1) John Wall said Wizards “thought I was done,” got his revenge with Rockets’ win
For John Wall, this was personal.
He had played nine seasons in Washington, been an All-Star and All-NBA player, but after injuries hit him hard the past two seasons, the franchise decided it would be better off with Russell Westbrook next to Bradley Beal and made a trade. Wall took it personally.
Wall elaborated on this to Chris Miller of NBC Sports Washington:
“Just seeing everybody that’s over there, a lot of people that’s on that side that probably didn’t believe I could come back to be the person I am. And probably some people that had a little say so into me being traded,” Wall told Miller. “I feel like it was a whole process, and it wasn’t just something that happened overnight. I think this was in the works. That’s my motivation. Who wouldn’t want to beat the team that traded them and felt like I was done?”
Scott Brooks and the Wizards denied this, but Wall took his frustration out on the court Tuesday night, scoring 24 points and leading Houston to a 107-88 thumping of his former team.
Bradley Beal scored 33 points in his first game ever against his long-time teammate, and he and Wall hugged it out after the game. However, Wall and Westbrook were not about to hug it out and picked up double-technicals during the game when they jawed at each other.
Wall has bounced back and has a strong season, averaging 17.9 points and 5.4 assists a game, and at points showing flashes of his old self (but also missing some time with injuries). Meanwhile, the Westbrook and Beal pairing has not worked in Washington, the team has been hit hard by COVID-19, and the Wizards fell to 3-10 on the season with one of the 10 worst net ratings in the league.
Houston has had its challenges, but at 7-9 has a shot at moving up into one of the West’s play-in series games (there is a lot of season to go still). Wins like this are what the Rockets need more of to move up in those standings.
2) The NBA trade rumor mill is starting to heat up: Derrick Rose, Lonzo Ball, J.J. Redick all mentioned
The NBA trade rumors die down at the start of the season as teams have talked themselves into — or deluded themselves into — believing what they have will work to start the season.
Approaching 20 games into the season, reality sets in, and teams are looking to make moves. A few big names popped up on the trade rumor circuit on Tuesday.
New Orleans is listening to trade calls for both Lonzo Ball and J.J. Redick, according to reports. Redick has struggled with his shot in Stan Van Gundy’s offense, he’s hitting just 30% from three, but every other team thinks this is more a matter of circumstance than age or other issues. He is making $13 million this season and is a free agent when it’s done, so he is either a rental or a team will need to re-sign him.
Ball is about to be a restricted free agent, so a team trading for him also has to be thinking about re-signing him, or just using him as a rental for the rest of this season. Shams Charania of The Athletic mentions talk of a Golden State trade involving Kelly Oubre. Also, keep an eye on the Clippers — they want a traditional point guard off the bench and Ball would fit that bill, in a trade that would send Lou Williams and more to the Big Easy.
Derrick Rose’s name also came up in trade rumors (via Charania) because both the Clippers and Knicks are reportedly interested. Detroit has not shopped Rose, nor has he asked out, but the talk has surfaced with the team struggling. Rose has ties with Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau going back to his MVP-year in Chicago, while the Clippers (as mentioned above) will be in the market for every quality point guard who becomes available.
3) NBA world mourns the passing of NBA TV’s Sekou Smith
If you were following NBA Twitter at all on Tuesday, you saw an outpouring of love for Sekou Smith — and it could not have been more genuine. The NBA family, and NBA media, were hit hard by the news.
Smith, 48, died Tuesday from complications of COVID-19, leaving behind a wife and three children.
The Turner Sports family mourns the loss of our very own, Sekou Smith.
Our thoughts are with his family and friends. pic.twitter.com/97mu4bylfA
— NBA TV (@NBATV) January 27, 2021
It’s hard to overstate how popular Smith was with other media members — he always had a smile, was always generous and welcoming, and was simply the kind of person you wanted to hang around whether you were in the media room or having a drink postgame after the work was done. In my own, all-to-limited time with him he was always authentic and genuine, and simply kind. All things the world needs more of.
He was also a Black journalist who had reached a meaningful level of success. Working as a member of the National Association of Black Journalists, he helped mentor and show a path in press rooms where more diversity is absolutely needed.
Thank you for your brotherly friendship, humor, honesty and compassion. Glad we had a chance to tell each other we loved each other three weeks ago. You were a gift to this Earth as a friend, father and a man Sekou Smith. Rest In Peace to my brother. Prayers to your wife & family pic.twitter.com/mqjnZyEHNz
— Marc J. Spears (@MarcJSpears) January 26, 2021
I’ve never had anything but positive interactions and conversations with Sekou Smith. Our prayers go out to the Smith family. We lost a good one. Rest In Heaven🖤 https://t.co/yszgMXpfo1
— DWade (@DwyaneWade) January 27, 2021
Steve Kerr and Stan Van Gundy — coaches who, before their current jobs had worked with Turner and NBA TV — spoke about Smith.
“I just heard the news about Sekou Smith, and I am just devastated,” Kerr said. “I know I speak for our entire organization, just crushing news today. Sekou has been a part of the NBA family for a long time.”
“It just hit hard…” Van Gundy said. “When you lose somebody that you know, and that you admire and respect and who is young. I mean, he might not be young by some of your guys’ standards, but young by my standards — it’s just really, really hard…
“There’s a lot of people in Atlanta today grieving a great man in Sekou.”
Smith lived in Atlanta and had covered the Hawks, and the team released this statement.
“The Atlanta Hawks organization is heartbroken by the passing of Sekou Smith. The Hawks’ beat writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution from 2005-09, Sekou provided our fans with honest and fair coverage, sharing incredible insight on the team while establishing himself as one of the NBA’s top basketball personalities. He made Atlanta his home, continuing his brilliant work at NBA Digital on TV and behind the keyboard telling the stories of the league in his unique way. Sekou’s passion for the NBA and its players was only outmatched by the pride and love he reserved for his family and friends. We send our condolences to his wife Heather and their three children. He will be sorely missed.”