It's probably a bit unfair to John Wall, because if the Wizards had beaten the Charlotte Bobcats, he wouldn't be asked about his trip to watch his Kentucky Wildcats play in the national championship game. But the Wizards have fallen to the No. 7 seed in the East, and even though he had a triple-double Wall wasn't consistent in Wednesday's loss and had to face the question head on.
For his part, Wizards coach Randy Wittman blew off the inquiry and then said under his breath as he walked away, "You need to ask him about that."
What's key here is that he didn't dismiss the question outright or defend the action. Interpret that as you wish.
The Wizards (40-38) were dreadful in a 96-78 loss to the Chicago Bulls at Verizon Center on Saturday. They were off Sunday which is normal after playing a back-to-back set. Wall practiced Monday morning and then rushed to catch a flight to Dallas. Kentucky's game tipped off at 9 p.m. ET. It was over by midnight and Wall was back at practice Tuesday.
"That has nothing to do with a basketball game. I got two nights to get back to my bed and sleep," Wall said. "I practiced (Tuesday) and had a good day, came in here and had a game today. It's not like I went a night before a game. If anybody has anything to say about that, that's their opinion."
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Given that Wall is the face of the franchise, the $80 million man, is it a good precedent set for the leader who said going in that Charlotte was "the biggest game of the season"? Could it cause problems in the locker room or dissension down the road when other players may want to do similar things but are rejected because they're not Wall? Should someone, Wittman or president Ernie Grunfeld, have said no?
If Wall hadn't shot 6-for-18, or the Wizards hadn't quickly fallen into a 20-point hole or if they simply had won this question wouldn't have been asked. Ray Allen, who went to Connecticut which beat Kentucky 60-54, was at Monday's game, too. But Allen is not the face of the Miami Heat and he already has championship rings.
Remember when Michael Jordan left to gamble in Atlantic City in the middle of Games 1 and 2 of the 1993 Eastern Conference final vs. the New York Knicks? Already an NBA champion, and in a media culture that is far less judgmental than today's, Jordan was raked over the coals when the report surfaced before Game 4. He responded with 54 points on 18-for-30 shooting, including six threes. Then in Game 5, Jordan had a triple-double of 29 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds. The Bulls won the series in six.
This is hardly a parallel circumstance and it won't be a national story like Jordan. Wall didn't get involved in anything as seedy as gambling or break any laws. But when things go wrong and you're the leader of a team that's struggling to establish an identity with an important game looming, such questions are going to come.
And to Wall's credit, he handled it all well. He didn't storm away in anger or respond in immature fashion. In fact, he arrived to the arena for Wednesday's game at about 3 p.m., more than two hours earlier than required. There was no reason to assume that he wasn't ready or focused, and instead of being criticized for going to Dallas he'd be lauded for his show of commitment. But again, the Wizards lost and this is par for the course for an All-Star.