Bradley Beal circled back to one idea when asked about why he wanted to stay with the Washington Wizards. The two-time All-Star stood in the Wizards‘ practice facility, cameras all around him, as he explained his decision.
“I guess legacy, at the end of the day,” Beal said. “This is where I’ve been for the last seven years, going on eight. I have the opportunity to be able to turn this thing around. A lot of people doubt that. I view it as a challenge.”
Beal officially accepted that challenge Thursday — signing a two-year, $72 million max extension, five days before the start of the regular season.
In an era that has seen unprecedented player movement across the league, Beal becomes one of the one rare stars — joining teammate John Wall — who elected to stay with the team that drafted him.
The deal begins after Beal’s current contract ends in 2021 and includes a player option for the 2022-23 season. That means Beal will be with the Wizards at least for the next three seasons, barring something unforeseen like a trade.
By agreeing to this deal now, Beal can hit free agency in 2022, when he has 10 years of service. That’s significant because the two-time All-Star would be eligible to sign a massive extension — this time worth five years, $266 million.
“It’s not about my commitment to D.C. because my commitment is here,” Beal said. “This is where I want to be. I’ve said that from Day 1 and I’ll continue to say that. The two-year doesn’t alter the decision or my commitment here. It’s more or less about making sure I’m set up moving forward.”
Regardless, Beal’s extension Thursday addressed one of the pressing questions facing the franchise: Could the Wizards convince him to stay? Washington shifted directions late last season and this summer when new general manager Tommy Sheppard made it clear the team was rebuilding. The team brought in young talent like Rui Hachimura, let veteran free agents walk in free agency and Wall is expected to miss the year with an Achilles injury.
Expectations are low for Washington this season, and many wondered whether Beal would want to be part of a multi-year rebuild.
Beal, though, never indicated he wanted to play elsewhere — and his extension confirms it.
“It’s fantastic,” Sheppard said. “We’re so happy for Bradley and his family and certainly for our franchise. We feel this validates a little bit what we’re trying to do moving ahead. His investment in us is incredible, and we are very grateful.”
Beal’s contract also effectively removes the superstar from trade rumors. While the Wizards had been open about their desire to not trade Beal, contending teams were clamoring to get the 26-year-old. Beal is coming off a career year, becoming the first Wizards player to average 25 points, five rebounds and five assists in a season.
As part of the deal, Beal cannot be traded for six months. If he is dealt after that, the deal includes a 15% trade bonus.
Washington, too, did not initially know if Beal had planned on signing an extension this year. The 26-year-old became eligible to sign an extension three-year, $111 million in July, which Washington wanted to offer.
Beal, though, said he wasn’t in a hurry to make a quick decision, letting his agent handle it. The guard had until Oct. 21 to sign an extension, settling on a two-year deal instead of the full three.
Beal called his deal a blessing.
“You don’t get that type of love and respect and responsibility from anywhere,” he said. “I kind of took it to heart this whole summer and thought about it every single day, almost up until the deadline. But I’m definitely happy. I’m happy with my decision. I’m at peace with it, and I’m looking forward to it.”
Washington’s upcoming year projected to be even worse with that, with oddsmakers setting the team’s win total at 25½ wins.
But speaking to reporters, Beal said he’s seen the ways other teams have rebuilt in the District. The Mystics, after years of mediocrity, won their first title earlier this month. The Nationals are in the World Series. And the Washington Capitals won the Stanley Cup in 2018. All those teams started with a plan.
Beal said he can’t ignore it.
“I view it as something that I feel like a lot of D.C. sports have been a part of, rebuilding something and building them into championship-caliber teams,” Beal said. “So why not me? Why kind of sell myself short of a great opportunity that I have in my hands right now?”
⦁ Adam Zielonka contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC.