Beal on board with Wizards re­build

All-Star up­beat af­ter post-trade meet­ing with Leon­sis on fran­chise di­rec­tion

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - BY MATTHEW PARAS

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 tipoff, 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 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.”

Wizards guard Bradley Beal is av­er­ag­ing 25 points per game this sea­son.

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