John Wall will be returning to the District on Monday for his first game back in D.C. since becoming a Rocket. It will be personal—a date everyone circled on their calendars when the NBA schedule was first announced.
NBC Sports Washington analyst Jason Smith played with both Wall and Bradley Beal from 2016-18, so he knows the dynamic between the two stars. Following the Wizards’ victory over Boston on Sunday, Smith gave his insight as to what another edition of Wall vs. his former team might be like.
“It’s not gonna be the same because there’s not gonna be fans in the stands, but I love the fact that John’s coming back to D.C., especially with the way that the Wizards are playing right now,” the former Wizards big man said on Wizards Postgame Live after the Wizards’ win over the Celtics. “If you remember back to when they played in Houston, they were going through the COVID stuff, it was kind of a depleted team that the Wizards had…now, kind of flip the script. Houston’s struggling, they’ve lost the last five games.”
The two squads first faced off this season on Jan. 26, and it was Wall and the Rockets who won the battle, as he poured in 24 points in a 107-88 Houston victory—the lowest point total for Washington all season.
“[Houston’s] a good team, they’re a dangerous team, but I think the Wizards have a great chance of getting another win, and having—dare I say—back-to-back wins? When have we said that? That has been an anomaly this year for the Wizards,” Smith said Sunday.
At 7-17 this season, the Wizards have only won two consecutive games once this year, when they defeated Minnesota and Brooklyn back-to-back in early January. Still, Smith says, the Wizards look primed to equal that streak on Monday versus the Rockets. “I think that tomorrow is going to be a very good opportunity for them to come out of the gates—as long as they still have the defensive intensity and the pressure,” he said. “I look forward to seeing what the starting lineup’s going to look like for the Wizards. But boy oh boy, is it gonna be fun to watch Mr. Wall and Mr. Beal go at it again.”
Wall and Beal played as teammates in the nation’s capital for eight seasons, accumulating a total of seven all-star nods and four playoff appearances. Their bond is tight, but that’s not to say they won’t be out for blood on Monday, says Wizards Insider Chris Miller.
“It’s gonna be weird for [Wall] to come into the arena and not go to the normal locker room. As we all know, he said it’s personal. It wasn’t just personal the first time that he played against the Wizards,” Miller said. “It’s gonna be personal tomorrow night. Here’s what I want the Wizards to do: treat it like it’s a game seven of a playoff series, and go out there and win the series. That’s how you need to treat this because [Wall’s] got people behind him that want to make it personal too, namely [Rockets center] Demarcus Cousins.”
Miller went on to describe how it’s always eerie when players return to the arena the called home for so many years, and it’ll be no different with Wall. “More than likely they’re gonna have the tribute video, which they should, and then after that, it’s time to hoop. I want everybody to treat tomorrow’s game personally, and that includes Brad. Brad, make it personal because you know John’s gonna make it personal, and best team wins.”
Miller went on to summarize how all NBA fans will feel heading into Monday’s clash, regardless of who they’ll be rooting for: “I cannot wait for tomorrow.”