LAS VEGAS — Set to play alongside Kawhi Leonard and Paul George next season, John Wall said he is delighted to be joining a loaded LA Clippers team that won’t need him to be “Batman every night for us to win.”
In his first comments since officially signing a two-year, $13.2 million deal with LA, Wall believes he can help fill a missing component for the Clippers at point guard.
The Clippers are expected to contend for a championship with Leonard returning after missing all of last season due to a torn right ACL. Wall said he is thrilled to be joining the most talented roster he has been a part of in his career.
“I don’t have to do it every night, I don’t have to be Batman every night for us to win,” Wall said on Saturday at the Las Vegas Summer League. “That’s the ultimate goal for me is [at] this part of my career, I don’t want to have to be the Batman every night to try to win. On our team that we have, I think anyone can be Batman.”
Wall, who will turn 32 in September, has not played in the NBA since April 23, 2021. He sat out last season with the Houston Rockets, who were rebuilding with younger players.
Wall has only played a total of 40 games — all during the 2020-21 season with Houston — in the past three seasons. He missed all of the 2019-2020 season due to an Achilles tendon injury. He also only played in a total of 73 games combined over the 2017-18 and 2018-2019 seasons due to injuries.
“When I get between those four lines, I don’t have an injury, I don’t think about it,” Wall said of past injuries that include knee, Achilles and heel issues. “I go out there and compete. I work hard every day to try to get back to this position to be back in the league.
“My last three years, I was in the darkest place I have ever been. I don’t think a lot of people could have gotten through what I went through — losing my mom, losing my grandma, tearing my Achilles, going through all that adversity and just trying to find myself and then getting some of that love more than anything taken away from me.”
The five-time All-Star, who averaged 20.6 points and 6.9 assists in 2020-21 for the Rockets, said he was looking to join a team with which he wouldn’t have to carry the load and could thrive alongside talent.
“I really didn’t care about all the other teams,” Wall said about those that were interested in him before he decided to join the Clippers. “The other teams are great, and I’m glad teams wanted to come after me, but I kind of looked at the picture of like, where can I go [where] I don’t have to be the John Wall from 2016 and have to carry the load and do all those [things] and have the pressure on me. I think [LA] was missing a piece of having a point guard, and it’s a great situation for me to be there.”
League sources have said Wall will compete for the starting point guard job with Reggie Jackson. Wall welcomed the competition and said he is fine with whatever role he will be asked to fill.
“For me, I’m just happy to play basketball again,” Wall said. “I’m a competitor. I know a lot of people ask me, are you mad if you start or not start? I don’t care. I’m a competitor, and I just want an opportunity to go out there and compete for a spot, and if I get it, I get it. And if I don’t, we know how talented Reggie Jackson is and what he’s done for this team and helping these guys out, especially when Kawhi and PG were out. Even when they were [healthy], he’s a great piece. Whoever gets the spot is great.”
Wall, though, made it clear he can still play at the level he was at in 2016-17, when he averaged 23.1 points and 10.7 assists for the Washington Wizards.
“I still got all the stuff I had in 2016,” he said. “But like, yeah, I only played 40 games [two seasons ago]but last year wasn’t my fault or my choice, and I couldn’t control that.”
And with this Clippers team, Wall believes he will be a problem for opposing defenses.
“It is going to be harder for them to defend,” Wall said. “For me, I’m happy because I don’t have to have the best player guarding me every night like I have had my whole career.
“You tell me the third-best defender is going to have to guard me? Good luck.”