Tim Frazier pulled back the curtain at media day to peek through at who was sitting up front in the press conference. Bradley Beal was closest to the eavesdropping Frazier. John Wall was a seat over.
Frazier quickly ducked out and started taking pictures at his fifth photo station. He was a small part of the hi-jinks during media day. But, he will be a major factor for the Washington Wizards this season.
The 26-year-old was tasked with a crucial function when the Wizards traded a second-round pick for him in the offseason. Frazier is this season’s backup for Wall. It’s a role of great importance and, traditionally, limited longevity. Frazier will join a crowd that has backed up Wall since the Wizards’ franchise player entered the league in 2010. Washington has tried veterans like Ramon Sessions, last-ditch moves like Brandon Jennings last season, and measures in between. The results have been unsteady.
Frazier has known Wall for a decade. They crossed paths in AAU during high school and, as Frazier joked Monday, he can be seen in the background of Wall’s high school-highlight tapes.
“We’ve just kind of been friends since high school as far as competing against each other,” Frazier said. “Now, I’m excited I get to play with one of the best point guards in the league, if not the best, so I’m looking forward to it.”
Wall admitted after last season that he became fatigued in the fourth quarter of Game 7 in the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Boston Celtics. Wall took just four outside shots in the fourth quarter. He made none and after the best season of his career, his third trip to the playoffs ended with its poorest quarter.
The backup point guard was a massive factor in that result. Jennings had become borderline useless in the series against the Celtics. Wall averaged the second-most minutes of his career last season, playing 36.4, a little more than a minute shy of the 37.8-minute indoctrination to the league that came his rookie season. Late in the third quarter of Game 7, Wall signaled to Wizards coach Scott Brooks that he needed a break. Brooks waved him to stay on the floor. Wall thought at the time, “Oh, [expletive].” He knew he was gassed.
Brooks opted for a fatigued Wall — even for a couple minutes — instead of the wholly ineffective Jennings, who was signed March 1 by the Wizards after being released by the New York Knicks. Jennings, at times, played alongside Wall, which extended Wall’s minutes and reduced the chance for him to receive a full rest. By the time Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals arrived, Brooks knew he could not trust Jennings. He shot 18.8 percent in the series against Boston.
“We want to get him as much rest as possible,” Frazier said. “At the same time, we want coach and him and everybody else to feel comfortable enough that if he’s not in the game, there’s not a huge drop-off.”
Frazier is on the smaller side for the modern point guard. He’s listed at 6 foot 1, which seems generous, and weighs 170 pounds. He will not be dealing with the cream of the NBA’s seemingly limitless crop of elite points guards. Instead, he’ll need to manage the game against his fellow backups. Even steady production from Frazier would have a significant effect beyond Wall. If Wall and Beal can be removed from the game at the same time — last season, one had to be on the floor at all times because of the ineffectiveness of the bench — the Wizards will pocket small boosts throughout the season.
“We have one of the best starting fives in the league, by far,” Frazier said. “We want to make sure it’s not a drop-off and that’s my job and the rest of our second unit’s job to make sure that does not happen.”
Last season was Frazier’s best in the NBA, though he shot just 40.3 percent from the field, since entering the league out of Penn State in 2014. The season also brought his largest workload: 65 games played, including 35 starts. Frazier is in a spot to exceed those numbers this season since Washington’s other point guard choices are so limited. Tomas Satoransky spent the summer again playing point guard for the Czech Republic national team, but Brooks continues to view him as more of a versatile piece because of his height (6 foot 7) than a strict point guard.
That leaves Frazier. A decade after the two tussled in high school, Frazier’s job has become to help Wall instead of trying to slow him. What happens to the Wizards in May will be influenced by his ability to do so.