Several weeks ago in London, the all-star player and majority owner held a private chat. The theme of that conversation has since become a rallying cry for the Washington Wizards' season and for the franchise’s future, with majority owner Ted Leonsis announcing his intention to forge ahead, despite a slew of key injuries. The Wizards will not mail in the 2018-19 season, and there’s also a new declaration from Leonsis: The organization is “not trading” its three core pieces in Bradley Beal, John Wall and Otto Porter Jr.
Though the NBA trade deadline doesn’t arrive until Feb. 7, Beal will remain in Washington, according to Leonsis’s latest announcement. On Friday afternoon, Beal, newly minted as a two-time all-star, reacted to the owner’s vow of loyalty.
“One hundred percent! That’s always a sign of comfort and want,” Beal said Friday, when asked if he took comfort in Leonsis’s statement. “That means he wants you. He wants you to be here, he wants you to figure it out. He wants us to be men about it and go out and get it done. I respect everything that he’s said and everything that he does for us in this organization, for sure.”
Entering their Saturday night matchup against the Eastern Conference-leading Milwaukee Bucks (37-13), the Wizards (22-29) remain mired in 10th place in the conference. If the team does make a late-season run to the playoffs, it will happen without Wall (lost for the season after left heel surgery) and likely without Dwight Howard (no target date after undergoing spinal surgery). Also, Markieff Morris has missed 16 straight games while recovering from a neck and upper back injury, further crippling the frontcourt depth for a team that struggles to grab rebounds.
Present obstacles notwithstanding, Beal has echoed his boss. Before the Wizards' Jan. 17 game in London against the New York Knicks, Leonsis was asked about weighing the chance to get a higher draft pick to help in the future against going all-in this season to potentially grab a low playoff seed. Leonsis ended a long response with: “We will never, ever tank.”
On Friday, Beal revealed that he had previously talked to Leonsis about the team’s situation this season. Their conversation did not include that four-letter 't' word.
“Tanking is not in my vocabulary and it damn sure ain’t in Ted’s,” Beal said. “He’s paying luxury dollars. Tanking doesn’t exist. He believes in us and I talked to him in London. We had the same convo that he had the statement about. We believe in what we have, he believes in us and he’s not getting rid of us. Pretty much you got to go out there and figure it out. That’s all we’re trying to do. We’re just trying to make this push and it’s right in front of us. I’m going to do my best to lead us there.”
While Beal feels encouraged that Leonsis wants to keep the core together, he doesn’t concern himself with more trivial matters, like which NBA all-star team captain wants him.
“Y’all can pick me last, man. Because at the end of the day, I’m still an all-star,” Beal said. “It doesn’t change anything.”
For the second straight year, the top all-star vote getters will draft their teams. However, this time, the draft will be televised, with LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers and Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Bucks picking their teammates for all the world to see. Just don’t expect Beal to watch.
“I think it’s dumb,” Beal said. “Because why is it even on TV?”
When a reporter responded that some fans believe the televised draft should be entertaining, Beal disagreed.
“Is it really? Is it? I mean, we’re just picking teams. You guys just want to make a big deal out of who’s last,” Beal said. “I think that’s what everybody is getting a kick out of — who’s last. It doesn’t matter.
“Who gives a damn? Like, we’re all all-stars,” Beal said, then repeated: “It doesn’t matter."
Read more on the Wizards: