No matter how bad a loss has been, or how listless the Wizards were in a game like the one they lost Tuesday to the Orlando Magic, John Wall waits.
In previous years, Garrett Temple, Paul Pierce and Ramon Sessions, to name a few, would join him if their time was requested by the media following a performance like this one -- giving up 124 points in regulation to one of the NBA's worst offensive teams.
Now the last guy standing is Wall, who at $80 million on a five-year contract is one of the best contracts just three years after it was widely questioned if he deserved it or not.
Wall had a career-high 52 points on 18-for-31 shooting, including 5 of 8 three-pointers and 11-for-14 from the foul line. On top of that, he had eight assists, four rebounds and three steals. Until Bradley Beal's 10 points in the fourth quarter to finish with 19, Wall had no company as the Wizards tried to erase what had been a 20-point deficit.
"Our job is to wake up and just play hard. Before you made it to the NBA or got a college scholarship, you played hard every day to get to where you wanted to," said Wall, who had surgeries to both knees May 5. "To still be talking about playing hard, that's something that you should be able to do after just waking up. Everybody has a job and they have to go work hard. Our job is to come here and play hard and compete. That's the easiest thing that you should do without any contracts or any money, just come in and play basketball … if I had the answer we wouldn't be in this situation."
It doesn't matter if Wall has 11 turnovers like he did against the Sacramento Kings or a night like Tuesday. Wall's demeanor is the same. The way he answers the questions? The same. The way he handles praise and criticism? The same.
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In his seventh season, the three-time All-Star behaves like a professional and takes on the responsibility that comes with the job. During a 41-41 record last season, Beal began disappearing after games like this after previously staying put. The $128 million max contract he signed this summer isn't enough to force him to stick around.
Marcin Gortat, who at 32 is the oldest player, won't do it, either. He's afraid of saying something that could get him in the crosshairs of coach Scott Brooks.
This was almost a repeat of Monday's game at the Brooklyn Nets. The Wizards allowed them to score 66 points in the first half, falling down by 15 but were able to lock down defensively to come back. The Magic had 65 in the first two quarters, and the only reason the Wizards had a chance was because of Wall. The Magic scored 31 points above their regular-season average.
"We just didn't come out with our defensive intensity. It was kind of like our last game in Brooklyn, the way we played in the first half," Wall said. "We didn't play with any edge or chippiness. They were the more aggressive team and that's why they got out to a great start."
[RELATED: PUTTING WALL'S CAREER NIGHT IN CONTEXT]
In Pierce's brief time in Washington during the 2014-15 season, he'd limp out to the middle of the locker room no matter the result or how he performed. Even though he was playing on a $5.5 million contract and no longer the lead dog in terms of his talent, he felt part of the burden was on him to explain what happened. And if necessary, he'd fall on the sword.
When he was with the Boston Celtics, where he won a championship in 2008, Pierce would do something similar after a bad loss: "Somebody has to answer for this (expletive)."
That's what leaders do. The Wizards may have been underachieving during that time, but they weren't rudderless. Now, absent of Wall, they could be. He played 42 minutes Tuesday, the third time he has eclipsed 40 in a little more than a week.
By the time Wall exited, less than an hour after his teammates had cleared out and he was finished with his standard treatment in the trainer's room, he was told that he was the only Wizards player to talk postgame upon request.
"Just me?" Wall asked while still managing to smile. "Just doing my job."
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