SANTA MONICA, Calif. — Bradley Beal walked and talked like a franchise player as he accepted the NBA Cares Community Assist Award on Monday night at the league’s annual gala.
The Washington Wizards’ all-star was accompanied by his partner, Kamiah Adams, and two students from the Ron Brown College Preparatory High, where he served as a mentor and hosted a series of events throughout the 2018-19 season. Beal spoke at length about playing good cop and bad cop with his “little brothers” at Ron Brown, encouraging the students, most of whom are black, to use the all-male public charter school as a steppingstone on the path to college.
Of course, Beal’s own future is a hot topic, too.
Although the 25-year-old shooting guard was snubbed from the 2019 all-NBA teams and therefore missed out on being eligible for a supermax contract extension, he remains eligible for a multiyear extension in July. ESPN.com reported last week, citing sources, that the Wizards were preparing to offer Beal a three-year extension worth $111 million.
Beal, who has two years remaining on his five-year, $127 million contract, told The Washington Post that he is “definitely” open to discussing an extension.
“I have thought about it, but I haven’t really full-out processed it,” he said in an interview at the Barker Hangar following his award presentation Monday. “I still have two years left. We just drafted Rui [Hachimura], and I want to see what we do in free agency before I make the ultimate decision. I haven’t even been offered it officially. Until that happens, I’ll wait and think about it. I’ll have an ample amount of time to process everything and make a decision when the time is right.
“I’d be naive to say I wouldn’t be [interested in extension talks]. Washington is where I’ve been the last seven years, going on eight. It would be great to play in one place forever. But at the same time, you want to win and make sure you’re in a position to do so. I’m definitely going to evaluate who we hire as the GM and who we pick up on the team. All that plays a factor.”
Wizards managing partner Ted Leonsis fired longtime president Ernie Grunfeld in April but has yet to name a full-time replacement. Interim general manager Tommy Sheppard led the organization through last week’s draft process, selecting Gonzaga forward Hachimura with the ninth pick, and Beal said he “trusts Tommy to run the show until Ted makes his decision.”
While his name surfaced in trade rumors following John Wall’s season-ending Achilles’ injury in February, Beal said Leonsis, Sheppard and Coach Scott Brooks have each told him in recent weeks that he would not be moved.
“They’ve been very transparent, and that’s been great,” Beal said. “They’re not keeping me in the dark about anything, even about the trade rumors. . . . It’s great having that peace of mind.”
In addition to waiting to see how the Wizards handle their front office and free agency, Beal also has financial incentive to hold off on an extension. If he were to make one of the 2020 all-NBA teams, he would become eligible next summer for a five-year supermax extension that could reach $247 million, per an estimate from the Athletic’s Danny Leroux.
For the time being, Beal, who averaged 25.6 points, 5.0 rebounds and 5.5 assists last season, tried to settle in as the face of the Wizards during Wall’s absence. He made a point to ask Wall — who won the Community Assist Award in 2016 for his support of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma research — to present him with the honor onstage.
“I really wanted the league to embrace him, to see that we are engaged in our community and that we’re brothers,” Beal said of his backcourt partner. “There’s always rumors that we don’t like each other. It was just about nipping that in the bud and showing that this is bigger than basketball.”
Monday night, Wall told NBC Sports Washington that his recovery from the torn Achilles’ is going well and that he is almost ready to start jogging.
“I’m about to start jogging in like two weeks,” he said. “Just riding the bike, I get to do exercises standing up now, so I don’t have to sit down. I’m able to move, do ladder steps, doing those types of things. Just taking my time and progressing and letting everything heal the right way so I don’t force myself back and get another injury.”
The NBA flew out Ron Brown Principal Benjamin Williams and students Makhi Daye and Taj Davis to Los Angeles for the festivities. Daye and Davis, both 15-year-old rising sophomores, joined Beal onstage as he accepted the award and accompanied him through a lengthy media junket afterward.
During the season, Beal treated Ron Brown students to tickets to a Wizards preseason game, a screening of the movie “Creed,” pairs of sneakers for the holidays and a visit to the National Museum of African American History and Culture. That work helped him beat out nine other finalists for the Community Assist Award, including Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James and Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard.
“His commitment to the youth has already changed their future,” Wall said.
Beal found an instant connection with Ron Brown’s 340 students because he attended a college prep high school in St. Louis, and he plans to explore the possibility of launching a foundation to expand his community service efforts.
“The kids don’t realize how much they shape me into the man and father I am,” Beal said. “The same lessons I’m telling them are what I’m going to tell my son. How to act. Respect your parents. Be on time. What are your goals? Is basketball important enough to you to where you won’t just hang out with your friends in the summer? Is school important enough to you so you take it seriously rather than just thinking you can play ball?”
Beal’s leadership and consistency will be put to the test in 2019-20, when the Wizards will probably be without Wall for the entire season. Otto Porter Jr., another longtime teammate, was traded to the Chicago Bulls in a cost-cutting move at the trade deadline.
Washington is not expected to be a major player in free agency, leaving Beal to again carry a team that won 32 games and missed the playoffs last season. The two-time all-star logged a league-high 3,028 minutes, playing in every game for the second straight year.
“It was physical last year, and it will be that times 10 this year,” Beal predicted. “Everybody in the league knows from the get-go that the Wizards don’t have John. There’s going to be a lot on my shoulders, but I’ve been prepared for it the last few years. I’m not the type of guy who tries to do everything by myself. I trust my teammates and everybody to step up and carry the load.”
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