When the Wizards acquired Emeka Okafor from New Orleans along with Trevor Ariza last season, they were hoping to milk any sort of contribution out of the former no. 2 overall pick. Whether it was providing consistency for an oft-injured front court, or playing the role of a leader by infusing some maturity into a disoriented locker room, Okafor has more or less met the Wizards’ all-around expectations. And based on a report by Michael Lee, John Wall has admittedly reaped some of the intangible benefits Okafor provides.
In his column this morning, Lee tells the story of a shouting match between Oak and Wall; a verbal quarrel that was initiated by Okafor after Wall had been fussing about getting benched during a loss at Detroit.
Okafor attempted to explain to Wall the reasoning behind Randy Wittman’s decision to sit him in favor of AJ Price, when Wall snapped and continued to let his frustrations boil over.
They say everything happens for a reason, right? Well, since that argument in late February, Wall has put up some of his best career numbers, while achieving averages of 23 points, eight assists, and five rebounds in 21 games — a stat line that only the likes of Lebron James and Kobe Bryant can compare to.
“I felt like, what he said was right….It was all the right things at the right time. ‘You’ve got to learn how to control your anger more.’ Ever since that day forward, I became more focused. Came to practice the next day, talked to him, put it behind us and I just went out there and tried to play basketball. Didn’t hold no grudges.” — John Wall on Emeka Okafor
If Okafor’s ‘World Star Hip Hop’ type exchange with Wall is in fact a reason for Wall’s exceptional progression, then that colossal $14.5 million salary that Oak is due next season looks somewhat less of an albatross, right? No? Okay fine, maybe he’s still considered negative equity, but the point is that, if nothing else, Okafor has proven his worth as a leader and that his presence amongst the youngins is held in high regard, even if that youngin is the team captain.
These types of stories go a long way from what we used to hear or see in the locker room prior to this season. Even Wall admitted he wasn’t used to being challenged by a teammate, and go figure, which of his previous veteran teammates ever had the gonads or maturity to step up and voice a concern, or to rile up a player’s spirits?
So, kudos to you, Big ‘Mek. I’m pretty sure we’ll all hear John recalling that chilly February morning during his Hall of Fame speech in about 20 years.