Los Angeles Clippers guard John Wall spent two seasons as a member of the Houston Rockets and called his time with the organization “beyond trash.”
Wall was a guest on Dallas Mavericks’ guard Theo Pinson’s podcast “Run Your Race,” and he opened up about his two years in Houston.
This was a rough time in Wall’s life. He was coming off of a debilitating Achilles tendon injury, his mother passed away, and then the COVID-19 global pandemic hit. He hadn’t played basketball in two years before being traded to Houston. He thought it would be great to play with the Rockets MVP James Harden.
Theo Pinson asks John Wall about his time with the Rockets on the Run Your Race podcast pic.twitter.com/2t5QOHDmH1
— Adam Spolane (@AdamSpolane) January 17, 2023
Why Was Wall’s Stint In Houston “Beyond Trash”?
“I’m going there thinking James is gonna be there once I get traded, but he already wants out. When I landed, I’m like, ‘What’s up? I’m about to land. Gotta go do my conference s–t.’ He’s like, ‘Well I’m on my way to Atlanta to go to Lil Baby’s birthday.’ The f–k? He talking about, ‘You wanna get on the jet with me?’ B—h, I just got traded here. I can’t f–k up. I’ve got to be on good terms. I don’t know how the owner is, how the GM is. I don’t know nothing.”
Wall played well that first season in Houston and was looking forward to building something. But the team was actively tanking, and Wall was told to stay away from the team in that second year.
“My first year in Houston, we were tanking,” said Wall. “We lost 20 in a row. We were trying to lose on purpose, tanking. We were starting n***** named Justin Patton.”
— Justin Patton (@JustinPatton17) January 17, 2023
Tanking is a hard pill for any pro athlete to swallow. These players got to where they are by being ultra-competitive. Losing just to lose doesn’t sit well with many athletes’ DNA.
Wall signed with the Los Angeles Clippers last summer and has been playing well as backup point guard, although he’ll be sidelined for a couple weeks with an abdominal strain.
NBA franchises are all their own individual ecosystems, and some are better than others. You certainly wouldn’t mistake the Rockets for the Golden State Warriors, Boston Celtics and Miami Heat.
John Wall Says Houston Rockets Were Tanking Games
When a player opens up the way Wall did about a franchise, it’s pretty bad. Word like that travels around the league in various player circles. It will make players think twice about playing for the Rockets.
Players seek safe environments where they are placed in the best position to help the team and themselves. If the general manager is trying to tank and unload players who have an impact on winning, that won’t sit well with a veteran like Wall.
This is the modern problem of the NBA. General manager, coach and star player need to be in lockstep on the team’s objectives. But their incentives don’t align, making conflict inevitable.
Coaches and players at the end of the roster are trying to win games daily and earn contracts. General managers want to keep their jobs but can afford to take the longer view.
Just as we expect players to improve, so too can franchises.