“I know that I’m only 23 years old, and there’s a lot of kids out there who would die to be in the situation I’m in, so this moment for sure is special to me,” Beal said while sitting on the dais with Wizards owner Ted Leonsis, President Ernie Grunfeld and first-year Coach Scott Brooks. “On top of that, this organization I want to give a huge thanks to because this process, it’s a been a long process between us.
“It’s like a relationship. It’s like a marriage. You go back and forth. You have your differences, but at the end of the day, it’s a commitment, and they made a huge commitment to me in making me a max player and believing that I can live up to the potential, and I know that it’s upon me to take the responsibility.”
At the top of Beal’s list is staying healthy. The No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft played a career-low 55 games this past season while nursing a stress injury to his right fibula. That ailment has limited Beal in each of his four seasons, as have other maladies such as a concussion, broken nose and sprained right ankle.
Among the first steps to staying on the court has been overhauling his training routine. There’s been more attention paid to weight training as well as modifying how Beal moves on the court in an effort to reduce stress on his joints and muscles.
“I started all over,” said Beal, who also revealed he has grown approximately one inch since last season. “What muscles should get going, how I should walk properly, how I should run properly, how I should land, squat, everything like this. So it’s kind of a basically starting over, and I’ve incorporated lifting and strengthening and getting my body moving the right way mechanically, and that’s going to help me in the long run.”
The Wizards’ front office expressed confidence that Beal is making progress toward moving beyond the stress injury, with Grunfeld referring to new techniques being used to try to prevent a recurrence.
The lucrative financial package, Grunfeld indicated, should be validation enough as to how the organization feels about Beal remaining healthy as Washington tries to get back into the playoffs. Those plans were derailed this past season, finishing 41-41 and out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture after consecutive second-round appearances in part because of a rash of injuries, including those to John Wall, Marcin Gortat and Ott0 Porter Jr., all starters.
“We feel comfortable with the [injury] situation,” Grunfeld said. “We’ve had a lot of people look into this situation. We’re using science to monitor the situation, analytics to monitor. We have so much more information now than we had two, three years ago. We feel like we know what we need to do, and we’re going to monitor it as we move along.”
Beal agreed to the contract, the maximum allowable under NBA salary cap rules, during the free agent negotiating period early this month. The team announced the formal completion of the deal on Tuesday. Beal is among three players in franchise history to have signed a nine-figure contract. The other two were Gilbert Arenas and Juwan Howard. Arenas signed for $111 million over six years in 2008. In 1996, Howard became the franchise’s first $100 million player, signing for $105 million over seven years.
Washington had offered Beal a contract extension before the NBA’s Nov. 2 deadline for fourth-year players, but it wasn’t the maximum, so he declined it, and the sides agreed to wait until the summer. For the Wizards, the delay was strategically motivated. By waiting until July, Beal’s salary cap hold was just over $14 million, as opposed to more than $20 million had he been given a max extension before free agency.
Among the first statistics Grunfeld mentioned during Wednesday’s news conference was Beal’s playoff average, which is 21.2 points in 21 games. Last season Beal averaged a career-high 17.4 points while shooting nearly 45 percent, also a personal best.
Leonsis and Brooks, meantime, emphasized not just Beal’s on-court ability but his maturity — Brooks called him “an old soul” — and integrity off of it. Beal, for instance, has been active with regard to social issues, tweeting “#blacklivesmatter” earlier this month with a fist emoji and an Instagram link.
In January, Beal attended an event at the White House on reducing gun violence.
“To those who much is given, much is expected,” Leonsis said. “Bradley has such maturity and handles pressure with such grace that we know that he’ll be able to take this and have it motivate him and bring the team not only to playoff contention, but we have big aspirations as a young and up-and-coming team and want to continue building the team so we can bring a championship to our fans here in Washington, D.C.”