- The Washington Times
Sunday, February 10, 2019

Hours before Friday’s win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, Wizards star Bradley Beal met with owner Ted Leonsis.

There was a lot to discuss. Earlier in the week, the Wizards found out John Wall would miss the next 11-15 months with a ruptured Achilles. Washington then shifted its approach to Thursday’s trade deadline and traded Otto Porter and Markieff Morris to shed salary.

With Wall out for the foreseeable future and a key member of the team in Porter gone, Beal and Leonsis spent time discussing the future of the franchise. Just where do the Wizards go from here?

Beal left the meeting encouraged.

“It went really well,” Beal told The Washington Times. “I’d personally rather not talk about what we talked about, but it went really well. … It was pretty much just talking about what we’re going to do moving forward.”

NBA insiders have wondered if Beal will be the next superstar to become available via trade once New Orleans Pelicans star Anthony Davis’ drama sorts itself out.

The 25-year-old has two years left on his contract after this season, but similar scenarios haven’t stopped players from demanding a trade in the past.

And it’s easy for some to imagine Beal wanting out. After all, Beal reportedly told general manager Ernie Grunfeld he was “sick of this” after a heated practice in November. Wall’s injury, too, is a potential franchise-altering setback and the Wizards aren’t among the NBA’s elite.

Beal, though, said he wants to stay.

Shortly before tip-off, Beal stood at center court with Leonsis and Wall in a brief ceremony to commemorate the guard’s second-straight All-Star appearance.

Having Wall next to him, Beal said, meant a lot. The two embraced by doing their usual pre-game handshake.

“My game would not be where it is today without John,” Beal said. “He is the franchise. It is unfortunate what happened to him. He is around as much as he can and for him to be out there with me tonight, that was special.

“A guy who gives his heart night in and night out.”

The Wizards view Beal as having the same never-quit mindset. Coach Scott Brooks said he “loves” Beal’s approach. He added he issued a challenge to Beal in light of recent events — telling him this was “another great opportunity for you to lead.”

Washington, of course, has relied on Beal without Wall before. Wall missed 41 games last season and was already out for the year with a season-ending heel injury.

In turn, Beal responded with some of his best basketball. He has adapted to the extra attention from opposing defenses and improved his playmaking. Beal is averaging a career-high 25 points per game this season.

But Wall being potentially out for all of next season presents a new challenge.

“It’s one thing to score points but it’s another thing to score points and lead,” Brooks said. “He’s done that the last two years but now it’s another step in his growth. He’s going to have to put himself in uncomfortable positions to get better and he will. Brad’s a winner.”

So far, the Wizards have played well with their new acquisitions. Forwards Bobby Portis, Jabari Parker and Wesley Johnson each shined in back-to-back wins against Cleveland and Chicago on Friday and Saturday. Beal had 25 and 31 points in those victories.

Long-term, the Wizards have no intention of trading Beal before his contract expires, Grunfeld told The Athletic. Washington sees Beal as a foundational piece to build around.

That might not stop NBA rumors from persisting, nor is there a guarantee the Wizards will stick to their word.

On Saturday in Chicago, Porter, now with the Bulls, said the Wizards told him before the deadline he wouldn’t be traded — though Wall’s injury changed that. There’s a lot that can happen between now and 2021, when Beal’s contract is up.

But for now, Beal is happy to be with the Wizards.

“I’ll keep playing my [rear] off until I’m out of here,” Beal said. “I’m always a fan of just being in one spot and working with what we got, no matter what it is, who it is, who’s in, who’s out, who’s hurt, who’s not. You know, I always fight and compete until the end.”

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC.