Wizards paid Wall before 'big market' teams could

Wizards paid Wall before 'big market' teams could
August 3, 2013, 4:45 am
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Who will benefit the most from John Wall's extension?

The Wizards' plan all along involved locking up John Wall for the long haul. Outside factors contributed to them doing so now.

The organization could have waited until next summer to ink their point guard to a maximum contract extension. Wall would be a restricted free agent, meaning the Wizards could match any offer, none of which would be grander than the five-year, $80 million deal that's now signed and sealed. So why not wait and let the zero-time All-Star play a full season like one before paying him like one.

Because over the closing stretch of last season, the former No. 1 overall pick did indeed perform as hoped with room for growth. Because, with Wall, the Wizards played like a playoff team. For a franchise without a postseason berth since 2008 and a championship since 1978, that's a good thing.

Another factor? While the ability to match a future contract offer is one thing, allowing high-profile teams to enter the discussion is something else. With 2014 looking like a potentially monster free agent class, some competitors are poised to pounce. Once Dwight Howard didn't stay put and perhaps regardless, it became obvious the Los Angeles Lakers were one of them. Maybe the Miami Heat, perhaps the New York Knicks.

With such notables lurking, why tempt fate?

"One of the exercises you go through is you look to see who will have monster salary cap availability in the out years and who would need a point guard," Wizards owner Ted Leonsis said following Thursday's press conference announcing Wall's deal." Why would you want to put yourself in a position where you know that someone would have to offer him the max and then you'd have to match it? You start to the play three-dimensional chess -- that would happen."

The team owner never named names, but dropped a few hints.

"If you look across the league at who will have cap space available, that would be some big market teams and they all need point guards. John would be the head of that class."

Depending on what happens with the Heat's Big Three, Miami could look for reinforcements next summer, possibly an upgrade over Mario Chalmers.

Raymond Felton is on New York's books through 2016, but with a rather movable salary. It's also conceivable the Knicks could have cap space/ or be looking for a new star if Carmelo Anthony opts out of his current contract.

Yet it's the Lakers situation that stands out:

  • They currently have less than $12 million committed to salaries for the 2014-15 season, the bulk of which goes to Steve Nash, who turns 40 in February.
  • Wall spends his off-seasons in Los Angeles. So far the 22-year-old has had a rather A-List summer, appearing on late night talk shows, commercials, magazine spreads and the red carpet awards scene.
  • The Wizards rallied for a 103-100 road victory over the Lakers. During the midst of his best NBA stretch, Wall made quite the impression on the Staples Center crowd with a career-high 16 assists.

Last month, after Howard rocketed to Houston, a Lakers beat writer included Wall among possible players the 16-time NBA champions could target in the summer of 2014. If the Wizards waited, Los Angeles showing true interest in Los Angeles made logical sense. Perhaps it made a little too much dollars and cents to the Wizards.

"So if there is an inevitability to what you're having to do," Leonsis said, "why not turn it into a positive and say 'you're our guy. We believe in you and you're going to get the max anyway. Let's get this out of the way and play basketball.'"

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