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Wizards GM Tommy Sheppard: ‘Difficult to say goodbye’ to John Wall

Washington Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard admitted this week that trading franchise cornerstone John Wall was one of the most difficult decisions of a career that has spanned nearly three decades.

Sheppard joined the Wizards organization in 2003 and was part of the front office that selected Wall with the No. 1 pick of the 2010 NBA Draft, so the two go way back.

During his remarks Friday about the blockbuster trade that flipped Wall and a first-round pick for Russell Westbrook, Sheppard cited his close relationship with the longtime Wizard when explaining why parting ways with the star was such a gut-wrenching decision.

“I want to take a minute before we talk about who’s coming in, I really want to dedicate some time to who’s going out. John Wall is one of the greatest players in this franchise’s history. He’s someone that is very dear to me. We have a very outstanding relationship that goes back to when he walked in here,” Sheppard explained, per NBC Sports Washington.

“Just watching John become the man that he is today, it’s difficult to say goodbye. On an emotional level, that was a very difficult trade for me, by far in my 27 years in this business.”

Sheppard went on to say that he informed Wall of the trade Wednesday night and that the call was an “emotional” one. The two then shared an embrace at the team’s practice facility on Thursday as they said their goodbyes.

The high regard for Wall expressed by Sheppard was reciprocated by the five-time All-Star in a heartfelt farewell message shared Thursday in which he said in part that he “will never forget what it meant to represent” the Wizards and the team’s fans.

In the end and as is often the case in such matters, Sheppard had to set loyalties and personal connections aside to do what was best for the organization.

“I want to remove the emotions from this and explain the reason we do things in this basketball world. My job is to make the Washington Wizards the very best franchise it can be,” Sheppard said.

The Wizards without question acquired a rare talent in Westbrook in exchange for the revered Wall. It remains to be seen how theĀ 2017 NBA MVP and nine-time All-Star will mesh with Bradley Beal, though Westbrook is believed to be arriving in D.C. with a sizable ship on his shoulder over an unflattering narrative that he hopes to refute with the Wizards, his third team in three seasons.