DALLAS – Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal has a stress reaction in his lower right fibula and will miss the next two weeks before being re-evaluated, the team announced Saturday afternoon.
The diagnosis, which the Wizards labeled “the beginnings of a stress reaction,” was determined less than 24 hours after Beal was a late scratch for the Wizards’ 107-105 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night. He underwent an MRI exam Friday and further testing Saturday.
The development is the latest in a troubling trend of injuries to Beal’s right fibula, a small, non-weight-bearing bone. The No. 3 pick in the 2012 draft, Beal, 22, has now confronted variations of right fibula injuries each of his four NBA seasons.
“I try to stay as positive as possible and I still am,” Beal said. “It was disappointing to hear officially, but it’s a peace of mind at the same time, not always wondering, ‘Okay, is this really back again?’ And it is.”
Beal explained that he first felt soreness in his right leg return “a week or two ago.” He thought it was simply “general calf tightness” and received various treatments in an attempt to alleviate the discomfort, but nothing worked.
“The results weren’t showing, so automatically we just put our heads together and said, ‘Okay, let’s check it out to make sure,’” Beal said. “And sure enough it was what we thought it was.”
Beal played through leg soreness his rookie year before he was shut down for Washington’s final eight games with a stress injury in his distal right fibula, located in the lower leg. He didn’t resume on-court activities for three months. Beal missed nine games — and about three weeks — the following season with an injury to his proximal right fibula, which is higher up in the bone.
The ailment moved back down the bone last season, when he missed eight games with a “mild” stress reaction, an absence that spanned three weeks. Stress reactions can only be diagnosed through an MRI and are sometimes a precursor to a stress fracture, a more serious injury.
Beal said his current injury is the same as the one he had last year. Based on that timetable, Beal will be sidelined at least until Jan. 1, when Washington faces the Orlando Magic. He would miss 10 games.
“I can’t worry about it,” said Beal, who expects to be on a minutes restriction when he returns. “If I do, it ruins me as a player. It ruins my confidence. It kind of makes an excuse for me, and I don’t want to live with myself in that category. I’m a basketball player and if I get injured, I get injured. I never go into a season thinking, ‘Okay, it’s going to continue to happen.’ And I’m not worried about it for the rest of my career either.”
Beal missed three games earlier this season with a left shoulder injury after averaging 22.7 points through six games. His numbers dipped after returning, but he still leads the Wizards in scoring at 19.9 points per game and is shooting 38.9 percent from three-point range and averaged 39.7 minutes in seven games before sitting out Friday. Washington entered Saturday 2-2 without Beal this season. Garrett Temple started in Beal’s place Friday and Saturday and will likely continue doing so.
“It’s tough, but it’s a long NBA season,” Wizards point guard John Wall said. “We’ve got the pieces in here to win a lot of games. We’ve proven that. We’ve been in games like we feel like we should’ve won [Friday]. We got the pieces to win. Now it’s just an opportunity for guys to step up, and I believe in all these guys.”
The setback comes six weeks after he and the Wizards agreed to table contract discussions until next summer, when he becomes a restricted free agent. Washington offered Beal a contract extension before the Nov. 3 midnight deadline for first-round picks on the final years of their rookie deals, but Beal sought a maximum contract, which would have paid him a projected $20.9 million over four seasons.
The Wizards, however, want as much salary cap space as possible and not signing Beal to the extension gives them nearly $7 million more to sign free agents because his cap hold will be $14 million instead of $20.9 million. As a result, they elected to wait to give Beal max money. Though Beal’s recurring injuries are a concern, he is expected to still attract a max contract given his skill set, age, and influx of television money that will infiltrate the free agent market.
“I’m still going to come back from this,” Beal said. “I’m not going to let this just keep me down or worry me too much. I’m still confident in who I am and the type of player I am. And the GM and the rest of the organization knows what I’m capable of doing, too. So hopefully they won’t use this against me come next summer.”