- The Washington Times
Monday, November 23, 2020

About halfway through a press conference dominated with questions about John Wall, Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard joked that he thought Monday’s session was supposed to be about Washington’s free-agent signings.

Sheppard surely knew he’d be asked about the recent reports that the five-time All-Star demanded a trade from the Wizards. But for Sheppard, there were only so many ways to reiterate his viewpoint: Wall isn’t going anywhere.

Sheppard denied Wall wants out of the District, adding the team has “no plans” to trade the 30-year-old. Over the weekend, The Athletic and other outlets reported that Wall demanded a trade after previous reports of him being shopped for Houston’s Russell Westbrook. Sheppard, though, said he hasn’t heard that from Wall.

“He didn’t request (a trade),” Sheppard said. “John and I talk pretty much, I would say, once every, every other day. I’ve been to many of his workouts throughout the summer. We’ve always been on the same page, the same wavelength. … My relationships with players are based on straight-line communication, straight-line trust.

“John and I have had that since Day 1 … There’s no issues with John and I.”

The denial came after a whirlwind of Wizards’ news in recent days. Washington re-signed sharpshooter Davis Bertans to a five-year, $80 million deal and boosted depth by signing veterans in guard Raul Neto and center Robin Lopez.

But the moves were overshadowed by the news involving Wall. After all, the reported demand was shocking given that Wall, the No. 1 overall pick in 2010, has spent his entire career in the District and he had said he was eager to re-join the team after missing the last two years with multiple foot injuries.

Lopez perfectly captured the drama. On Twitter, he posted a GIF of actor Donald Glover in “Community” eagerly entering the apartment with pizza — only for Glover to discover with horror that the place is on fire.

Sheppard said he wasn’t going to concern himself with rumors. He said that on Monday, he already watched Wall’s daily workout and chatted with the star over their love of the Dallas Cowboys.

“It’s unfortunately this time of year — I think the bait and tackle shop is wide open for business,” Sheppard said. “There’s a lot of people that get excited on the internet or whatnot.”

Sheppard’s comments, however, likely won’t end speculation about whether Wall is happy in the District.

There are still questions whether Wall, who hasn’t played in an NBA game since December 2018, can co-exist with Bradley Beal, who’s become the team’s MVP in Wall’s absence. Sheppard just said last week that the Wizards are building around Beal and called him a franchise cornerstone.

Sheppard was asked if Wall will have to make any adjustments upon return to play with Beal. Beal and Wall have said they are eager to share the court again, but Beal’s role expanded to being the primary ball handler when Wall was sidelined. Can Wall play more off ball than in the past? More importantly, can he share the spotlight with Beal? (Wall notably referred to Beal as his “sidekick” in 2016.)

The Athletic’s David Aldridge, too, wrote Saturday that Sheppard’s remark about building around Beal irked the five-time All-Star.

Is this now Beal’s team?

“Quite honestly, you know whose team this is? This is Ted’s team,” Sheppard said, referring to owner Ted Leonsis. “We all work for the ownership group.”

Even if Washington wanted to trade Wall, the team would likely run into difficulties finding a partner willing to take on the guard’s contract. Wall is set to make more than $40 million in each of the next two seasons, and he holds a $47 million player option for the third year. The deal also holds a 15% trade kicker, meaning the team acquiring Wall would have to pay him even more money.

But according to Sheppard, that’s not happening anyway.

“There’s no plans to trade John,” Sheppard said. “The story — it’s a new story now with John and Bradley. It’s not a sequel. They haven’t played together in two years, but they both look forward to playing with each other. That’s where we’re at and that’s where we move onto.”

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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