John Wall: Contract talks with Wizards to pick up after USA Basketball camp
LAS VEGAS — Everything in due time: first the global tour, then the national-team tryout and then the contract negotiations.
Things are happening fast for Wizards point guard John Wall this summer, which really is no surprise, given that the No. 1 pick in the 2010 draft has been synonymous with speed since high school. The questions about Wall have always centered on refinement, not raw talent. He can dunk with either hand at a full sprint in transition, but can he master the pick-and-roll? He can seamlessly execute dribble moves in traffic, but can he control his turnovers? He can outquick and outjump just about everyone at his position, but can he extend the range on his jumper and be the consistent focal point of an above-average offense? He can dominate highlight reels, but does he bring the total package required to evolve into a franchise player?
After missing the first two months of the 2012-13 season with a knee injury, Wall got to work on those questions, leading the Wizards to a 24-25 record when he was on the court compared to 5-28 when he was out. That strong close to the season was enough to persuade management to keep the core together in pursuit of the franchise’s first postseason appearance since 2008.
“I just need to be in the playoffs. That’s my only goal,” Wall said Tuesday after practice at a USA Basketball minicamp. “Fourth year going in, I need to have a full, healthy season and make the playoffs. That’s all I’m looking forward to.”
Well, that and the possibility of a lucrative contract extension. CSNWashington.com reported earlier this month that Wizards officials and Wall’s agent have opened talks on his rookie extension, which could net him about $80 million over five years. Wall told SI.com that he expected those conversations to pick up after the Team USA camp ends Thursday.
“I don’t know,” Wall said when asked where the negotiations stand. “I haven’t even talked to [the Wizards] about it. We’ll figure it out when I’m done with this. … I feel like my organization and front-office people do a great job, my agent [does] a great job of handling that. My main thing is just to enjoy myself while I’m here at the USA minicamp. Just knowing I’ve got my country across my chest, it’s the biggest thing to me.”
The Wizards face an Oct. 31 deadline to reach a deal. Otherwise, Wall would become a restricted free agent next summer. Any new deal would kick in for the 2014-15 season, as Wall is under contract for $7.5 million next season.
Wall, 22, averaged a career-high 18.5 points, 7.6 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game last season. He ranked sixth among point guards in Player Efficiency Rating (20.9), behind Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Tony Parker, Kyrie Irving and Stephen Curry.
Before arriving in Las Vegas, where he is competing with a number of those big names at his position for a spot on the 2014 FIBA World Cup team, Wall traveled to China as part of an Adidas promotional tour. Joined by Damian Lillard, Jrue Holiday and Mike Conley — three more point guards who are also in Vegas — Wall visited Beijing, Shanghai and other cities, playing in public exhibitions along the way.
“It was a great experience,” Wall said. “Another humbling experience, traveling 12, 13 hours, go out there, spread my fans worldwide, see my fans, just try to make my mark and make the brand bigger. China basketball is getting even bigger, and that’s a good thing.”
This week, though, is all about American basketball. Wall has yet to play for Team USA at the FIBA World Cup (formerly the World Championship) or the Olympics, and the competition at his position is particularly fierce. He’s been going head-to-head, and playing alongside, Holiday, Irving, Lillard and Conley, among others, on the campus of UNLV. Westbrook, who competed at the 2010 World Championship and the 2012 Olympics, looms as another possibility, as do Curry and Derrick Rose, who both played on the 2010 team. Paul and one of his backups in London, Deron Williams, could be in the mix, too.
“You’ve got a lot of talent here and then you’ve got other guys who aren’t even here that might play,” Wall said. “You just go out here and enjoy yourself and really play. This is basically the NBA season, who you go against. I think point guard is the best position in the league. You’re going against the best wherever you go.”
Wall didn’t sell himself short in evaluating his standing among the American point-guard crop.
“I feel like when I’m healthy, I’m right there with them,” he said. “I put myself in the category.”