Tuesday, May 30 2023

John Wall joined the Rockets by trade in December 2020. At that time, former MVP and perennial All-Star guard James Harden was still on the roster, and Houston still hoped to salvage that relationship and continue on a path of consistently deep runs in the NBA playoffs.

But less than two months later, Harden forced his way out of town by leveraging a trade to Brooklyn, and Rockets general manager Rafael Stone pivoted quickly to a rebuild. The timing made sense, considering the enormous amount of future first-round draft capital that Houston owes to Oklahoma City in the 2024-2026 range.

In short, if the Rockets wanted high draft picks to help jump start their climb back to contention, it needed to be in 2023 and earlier.

That 2020-21 season was particularly delicate, since the Thunder owned a right to swap picks with the Rockets in the first round, as long as Houston didn’t finish in the top four of the NBA draft lottery.

Ultimately, the Rockets had a clear incentive to maximize their odds at a top-four finish in 2021, which they did with a woeful finish to the season that included a historic 20-game losing streak. They ended up landing at No. 2 in the lottery and using that pick on Jalen Green.

It was a tough spot for a veteran like Wall, a five-time NBA All-Star who was coming off multiple years lost due to injury and simply wanted an opportunity to compete. In a new interview with Tidal Sports, Wall accuses the team of “tanking” for draft placement.

“My first year in Houston, we were tanking,” Wall tells the podcast host. “We lost 20 in a row. We were trying to lose on purpose, tanking. We were starting [guys] named Justin Patton.”

Wall also said he couldn’t come to an agreement with Stone or head coach Stephen Silas on playing time and a mutually satisfactory role for the ensuing 2021-22 season, which led to him sitting out that campaign and having his contract bought out in June 2022.

Here’s how Wall recalls the conversation with Silas:

Coach said, ‘How would you feel coming off the bench?’ I said, ‘For who? No offense, but for who? I was your best player last year.’

‘This is what the GM wants. He wants you to play 10-15 minutes a game, sometimes don’t play.’ I said, ‘I’m not doing that. Either you’re going to guarantee me some minutes, or I’m not. Let [a player] earn his spot.’

Coach said, ‘You don’t deserve that, you should be a starter. This is what they want to do.’

As Wall sees it, in the pursuit of higher draft capital and a relative absence of veterans, young players on the Rockets are developing bad habits that wouldn’t be tolerated elsewhere. Wall mentioned Green, Kevin Porter Jr., and KJ Martin as players he had spoken with.

“The [expletive] y’all getting away with over there, if you go to any other teams you’d be out of the league,” he said. “You wouldn’t play. I’m trying to explain it to them, because they think it’s sweet.”

“Don’t get used to this,” Wall said of his advice to Houston’s current younger players. “This is not how the NBA is. It’s a bad organization right now. They’ve got to fix some [expletive].”

The Rockets (10-34) currently own the NBA’s worst record of the 2022-23 season, and they finished dead last in each of the prior two years, as well. After losing to the Lakers on Monday, Houston has now lost 11 straight games, tied for the most in the league this season. They’ve lost 17 of their last 18 games, overall, and appear on track for another high pick in the 2023 draft, which takes place in June.

Following that draft, and with up to $60 million in salary cap room, the Rockets should pivot back to a winning approach — particularly since Oklahoma City is likely to own Houston’s first-round draft assets from 2024 through 2026. The question is whether any bad habits acquired in recent seasons will undercut that movement.

Scroll on for a compilation of interview excerpts and reactions. The complete interview can be viewed below, as well.

Excerpts and Reaction

Complete Interview

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Story originally appeared on Rockets Wire

Source: Yahoo Sports


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