On Thursday, Beal ended the summer-long wait and signed a two-year extension worth $72 million that will keep him in Washington through his peak years.
“Big day. Great day,” Coach Scott Brooks said of Beal’s decision. “We’re excited for our organization. We’re excited for our future. He wants to be part of it.”
The deal, the second extension Beal has signed with Washington in his seven completed seasons with the organization, will give him a player option in the second year and allow Beal to become a free agent in the summer of 2022. By choosing to stay in Washington for at least the next three years, the 26-year-old Beal has elected to rebuild rather than play with a contender.
“I guess just legacy at the end of the day. This is where I’ve been for the last seven years, going on eight, and I have an opportunity to turn this thing around,” Beal said, explaining his motivation. “It’s a beautiful market. I love it. I love D.C. This is where I’ve always wanted to be, and this is where I want to be for the rest of my career.”
Beal has emerged as the team’s leader the past two seasons while five-time all-star point guard John Wall has battled injuries. Last season, Beal became the first player in franchise history to average at least 25 points, five rebounds and five assists. His name became fodder for trade rumors as it became apparent that Wall could need the entire upcoming season to rehabilitate from an Achilles’ injury. All the while, the Wizards were revamping their roster and going younger.
The team offered the deal July 26, but Beal has consistently said he would take a wait-and-see approach before signing. His delay before Monday’s deadline led to speculation that Beal might want to leave for greener pastures.
“The whole summer, everybody was [saying]: ‘You need to go here. You need to go there. You shouldn’t sign it.’ Okay, that’s easier said than done,” Beal said. “It’s easy to think it’s all about money, when it’s not. And it’s easy to think, ‘Oh, you’re just comfortable,’ and that isn’t the case, either.”
Behind the scenes, Beal’s actions and words, even from last season, indicated a willingness to stay.
Ahead of the 2019 All-Star Game in Charlotte, the NBA news cycle was dominated by Anthony Davis’s trade request to leave the New Orleans Pelicans. In February, with Davis’s demand as the context and Wall’s Achilles’ injury still fresh, Beal spoke at length about his future. He admitted to wondering whether the team might trade him and whether the Wizards planned to “start all over.” Beal struggled with the notion of not being in Washington.
“Loyalty still speaks volumes. I think it still exists in our league,” Beal said in February. “I feel like I’m just going to give all here until I can’t no more. Until they don’t want me anymore.”
Months passed, and Beal remained consistent in his mind-set. When new general manager Tommy Sheppard took control, he stayed in contact with Beal and his representative. Sheppard stressed how the team needed to show Beal its direction through its restructuring over the summer, as well as once Beal returned for his eighth training camp with the Wizards.
When Sheppard fielded questions about Beal, he did not appear anxious over the pending decision. Instead, Sheppard routinely said he did not expect a quick response. Sheppard and the Wizards were emboldened to wait as Beal acted like a player who wanted to remain in Washington. On Thursday, that plan was vindicated.
“We feel like this validates a little bit of what we’re trying to do,” Sheppard said. “Moving ahead, his investment in us is incredible, and we are very grateful.”
Beal attended the team’s minicamp in Los Angeles, then returned early to the District for voluntary workouts after Labor Day. This preseason, Beal, whose body language can sometimes reveal his frustration and anger, appeared to be enjoying himself. He danced and celebrated with the Washington Mystics after the team won the WNBA championship Oct. 10. The following night, as Beal poured in 21 points in 18 minutes against the New York Knicks, he held his right arm high after making finger roll layups and laughed with teammates on the sideline as the Wizards took control in the second half.
For the 2019-20 season, Beal will be the team’s cornerstone, and that position enticed him to stay, according to his agent.
“That was his ultimate dream was to stay here and be a part of this,” said Mark Bartelstein, who had conversations all summer with Sheppard and Ted Leonsis, the team’s managing partner. “As we got deeper and deeper into it, it became really clear that they were going to do some terrific things and they were going to center all of it around Brad. That’s what Brad wanted to hear.”
The Wizards’ long wait through the summer turned into a fall celebration. They will enter the season without the fanfare of an Eastern Conference contender, but Beal, who took his time to come to a decision, understands that he will need to remain patient for the next few years.
“I love the fact that we’re young. It’ll be a challenge,” Beal said. “It won’t be easy. It’ll be a lot of bumps in the road. But I think now I’m at a place where I can be at peace with it and I can be patient with it and understand that it’ll be a lot on my shoulders. But I’m ready for it.”
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