Bradley Beal says he’s decided his Wizards future but is keeping mum for now

WASHINGTON – Bradley Beal might have temporarily lost his shooting touch in the four months since surgery on his left wrist, but he hasn’t lost his sense of humor – and hasn’t lost his reluctance to disclose exactly what he plans to do in about two weeks when he’s expected to finalize the most important decision of his pro career.

The three-time All-Star appeared Saturday afternoon at the dedication of two refurbished basketball courts near Howard University, and when he stood at the top of the 3-point arc and squared his shoulders to take the ceremonial first shot – his first shot in public since Jan. 29, the night he injured his wrist in Memphis – a child seated nearby yelled, “Brick!”

It was an audacious thing to say to the person who had contributed financially to the court renovation project, but Beal took the gibe in stride, turning toward the kids, scrunching his face and asking, “Who said that?!?”

Beal air-balled his first attempt and clanked his second off the rim before he finally sank a 3, and then smiled.

Whether Beal made or missed shots Saturday wasn’t the point. The court unveiling at the city-owned Banneker Recreation Center commemorated Juneteenth and celebrated a partnership between Beal, the nonprofit Hoop For All Foundation, the National Basketball Players Association, city officials, Monumental Sports and others to rejuvenate the playing surfaces and baskets. As a child growing up in St. Louis, Beal often played hoops on public courts, and Saturday, he revealed in helping the District’s children do the same.

“This is beyond amazing,” Beal told the crowd during a ribbon-cutting ceremony. “I don’t want to take up too much of your time, because I know you guys want to get going, but this means the world to me, to see everybody out here supporting (this effort). That’s what our community needs. That’s what our world needs as well, right? Camaraderie, unity. Different ethnic backgrounds – it doesn’t matter. We’re all here in one space for a common purpose, and that’s a beautiful thing. “

Beal attempted to keep the focus on the court unveiling, but he could not avoid answering questions about two topics of significant importance to the NBA: his recovery from a ligament tear in his non-shooting wrist and his upcoming decision on whether to remain with the The Washington Wizards, the only team he’s ever played for in his 10 NBA seasons.

In an interview with The AthleticBeal said he has made up his mind about his playing future but declined to disclose his decision, saying it would be improper to discuss any potential future contract while he’s still fulfilling his current contract.

But Beal said previously that he was leaning toward remaining with the Wizards, and he’s giving no indications that his mind has changed. Team officials have said they want to retain Beal for the long term, and in a show of support, Wizards president and general manager Tommy Sheppard and Wizards head coach Wes Unseld Jr. attended Saturday’s court dedication event.

Beal is expected to decline his $ 36.4 million player option for the 2022-23 season and become an unrestricted free agent when the NBA’s free-agency period starts in nearly two weeks. Because the Wizards hold Beal’s Bird rights, the Wizards are the only team that can offer him a five-year contract. That contract could be worth up to a maximum of nearly $ 248 million.

Under league rules, the longest and most expensive contract Beal could sign with any other team would be a four-year deal worth a maximum total of roughly 184 million, even if it’s a sign-and-trade transaction. The Wizards would not be allowed to complete a sign-and-trade involving Beal without Beal’s consent.

Beal, who will turn 29 late this month, has said he wants to win with the Wizards.

It’s no wonder, then, that it’s widely assumed Beal will remain with Washington.

But apparently players from other teams aren’t giving up hope. When Beal was asked by The Athletic How many players are trying to recruit him and asking him to join their teams, he replied, “A lot. A lot. You know I can’t give you names. “

Beal disclosed he returned Friday to on-court basketball work for the first time since he underwent season-ending wrist surgery Feb. 10, and he said he no longer faces any limitations on his wrist.

“It feels great,” Beal said. “The last month has been rehab and range-of-motion (work). I’ve been cleared to do on-court stuff and begin some weight training. So we’re ahead of schedule. “

Beal said he won’t need much time to return to top form.

The 2021-22 season was a disappointing one for Beal, and not just because of his injury or because the Wizards finished with a 35-47 record, well outside of the playoffs. Playing for Unseld for the first time and playing with a bunch of new teammates, Beal struggled by his own lofty standards. Although he averaged a team-high 23.2 points and a career-best 6.6 assists, he also shot only 45.1 percent from the field and a career-low 30.0 percent from 3-point range.

Asked to name the areas of his game he wants to improve, Beal replied, “I would say everything. I don’t do anything perfect. I may score good, but I can score better. I can score in a different variety of ways. I can post up more. I can use my body more. I can definitely shoot my 3-pointers better. That’s probably my biggest focus. But being more effective on the defensive end and in our backcourt (also are goals). I would say everything. “

(Photo: Tommy Gilligan / USA Today)

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