WASHINGTON -- Saying that the Washington Wizards were not on the same page this season, John Wall put the onus on management to weed out those who don't want to remain with the team and "add some pieces" to get the team past its frustrating inconsistencies.
At the team's exit interviews, Wall had some strong comments about the team's chemistry and wanting players who want to be on the team. Wall did not name any teammates who might not want to remain in Washington, but he made it clear that there were some personalities that did not mesh, that some players wanted bigger roles and that these issues lingered throughout this season compared to seasons past.
While saying that the team's current core has shown the ability to beat anyone, Wall said there are obvious needs that have to be addressed in certain areas of the roster.
"It's a lot," Wall told reporters when asked what the Wizards need to address on the roster. "I feel like it's a lot we can use. I don't really have to say [which] certain positions. People who have been around our team understand what we can use to help our team. And it is not throwing shade to anybody on our team because everybody that is on the roster gave everything they had to make it work and fit with the team.
"But at the same time, sometimes when it is not working, you try, you try, you try, and it keeps failing over and over, you have to make certain adjustments and changes."
Despite entering the season with high expectations following a Game 7 loss to the Boston Celtics in the conference semifinals last season, the Wizards were hit by injuries and inconsistency, as they didn't have Wall for 41 games -- 28 straight coming after he had knee surgery that kept him out for two months -- and finished a disappointing eighth in the Eastern Conference.
With Wall back in the lineup, the Wizards lost in six games to the top-seeded Toronto Raptors, marking the first time that the All-Star backcourt of Wall and Bradley Beal failed to make it to the second round in four postseason appearances.
Wall strongly hinted at a player or players who do not want to be in Washington.
"I just think you can kind of tell when guys, when things are going well, everybody is happy, everybody wants to be here," Wall said of why he repeatedly mentioned wanting those who want to stay. "But when things get rough, that is when you really figure out who is your brother, who is really in the war with you, who is really in the fight with you. I think anybody can see from the outside -- or the inside looking in -- who really wanted to be here when things weren't going great for us, but when it is all happy go jolly, and we are winning, it is all fun and games."
On Friday, after the Wizards were eliminated by Toronto, Wall praised Beal for showing growth by having an "MVP-type season" while he was out with his knee injury.
Wall and center Marcin Gortat have had a nice pick-and-roll connection on the court when things went well for Washington, but the two have also had their differences and can often be seen barking at each other on the court.
After the Wizards went on a win streak while Wall was out following surgery, Gortat tweeted about a "great 'team' victory," and Wall took it as a slight. Wall then told ESPN's Michael Smith that he was shocked by the tweet, "understanding he gets the most assists from me and the most spoon-fed baskets ever." ESPN's Chris Haynes reported that the two met privately to try to air out their differences.
During the first round, Wall and Gortat were seen in a photo on the bench having an animated conversation while Bradley Beal sat nearby with a towel draped over his head in frustration as the Wizards fell behind big early before losing Game 2 in Toronto. The two said they were going over defensive coverages, and it was not a big deal.
After the Wizards won two games at home to even the series 2-2, Gortat praised Wall after seeing the point guard take over the fourth quarter of Game 4. But Gortat also joked about how he's "getting fat" off Wall "spoon-feeding me" and said that when Wall "plays the right way, he is the best point guard in the league." The center also poked fun at that photo from Game 2 by joking that he and Wall got into another disagreement on court, but they clearly were fine with the Wizards winning and both playing well.
Gortat, who has one year remaining on his contract, made it very clear that he has plenty left in his tank and that the team did not have the type of drama that it might have appeared to have been.
"We are definitely on the same page. We had great chemistry toward the end of the year," Gortat, 34, said Saturday when asked about the team chemistry. "Stuff that came out in the middle of the season was mostly created, unfortunately, by you guys, by a lot of people that have no clue of what is going on with the team. Whatever stuff that came out about me and John, it is all nonsense and stuff that is unnecessary."
"We did talk about a lot of things, and we have no issues," Gortat added of himself and Wall. "I mean, [supposedly] having all those issues, and the next game he passes me the ball eight times, and I give him eight assists, and I have eight buckets? I mean, come on, if I were pissed at somebody, I wouldn't probably pass him the ball. We are good. Are we best friends and, like, the greatest friends? Probably not. But I am not best friends with probably half of the team over there."
Wall never said whom he was talking about who does not want to be in Washington, but he said it was evident that the team was not on the same page.
"I just told you that some people don't understand their roles, so if you don't understand your role and think you deserve a bigger role, that is not about to happen," he said. "If you are not built for it, why would you want to be put in that situation? But a lot of people say they want that pressure or situation, and then they get put in it, and they act totally different. So don't ask for something that you can't handle."
"But at the same time, if you have a team meeting, and we are brothers, if you are a grown man like you are supposed to be, I can confront you and talk to you without having a problem because you are supposed to talk to your brother, and you are going to have arguments and fights," he added when asked about a team meeting earlier in the season. "But at times if you can't talk to somebody because they always think it is negative or taking it the wrong way, yeah, you are going to have issues and problems in the locker room, and that is where inconsistencies happen."
Wall mentioned that adding an athletic big, a scorer capable of creating his own shot off the bench and more depth at small forward behind Otto Porter Jr. and Kelly Oubre Jr. would help in the offseason. If the Wizards' starting five of Wall, Beal, Porter Jr., Markieff Morris and Gortat returns next season, Wall believes it has shown what it is capable of doing. Adding more pieces around that core will be difficult with the majority of the Wizards' cap eaten up by Wall, Beal and Porter Jr.'s contracts.
"I think that five has shown we can compete against anybody," the eight-year veteran said. "This year I wouldn't say so -- we dealt with injuries. But other than that, I feel like we have shown we can compete against anybody. ... I think it is just figuring out what pieces we can add to the team and what guys can stay and go that really want to be here and really want to win ... I think we have been trying for some years to figure it out.
"I have to stay healthy myself and improve my game every summer. I put the pressure on myself because I am that franchise guy, and I am the guy that has to be the leader of the team and make everybody better. But at the same time, if I am doing my part, the other 14 guys have to do their part of getting better every year, just being true to the team. I think probably we have a lot of times guys don't understand their role and respect their role ... you can't keep going up and down every year, all year, and that is what we have been dealing with since I have been here."