Ted Leonsis made his way to the $80 million man in the locker room, after the Wizards clinched a playoff spot for the first time in six years Wednesday night. The smile on John Wall's face didn't make him difficult to locate in the afterglow. It was brighter than his five-deep chain loaded with diamonds.
"He always comes in, especially after a big win for games he's at most of the time he speaks to us," said Wall, who signed the five-year maximum contract in August and was instrumental in lobbying for coach Randy Wittman being retained. "Just had something special say to me because he did pay me a lot of money and wanted me to be the leader of the team."
Wall, who had 13 points and 10 rebounds in a 26-point blowout of the Boston Celtics, couldn't hide his joy as he uttered those words. He was an All-Star for the first time in his fourth season and he ended the drought for a team that's still fighting to retain at least a No. 6 seed with seven games left in the regular season. Leonsis didn't address he locker room, but he talked to players individually.
"This is bigger than that," Wall said of being named to the East All-Star team as a reserve in February. "All-Star is my own separate goal and wanted to accomplish for myself. But everything I do is for the team first. I wouldn't be able to be an All-Star, have these individual accolades without those guys. Great group of teammates. Everything I do, my teammates are behind it. My coaching staff. This is what everybody wanted."
For those who questioned Leonsis' decision to make Wall a max player, and do it before the season instead of waiting until afterwards, it's time to admit it was a great decision. He was going to give it to Wall anyway, and there was no point on dragging it out and subjecting his star to meddlesome questions about his future in Washington. Rather than shying away from the extra burden, Wall has handled it.
And yes, he's worth $80 million.