Everyone fought with everyone in what’s being considered a “volatile” Wizards practice last week, and it may be the spiciest drama the franchise has delivered to date. The highlights include John Wall telling head coach Scott Brooks, “Fuck you,” after he tried to get him to pick up the intensity in a practice,” and Bradley Beal saying he’s “been dealing with this for the last seven years.
Here’s a complete roundup of the skirmishes:
- According to Woj, Wall said “fuck you” to Brooks after being challenged to raise the intensity. (He later apologized and was fined.)
- “I’ve been dealing with this for seven years,” Beal added, according to The Athletics’ Shams Charania.
- According to The Washington Post’s Candace Buckner, Beal and Austin Rivers had a verbal altercation over a foul call in practice. (They made up afterwards.)
- Buckner said Jeff Green and Wall also had a verbal altercation.
- Bucker also said Kelly Oubre shouted expletives at Brooks.
It never ends with this team, and it probably never will. So we found some of their most infamous in-house altercations and ranked them, purely because they have so many on a yearly basis. After all, it’d be a shame not to.
8) The 2013 players-only meeting
The Wizards had high expectations to return to the playoffs, but got off to just a 2-7 start to the 2013-14 season. So, Trevor Ariza and Al Harrington called a players-only meeting to discuss what needed to be done to turn around, according to Michael Lee of the Washington Post.
Our own Mike Prada wrote nearly five years ago:
It’s like clockwork. Team has expectations, team struggles, team has players-only meeting. We’re now at stage 3 with the Wizards
7) The veteran leadership of 2012
In the 2012-13 season, the Wizards were well outside the playoff picture. According to Michael Lee, veteran center Emeka Okafor was “fed up” with Wall’s attitude after a one-point loss to the Pistons. Okafor was the old head in the locker room, and he had to get his point guard in order.
When Okafor attempted to explain afterward why Coach Randy Wittman had to make the decision to give A.J. Price more playing time, Wall snapped back, leading to a heated argument that was audible from the walls on the other side of the training room.
”It was just me being young and very frustrated. I wasn’t making anything, turning the ball over, and we lost a lot of games that we should’ve won and I put the toll on me,” Wall explained, as he recalled his emotions before the encounter. “A lot of frustration was coming out. As a veteran and being a leader on the team, [Okafor] stepped up and said something. At the time, it was in the heat of moment. I was upset.”
Oddly enough, that shouting match turned Wall’s season around. His numbers shot up across the board after Okafor confronted him.
Tough love really works sometimes, huh?
6) Summer 2016: Is it the money?
In the summer of 2016, Beal signed a monster five-year, $127 million contract extension, while Wall was still on his modest deal worth just $48 million over four years, inked before the cap exploded. Everyone made it seem like Wall was hating on Beal’s contract, and there’s a possibility he was, especially with a quote like this on record in a summer interview with CSN’s Chris Miller:
”Now that you have your money you got to go out there and improve your game,” Wall said. “I want you to be an All-Star just as much as I’m an All-Star. If we were playing well as a tandem like the other two superstars that play together as a backcourt, play as a tandem, one night it’s going to be his night, one night it’s going to be mine, some nights it might be both of us. Those are nights it’s going to be tough to beat us.”
Their beef wasn’t money based — at least not fully. Wall signed his contract at an inopportune time, before the cap jumped. He’s getting his money’s worth today, thanks to a four-year, $170 million supermax extension signed in 2017 that hasn’t even kicked in yet. That’s for sure.
These two players just weren’t the best of friends. Their relationship was a work in progress, it still it. There was even more lighter fluid thrown on the fire last season, when Beal and the Wizards initially thrived while Wall was out with an injury.
Both have huge contracts now. They’ll have to figure it out together.
5) Gary Neal vs. everybody
Exhibit B, via J. Michael of CSN Mid-Atlantic.
Teammates complained about his locker room behavior to the point that Drew Gooden, CSNmidatlantic.com was told by someone there at the time, asked, “What is wrong with that dude?” He rubbed some players the wrong way because, it was interpreted, all of Neal’s concerns about the offense involved getting himself better statistics so he could get paid this summer.
Another former teammate, reflecting on the season Sunday, spoke about feeling as if Neal was trying to show him up in front of teammates — this conversation with CSN took place almost 24 hours before the Facebook post — and concluded: “I should’ve punched him out.”
Said another teammate from 2015-16 after seeing Neal’s post Monday, via text: “Terrible teammate. All about himself.”
When the Wizards spoke of "selfish" play this season after games they usually were referring to Neal. No love lost, clearly #WizardsTalk— J. Michael (@ThisIsJMichael) July 11, 2016
4) 2018: Don’t worry about your shots, bro
Wall said it without saying a name.
“We’ve got guys that’s worried about who’s getting shots. …You should never worry about that,” he said, via The Athletic’s Fred Katz. “No matter if you’re missing or making shots, you gotta be able to compete on the other end. You can’t do it on both ends of the floor, you don’t need to be playing.”
So did Beal.
“Sometimes, we have our own agendas on the floor, whether it’s complaining about shots, complaining about playing time, complaining about whatever it may be,” Beal said. “We’re worried about the wrong shit, and that’s not where our focus needs to be. And it’s just going to continue to hurt us.”
Head coach Scott Brooks came over the top and gave a reason why he’s been giving more minutes to Kelly Oubre Jr. over Otto Porter recently.
“I like the way Kelly’s playing” Brooks said. “Otto, he has to just keep playing and can’t worry about your shots and worry about your shot-making, but Kelly is playing well.”
Porter responded the next day with this:
Otto Porter was asked if he agreed with Wall's and Beal's perspective about players having their "own agendas."— Candace Buckner (@CandaceDBuckner) October 27, 2018
Porter: "I can’t say that. But you gotta play together. We can’t have our heads down…So we gotta figure, hey, we gotta play for each other."
Then, the Wizards got blown out by the Clippers. Everything is fine in Washington.
3) 2013: ‘Take your head out your butt’
In November of 2013, the Spurs had just beaten the Wizards by 16 to send their early season record to 2-6. Nene, another proud veteran, believed Washington had more talent than San Antonio, but the Gregg Popovich-coached team played ball the right way.
So after that loss, Nene was hot, and he lit up his younger teammates for chasing stats instead of chasing victories.
“They kicked our butts in the most classy way — playing the right way,” Nene said, fuming following the clinical destruction of the Wizards by the selfless Spurs. “It’s crazy, that’s what makes me mad. Our young guys think they’re so smart. But if I was young, I would watch video of that game for one week to see if I could learn something, because the way they play is how you’re supposed to play.
“They not talented as us,” Nene continued. “They have great players, a great team, but the way they execute things, the way they cut, the way they exploit weaknesses, swing the ball. They don’t think about stats. We still think about stats. Our young guys must take their heads out their butts and play the right way, because I’m getting tired of this.”
2) 2018: Great “team” victory
Immediately after Wall underwent arthroscropic knee surgery, the Wizards went on a tear, winning five in a row and eight of their next 10. They were moving the ball well, with a 30-assist game to show, and his teammates appeared to be playing better without him.
After the third of those victories — a 122-119 home win over East-leading Toronto — Marcin Gortat tweeted this:
Unbelievable win tonight ! Great "team" victory!— Marcin Gortat (@MGortat) February 2, 2018
Great “team” victory, huh? That sure sounded like Wall shade, so Wall responded on Twitter:
Then he appeared on SportsCenter -- yes, SportsCenter -- with HAYMAKERS:
John Wall on ESPN just said “funny hearing Gortat talking when he gets the most spoon-fed easiest baskets cause of him” pic.twitter.com/U3zOdCCu2x— The Fix is in (@Groovy_Ky) February 6, 2018
“I know I’m a team player. I average almost 10 assists a game,” Wall told SportsCenter on Tuesday. “I’m very prideful in finding my teammates and getting guys easy shots. Even more just shocking hearing it from him and understand he gets the most assists from me and gets the most spoon-fed baskets ever.”
Gortat later clarified and said the tweet wasn’t directed specifically at Wall:
“We talk about team win with 30 assists a game, everybody played for each other. We enjoyed the game,” Gortat continued. “And basically I see that, you know, he felt different way. He felt it was a different way and he came back with that kind of a comment. So, now we got to ask each other questions, who’s attacking who?”
The two finished the season together, but the Wizards traded Gortat to the Clippers for Austin Rivers over the summer.
1) 2015: “My supposed big men”
No coach likes his team getting thrashed on the boards, and in 27 minutes of play against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Nov, 2015, Gortat recorded just three rebounds.
So after the game, then-Wizards head coach Randy Wittman lit into Gortat without using his name. Emphasis ours:
“We don’t have any toughness. We don’t hit anybody and rebound the ball. We’ve got guys that play 27 minutes and get one defensive rebound,” a heated Wittman after the game. “I can get a rebound, I guarantee you. If you give me 27 minutes on a Saturday, I’ll get you a rebound. And that’s what it boils down to -- 50-50 balls, the dirty stuff.
“We’re just too soft of a team right now. I might as well stick four guards and a center out there and play, because we’re getting beat on the boards with my supposed big men out there,” Wittman said. “We let teams take it to us the last three games.”
Gortat responded and said the reason he wasn’t getting rebounds was because the team was giving up 100 points in three quarters and there weren’t many missed shots to get boards from. He also wasn’t happy to be called out by his head coach in public.
“I don’t think it was necessary to call me out in the media like that,” Gortat said Friday after pausing for nine seconds before answering a question on the subject. “But it happened. I heard a different story in training camp, that stuff like that won’t happen. But it happened. So I disagree with what he did.”
That moment ruined their relationship. The Wizards failed to make the playoffs and Wittman was fired after the season.
But in all these cases save for the Okafor confrontation, the Wizards pulled together enough to win at least half of their games. In 2013-14, 2014-15, and 2016-17, they even won a round in the playoffs!
Maybe that’ll offer some solace to Wizards fans in the end, though they’re probably tired of history repeating itself.