Bradley Beal checks his phone just like anyone else. He has read the rumors about the Washington Wizards and their sudden inclination to discuss potential trades involving Beal or fellow all-star guard John Wall.
Following the Wizards' latest indifferent performance that resulted in a loss, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Monday that Washington’s management has signaled to other teams “an impression that every player on their roster” could be available for trade discussions.
“I’m not going to be naive to it, you know,” said Beal, who saw the report. “I’ve heard those rumors weeks ago. Then, I didn’t buy into them. Now, I’m still not going to buy into them because if that’s my main priority and focus, then I’m going to be messed up on the floor.”
Beal’s disbelief is apparently warranted.
Although Washington may be floundering during a 5-11 start to the season, there is a belief that the team has no plans to move on from either of its franchise cornerstones, based on conversations with multiple people in the league who have familiarity with the Wizards and how their front office operates. A Wizards spokesman, meanwhile, cited team policy by saying President of Basketball Operations Ernie Grunfeld “doesn’t comment on rumors, so he won’t comment on this one.”
While Otto Porter Jr.'s name has been attached to multiple rumors, there has been little traction on any deal involving him, according to several people with knowledge of the situation. The doubt surrounding the availability of Porter, who re-signed with Washington in 2016 for a maximum contract, casts more uncertainty on the Wizards' openness to even discuss Wall or Beal.
Beal, 25, and Wall, 28, have formed the Wizards' starting backcourt for seven straight seasons. The longevity of their relationship is a rarity in the NBA — only two other sets of teammates have started at least one game together every season since 2012-13. Together, the Wall-Beal duo has rewritten the franchise record books.
Beal owns the Wizards/Bullets' single-season mark for most three-pointers (223) and has 904 triples in his seven-year career. Wall tops the franchise list in career assists (5,129) and steals (959). This season, the Wizards have continued to focus the team around both players, as evidenced by the offense.
Wall and Beal each average more than 20 points — while the team’s third scorer, Dwight Howard, has contributed 12.8 points per game through nine appearances — and the tandem also leads the Wizards with the highest usage rates among regular rotation players. As the faces of the franchises, both players have signed maximum contracts. Wall’s “supermax” pact kicks in next season and will play him $38 million in the first year of a four-year deal.
But in leading the franchise on the court and on the salary ledger, Wall and Beal have faced mounting blame for the team’s horrid start. After a stinging loss to the Sacramento Kings on Oct. 26, the players appeared to be in lockstep in pointing out what they perceived as conflicting “agendas” within the locker room. Since then, however, there seems to have been a shift when they speak to reporters.
“I put that on myself. I feel like being a leader on the team, you have to make sure your troops are all still intact and everyone is on the same page no matter how difficult it may look, no matter what type of adversity we may face — which is what we are going through now,” Beal said after a Nov. 2 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. “As one of the captains on the team, I put a lot of responsibility on my shoulders. I have to be better leadership-wise on the floor, giving more and leading by example, and hopefully guys … follow.”
The afternoon following Sunday’s 119-109 loss, in which the starters walked off the court trailing the Portland Trail Blazers by 19 points and had no part in the energetic comeback during the fourth quarter, Coach Scott Brooks shared his thoughts on the report about the team being open to include either all-star in trade scenarios.
When asked if he would be “surprised” if the Wizards made a deal involving Wall or Beal, Brooks responded: “I mean, like I said, the start that we’re having, there’s going to be rumors. It’s just part of the business. It’s just part of it. I’ve been in the league a long time. That’s just always been the case. We haven’t played well. Nobody’s hiding from it. Nobody’s running from it. We have to play better. I have to do a better job. Our guys have to do a better job as well. Regardless of what we hear out there, that has nothing to do with what we have to do each day and that is to prepare and to improve and to figure out ways in which to get some wins.”