioned in such a manner? Not to mention the fact that Wall received MVP votes during the 2016-17 season.
A quick gander into Wall’s career answers the question, as Wall has never held back about his love for the nightlife and club scene. Wall was once asked about how he feels about fans’ expectations of superstar players having a Kobe Bryant type of dedication and commitment to their craft, and well, why don’t you take a listen for yourself.
Why the Rockets should be worried about John Wall
Wall continued: "I know what I do and bring to the table, and that's 110% effort. I know how hard I work on my game and I'm going to enjoy my life, I'm not about to sit at home and be boring"
— Troy Haliburton (+/-) (@TroyHalibur) October 4, 2018
“It’s interesting to me. I love it. I ask them the same thing.
You’ve got a 9 to 5, what do you do after your 9 to 5? You’re not about to sit in the house all day are you?
I’m a grown man, I can do what I want to. As long as I know what I do and bring to the table every night, and that’s give 110 percent effort. I know how hard I work on my game.
I’m going to enjoy my life. I’m not about to sit at home and be boring.”
That seems like an innocent enough statement, as players have the right to do whatever they pursue during their free time. After all, they’ve paid the legitimate price to reach their level of stardom, and especially in Wall’s case, as he had a rough upbringing and ascended to a better life for himself and his family through hard work and dedication.
But this situation is different, for a number of reasons. For one, Wall’s new backcourt teammate, James Harden, has been known to frequent the strip club scene pretty regularly, which feels cringeworthy to type, as it feels like that gets used against Harden unfairly and unjustly. But aside from that, if Wall is seeking a city that isn’t going to be boring, Houston would definitely be such a place, as it’s strip clubs would make even Tim Tebow and the wholesome A.C. Green become regulars at such establishments, with the city having earned it’s title as the “Stripper Capital,” as Harden can attest.
Wall also came under fire from ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith in 2018 for his off the court habits. The First Take co-host stated:
“The situation with John Wall is so bad I’m getting pictures of John Wall off the court, [where] people are seeing him. They’re bringing up Rosebar, one of the most popular nightclubs, if not the most popular nightclub, in Washington, D.C. They’re talking about off-field habits. John Wall, pay attention.”
So will Wall be able to prioritize basketball and the goal at hand over outside distractions off the court? Well, the Houston Rockets are banking on it, as he could hold the key to James Harden deciding to remain a member of the Houston Rockets beyond the 2021-22 season, which is when he’d be able to exercise his player option and pursue other destinations.
The Rockets need Wall to resort back to the player that was getting MVP votes and the player that proved to be capable of clamping down defensively, in addition to running down the court with a Russell Westbrook type of speed, much like how Wall was when healthy. This will especially be the case considering the fact that 2019-20 NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers re-tooled and added Montrezl Harrell, Dennis Schroeder, and Marc Gasol, in addition to already boasting a duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
Rockets general manager Rafael Stone did his best to build an equally talented roster, as the Rockets added rising star Christian Wood and former All-Star DeMarcus Cousins, who was Wall’s teammate at the University of Kentucky. Wall’s health figures to be the most important contingent, and the Rockets’ decision to pursue him would figure to mean they don’t believe his health will be an issue.
Will his focus and commitment, though? Let’s hope not.