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Ball Don't Lie

David Falk, former superagent, absolutely destroys Washington Wizards guard John Wall in an interview

Kelly Dwyer
Ball Don't Lie

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John Wall sees the court (Getty Images)

By choice and also as a by-product of limits put on NBA contracts, David Falk’s influence as an agent has dwindled a bit since his mid-1990s heyday. A heyday that saw him work as a representative for a gaggle of stars including Michael Jordan. His clout doesn’t nearly extend to the range it did between 1995 and 1996, when he helped sustain a superstar-friendly 1995 Collective Bargaining Agreement following the 1995 lockout, or signed endless clients to massive deals during the 1996 and 1997 offseasons. Or even in 1999, when he orchestrated several powerful trades to the dismay of general managers who weren’t yet confident dealing in the confines of the 1999 CBA that helped lessen Falk’s power.

[Also: Bobcats eager to trade Ben Gordon after incident with coach]

What he is now, despite a solid list of current clients, is a fan boy. And boy oh boy, does this Washington Wizards fan not like John Wall. From a Mike Wise Washington Post feature that saw Falk stunningly go on record to trash the third-year Wizards point guard:

“You guys are in dreamland. Because this team [stinks] so bad you guys want John Wall to be someone he will never be.

“Before Wall becomes Nene, I would trade him and get rid of him.”

Come on, really?

“I’m serious. He doesn’t have a feel for the game,” Falk said. “He only knows how to play one speed. Magic Johnson had a great feel, a court sense, by the time he was a sophomore in college. Chris Paul had it by the time he was a sophomore in high school."

Wow. I wouldn’t disagree with Falk’s points about Magic, or Chris Paul’s obvious gifts from an early age. But, dude … you’re David Falk. Do you think you should really be going on record like this?

Apparently he does. He went on, to Wise:

“Let me ask you a question,” Falk said, maybe 28 times over 30 minutes, often answering for you. “Who’s bigger, Kyrie Irving or John Wall? John Wall. Who’s a better athlete? John Wall. Who’s faster? Who’s stronger? John Wall.

“Now, who’s a better player? Kyrie Irving,” he said of Cleveland’s all-star point guard who was rookie of the year in 2012. “John Wall will never be good as Kyrie Irving was in his first week in the NBA.

“You want to know the reason why just nine teams have won an NBA title in 40 years? Because if both of them came out today, 99 percent of all general managers would still take John Wall instead of Kyrie Irving. They’d take the athlete over the ballplayer. And they’d be wrong.”

Again, no complaints there. It was clear back in his shortened college days that Kyrie Irving was something more than an athlete, and a special player that could lead a team in a number of ways that defenses just couldn’t counter. You don’t have to brace for the Big Blow-By with Kyrie Irving. You’re at the mercy of his all-around touch.

Despite some significant recent success, it’s hard to argue against Falk’s points. Wall was drafted first overall in the 2010 NBA draft, a relatively unlucky year considering the fact that the 2008, 2009, and 2011 top draft picks (Derrick Rose, Blake Griffin, Kyrie Irving) all have seven combined All-Star appearances under their belts. They’d own two more, actually, had Rose stayed healthy for the 2012-13 season and Irving rightfully been voted in as a reserve last season.

Based on the eye test alone, it’s true that John Wall still works as a one-speed player. There’s very little in-between with him, despite Sam Cassell’s tutelage, whereas players like Irving and Rose showcased a smooth and at times loping style from the outset of their rookie seasons. John Wall still cannot and will not take three-point shots, his shooting from the perimeter and even paint is substandard so far in 2012-13, and outside of his typically-sterling percentages around the rim the overall scoring efficiency is suspect.

He gets to that rim, though, a whole hell of a lot. It’s true that we want our guards to be all-around monsters these days, but Wall nearly makes up for it (working on a recovering knee, as well) by dashing into that restricted area. He also dishes far more assists, and for what is at times a miserable-shooting Washington Wizards team, than Rose and especially Irving per-minute.

And, point of points, John Wall isn’t competing against Kyrie Irving. Much less Derrick Rose, Chris Paul, and Magic Johnson. John Wall’s ceiling has to be judged in the context of John Wall’s potential, and not Kyrie Irving’s first week on the job. It’s an unfair and pointless comparison.

[Also: LeBron James enjoying a stretch of flawless greatness]

If Falk wants to argue that the Wizards shouldn’t rush to lock Wall up with a maximum contract, fine, because I’m considering as much as well. This is still an odd and strangely-timed rant to toss out there, especially considering Washington’s recent streak of Wall-led fantastic play.

One quote especially sticks out to me:

“You want to know the reason why just nine teams have won an NBA title in 40 years? Because if both of them came out today, 99 percent of all general managers would still take John Wall instead of Kyrie Irving. They’d take the athlete over the ballplayer. And they’d be wrong.”

I’ve done nothing but rip on Ernie Grunfeld for his choices as Washington Wizards GM since he committed what I believe was $18 trillion to both Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison and an above-average (at best, given health) Wizards team in the summer of 2008. Even Ernie Grunfeld, though, given the choice between Wall or Irving with a top pick would have taken Kyrie Irving. Everyone would. No observer is more cynical of NBA GM missteps than yours truly – but Kyrie Irving played all of 303 minutes in college, and was considered a no-brainer top pick.

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"Earl Barron will NEVER turn into Earl of Chesterfield" (Getty Images)

It appears as if Falk is ranting more against the system – those dopes that don’t listen to him anymore – than anything else. In any other instance, the frustration of a fan (and Wizards season ticket holder) wouldn’t be given such a massive stage, but Mike Wise is doing his job here because, as he puts it, Falk is “the agent who represented the greatest single performer in basketball.”

Yet, it’s criminally unfair that Wall has to hear this after just 153 games, to have Falk point out that Wall “might” get better in terms of production, but that he doesn’t “think he’ll be a much smarter player. You can’t become a smart player. You either are or you aren’t.”

Wise quoted Falk as saying that he’s “not down on John Wall,” but this is also the man who has gone to just four Wizards games this season, and the man who is also quoted as saying he loves “Ernie” and owner Ted Leonsis, before ripping the team’s acquisitions of Emeka Okafor, Trevor Ariza, and the drafting of Jan Vesely and Trevor Booker.

[Also: MJ's decision to play for Wizards doomed his legacy in Washington]

Booker, the guy who Falk informs us “isn’t going to turn into Blake Griffin.” Thanks, pal. I’m pretty sure that’s entirely what the Wizards and Booker had in mind when they traded for him after Trevor was drafted 23rd overall in the 2010.

The Wizards, relative to their awful start, are rolling. Following Wednesday’s frustrating loss to the Pistons (one that was complicated by both rookie and coaching mistakes), the team has gone 11-8 after a 4-28 start. Though it had some breakdowns on Wednesday, the defense has shot to the toppermost of the poppermost since Wall’s return. We’re hardly fans of Grunfeld and Washington’s overall plan, but this is the strangest time to bring these thoughts out, using the oddest and most inappropriate comparisons you can make.

In a vacuum we completely agree with quite a few, if not all, of David Falk’s points. But in lashing out on record, the only thing that is served in a rant like this is David Falk’s ego.

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