Beal previously was undecided whether to play in the restart near Orlando, alluding to concerns about his health and conditioning when speaking to reporters last week. He made no mention of his shoulder, but the Wizards said that the two-time All-Star has been dealing with a right rotator cuff injury since November.
Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard said Tuesday that Beal’s injury will not require surgery, but that the condition did not improve over the league’s four-month hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic. During the break, Beal was unable to treat the injury like he had throughout the regular season, Sheppard said.
“There’s just a lot of rust on him,” Sheppard said on a video conference call with reporters. “What was troublesome for us is the ramp-up time to get us to where we’re at right now. He knows his body better than anybody, and when he tells me, ‘It just does not feel right and I’m doing all the things that I’m supposed to do,’ it tells me that if there was another month to get ready for this, we’d be in great shape. There’s not.”
Beal called sitting out a “difficult decision,” especially as the leader of the Wizards. The guard did not travel with the Wizards when they left for Orlando on Tuesday, and instead will spend the next few months rehabbing at the team’s practice facility in the District.
“I wanted to help my teammates compete for a playoff spot in Orlando, but also understand that this will be best for all of us in the long term,” Beal said in a statement. “I appreciate the support of my teammates, the fans and the entire organization and look forward to returning next season to continue the progress we have made.”
Sheppard said he thinks Beal first hurt his shoulder against the Phoenix Suns on Nov. 27. Though Beal didn’t miss time because of the injury, Sheppard said it lingered on as Beal would take contact from game to game going around screens.
Despite the injury, the 27-year-old was having the best year of his career. He was second in scoring with 30.5 points per game — a mark that was the most in franchise history since Walt Bellamy’s 31.6 in 1961-62. As Washington’s primary facilitator, his playmaking also rose to another level, with 6.1 assists per game.
Washington sits 5½ games back of the eighth-seeded Orlando Magic and needs to be four games back by the end of the season to force a play-in series.
Beal’s absence also means the Wizards have now lost their two leading scorers ahead of the NBA’s relaunch on July 30. Forward Davis Bertans voluntarily opted out last month. Though he has not revealed his reasons for skipping the restart, Bertans is in the last year of his contract and is set to make millions when free agency begins.
But throughout his call, Sheppard repeated one central idea over and over: There wasn’t enough time to get Beal ready to play. He said the Wizards were trying to “mitigate risk” and not jeopardize his health for next season.
The worst thing, he said, would have been for Beal to play and get hurt further.
“This is just trying to be wise for the future,” Sheppard said.
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