Now that the 2013-14 season is in the rear view, John Wall can be candid about how he felt being needled publicly by coach Randy Wittman who saw questionable leadership at times from his All-Star point guard.
When the Wizards struggled to a 2-7 start and had trouble getting above .500, it was Wittman taking Wall to task for the team's performances. The reasons were understandable: Wall controls the ball 80% of the time and set the tone on both ends, in practice and games. If he was lax defensively, that's how the Wizards tended to play. If he moved the ball, that became contagious, too. This is what comes with being the $80 million man, a contract extension he signed last summer that kicks in this upcoming season.
"You don’t want to hear it, but that’s the kind of relationship we have," said Wall of Wittman, who was on staff as an assistant when he was drafted No. 1 overall in 2010 and elevated to coach the next season. "Even when he was an assistant coach that’s what I’ve been dealing with of him saying, 'You ain't doing this. You ain't doing that.’
"If you want to be the best player on the team, be the franchise guy, you’ve got to take that criticism in front of the team so those guys sit back and accept it. If you want to argue back with him it makes it seem like he can’t get on nobody else on the team. That’s the biggest key, the biggest step I took to accept it even more and not complain."
To his credit, Wall didn't. Though he admitted a few years ago it would've led to an argument, Wall simply played better and brought his teammates with him as they finished with the No. 5 seed and advanced to the second-round of the playoffs before falling to the Indiana Pacers in six games.
A coach, who at the time had never been to the postseason himself, in the final year of his contract not shying away from challenging his star player? How often that does that happen in the NBA?
The callouts ceased when Wall reflected what Wittman wanted on the court, and the results got better. They went from being two games below .500 at the All-Star break to six games over in the end.
And when Wall was in a funk during that series with Indiana and needed a pat on the back going into Game 5 instead of that kick in the rear, Wittman was wise enough to know when to change tactics. Wall responded with his best game of the postseason.