Wizards guard Bradley Beal will undergo season-ending surgery for a torn ligament in his left wrist — a monumental decision that dramatically alters Washington‘s season and casts a shadow over his potential future with the team.
Beal had missed the last four games with a wrist injury after getting hurt Jan. 29 in a game against the Memphis Grizzlies. Beal took a hard fall with 7:47 left in the third quarter of that loss, and while he finished the contest, the Wizards soon announced that he would miss at least a week while being further evaluated.
After consulting with a specialist in New York, Beal and the Wizards agreed that surgery was the best option, the team said.
“Despite the last 10 days of getting intensive treatment and rehab on my wrist, it became clear that I would not be able to compete to my standards or to the level that our team and our fans deserve,” Beal said in a statement Tuesday. “I’m disappointed to have my season end this way, but we all agreed that this was the best decision. I look forward to coming back at 100% and continuing to lead this team as we work together to build toward the future.”
Now, Beal will focus on rehab in the coming months. But he‘ll have a gigantic decision to make this summer as the three-time All-Star can opt out of his contract to reach free agency. The Wizards can offer Beal a five-year contract worth $241 million, though there’s no guarantee that Beal would accept. Beal has long said he wants to stay in Washington, but a recent report from The Athletic indicated that the 28-year-old “remains uncertain” whether the Wizards’ front office can surround him with enough talent to seriously compete in the long run.
In the short term, Beal‘s surgery also likely impacts the Wizards’ plan for Thursday’s trade deadline. The Wizards have lost eight of nine and look like they’re in dire need of a shake-up. Beal‘s surgery raises the possibility that general manager Tommy Sheppard could look to sell off some of the team’s veteran pieces.
Monday’s 121-101 loss to the Miami Heat was Washington‘s second straight game in which it trailed by at least 30. Frustration, too, has reached a boiling point — an assistant Wizards coach had to be held back from going after a heckling fan in the final minute of the team’s most recent defeat. Multiple players have questioned the overall character of their group, saying that players are putting individual stats above the team.
Here’s how bad things have gotten: Despite a 10-3 start, the Wizards (24-29) now have a lower winning percentage (.453) than last season (.472).
The Russell Westbrook trade, which seemed like a coup for the Wizards at first, has arguably turned out to be a lose-lose situation for Washington and for the Lakers.
“In order to be resilient in a team sport, you have to think about the team first,” forward Kyle Kuzma said. “And right now, it’s really, really murky in that sense of trying to have another guy be happy for the next guy. That’s what you want. And that’s something that we need to find again.”
The Wizards will have to find that rhythm without Beal, whose season ends in disappointing fashion. Beal‘s production fell off this season— with his scoring average dropping from 31.3 points per game to 23.2. He struggled to play alongside guard Spencer Dinwiddie and new coach Wes Unseld Jr. asked Beal to play in a more off-ball role.
Before Tuesday’s news, the Wizards were reportedly pursuing avenues to upgrade their roster for Beal. The Wizards were often connected to trade candidates such as Detroit’s Jerami Grant and Domantas Sabonis — though Indiana traded Sabonis on Tuesday to the Sacramento Kings in a multi-player deal. Despite Beal‘s struggles, the Wizards’ brass remained steadfast in their belief a winner can be built around Beal.
It’s why — despite significant interest from other teams — Sheppard refused to entertain trades involving the star. But until Beal signs his next contract, the guard’s future in Washington will continue to be a much-discussed subject.
NBC Sports Washington reported that Beal’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, met with the Wizards’ management before Monday’s game against the Heat to discuss his client’s future.
As the Wizards’ problems mounted this season, there appeared to be a growing portion of the team’s fan base who openly started to wonder if it’s even worth it for the team to build around Beal. Beyond the drop in scoring, there was debate whether Beal could truly lead a team and questions were raised regarding why Beal’s teams always seem to have effort issues. How much does that fall on him?
“Listen bro … If Bradley Beal walked for free, I’d say nothing, I won’t even argue with it,” an angry Wizards fan said two weeks ago on a Twitter Spaces conversation.
Despite the fans’ discontent, Wizards owner Ted Leonsis — the man with the final say in matters — also hasn’t shown any indication he’d be willing to part with Beal, the third overall pick in 2012. Now, Leonsis will have to convince him to stay.
• Matthew Paras can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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