SportsPulse: USA TODAY Sports' Jeff Zillgitt discusses the end of the John Wall era in Washington and why Houston may be the perfect place for him to resurrect his career. USA TODAY
It became apparent John Wall’s time with the Washington Wizards had run its course.
It also became apparent that the Houston Rockets are a team in flux, and Russell Westbrook was unsure of his future there.
The deal that has been discussed and made sense dollar-wise is the deal the Wizards and Rockets made on Wednesday.
The Wizards have reached a deal to acquire Westbrook, the All-Star guard who will reunite with his former coach Scott Brooks in Washington, two people with direct knowledge of the trade told USA TODAY Sports under the condition of anonymity because they were not ized to speak publicly. The Rockets will get Wall and a protected 2023 first-round pick.
"Having the opportunity to acquire a player of Russell's caliber and character was something that we could not pass up when looking at both the immediate and long-term future of our team," Wizards general manager Tommy Shepperd said later Wednesday in a statement after the teams announced the trade. "With that said, the decision to part ways with John, one of the greatest players in franchise history, was extremely difficult. What he meant to our organization and our community is immeasurable and will not be forgotten."
Wall hasn’t played since Dec. 26, 2018, sidelined by injuries, including a ruptured Achilles tendon. The writing was on the wall recently when he told reporters at a charity event, "We can’t control certain things that happen in life, but one thing I can control is my heart will always be in this city."
Sheppard also recently said the Wizards were Bradley Beal’s team, and while he didn’t intend to dismiss Wall, the words stung. Beal and Wall were supposed to grow together and lead the Wizards to deep playoff runs. That never happened, and while the backcourt stars said the right things and tried to do the rights things, they weren’t a perfect match on the court.
Wall, 30, is entering the second year of a four-year, $171 million deal that will pay him $47.3 million in the final season of 2022-23. Westbrook, 32, is entering the third year of a five-year, $206 million contract that will pay him $47 million in 2022-23.
Westbrook averaged 27.2 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.0 assists last season alongside James Harden with Houston.
While Wall hasn’t played in almost two years, Wizards coach Scott Brooks on Tuesday said, "His speed, his quickness and his ability to explode is there. It’s all going to come down to the stamina and being able to go through a training camp and exhibition games. ... That’s always the thing that you worry about — does he have that speed? I’ve seen it up close. I’ve seen it in practice last year with our team. He’s had some extra time to really get ready. He’s had these extra couple of months. If there’s a silver lining with the pandemic, he’s had some extra time to be ready to start the season."
Wall will also team up with former Kentucky teammate DeMarcus Cousins. The two have talked previously about playing on the same NBA team.
The trade marks the end of an era for the Wizards, who drafted Wall with the No. 1 overall pick in 2010. He is a five-time All-Star and an All-NBA selection in 2016-17.
Wizards owner Ted Leonsis took to Twitter to thank Wall for his time with the team and wish him well.
"He has been a great, all-star caliber player and a fantastic citizen and leader in our community," Leonsis wrote. "I am proud of how hard John has worked to come back to the league after two years away from competing. Our fans, our franchise and I will miss him very much.
"I personally wish the best for him in his new city and franchise. Good health and good fortune to John Wall and all of Washington DC thanks you for your unabashed love of the game — and our community."
In September, Wall apologized on Twitter for displaying gang signs in a video posted on social media.
"First and foremost I want to apologize to my family, my teammates and all of those that have always supported me," Wall tweeted. "I made a mistake, something I regret. I will continue to work hard to be better on the court and more importantly off the court."
While the organization downplayed it publicly, Wizards sideline reporter Chris Miller of NBC Sports Washington reported the video rankled some within the organization.
Follow Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt.