The NBA’s planned restart at the Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando is getting closer. And as it does, the news around the restart keeps getting worse.
Now it is another elite-level player deciding against playing when the league resumes action at the end of the month. This time, it is the best player, to date, who has said, “No, thanks,” to a return to play: Wizards guard Bradley Beal.
According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, Beal will not participate in the Wizards’ last-ditch attempt to reach the postseason because of a shoulder injury. It is obviously an enormous blow for the Wizards, as Beal was the glue holding together a frayed team—he was averaging 30.5 points, 6.1 assists, and 4.2 rebounds when the NBA was put on hold because of the coronavirus on March 11.
Wizards star Bradley Beal will not play in restarted NBA season due to shoulder injury.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) July 7, 2020
Just yesterday, the Wizards were optimistic that Beal, who will travel to Orlando with the team, would also play.
“He’s looking great,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks told reporters. “His physical condition has been pretty good and continues to improve every day, along with our other guys. We are all getting tested every day and as of right now, he’s a go, and we are all going down there ready to compete and get better and play to get in a playoff position. He looks great.”
Bradley Beal at a Crossroads in NBA Career
But Beal has a lot more at stake in the coming weeks and months than an outside chance that the Wizards could somehow make a run into the playoffs. Washington is ninth in the Eastern Conference now, 5.5 games behind Orlando. The Wizards would have to pick up two games on the Magic just to force a play-in scenario and even then would need to win back-to-back games to earn the No. 8 seed.
Beal is heading into a critical time in his career as he sorts out where his future lies. He has made no pretense about his desire to stay with the Wizards and signed a two-year extension last fall to remove the pressure of hitting free agency next summer. He wanted to give the franchise time to see what happens when injured point guard John Wall is healthy and to see what other assets could be collected.
Still, Beal has an option on the final year of his contract which means he is likely to hit free agency in the Summer of 2022. If he is going to press the Wizards into trading him elsewhere, it will happen next season.
The Lakers are already known to be one of the teams that have sought out Beal in a trade. They will continue to monitor the situation and once Beal is ready to push the Wizards to deal him, expect L.A. to be quickly ready with an offer. They’ll have competition, though—just about every team in the NBA has inquired about Beal’s availability.
NBA Restart Departures Piling Up
Beal becomes one of the three most prominent players to potentially bow out of the NBA’s restart in Orlando. Indiana’s Victor Oladipo, who is coming back from a torn quad, said over the weekend that he will not play. Brooklyn’s Spencer Dinwiddie has said he will sit, too. Dinwiddie has tested positive for the coronavirus.
Beal, a two-time All-Star who is only 27, is the best player yet that the league has lost in its efforts to get up and running again. It may not matter so much because the Wizards were so far from being a contender, but the more players—especially high-profile ones—back out of returning to play, the more difficult it will be for the NBA to sell its reboot as a legitimate ending to the season.