Not having Beal would make an already tough road to the playoffs near impossible for the Wizards during the additional eight-game portion of the regular season that begins for them July 31. Washington (24-40) will be without forward Davis Bertans, the team’s best three-point shooter, who has opted to sit out. Beal’s absence would have an even bigger impact — the guard leads the team at 30.5 points per game, and earlier this season he became the sixth player in NBA history to compile 50 or more points on consecutive nights.
Beal said he spoke with Bertans before the sharpshooter announced his decision to sit out the rest of the season.
“I didn’t feel any type of way about Bertans’s decision,” Beal said. “He actually contacted me before he officially announced it and I actually kind of — I don’t want to say forced him to not play, but I supported him in every way. He explained it and just seeing where he comes from, seeing his situation and understanding what’s at stake for him in his future, 100 percent I understand it. On top of that, he has a family, he has a wife and a daughter he has to look after, and they’re back home in Latvia. . . . I have nothing but respect for his decision.”
As for Beal, having the proper amount of time to get into basketball shape before playing eight pressure-packed games in 14 days wasn’t his only hesitation about retaking the court. The 27-year-old father of two was forthcoming about his trepidation with the quality of off-court life in the NBA’s so-called bubble at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
Another Washington athlete — Mystics guard Natasha Cloud — has opted to sit out the WNBA season, planning instead to use the time to focus on social justice concerns. On that issue, Beal feels NBA players will be able to speak out on issues and compete without one distracting from the other.
“I feel like we can still raise that awareness, we can still bring attention to what’s going on in the world by using our platform, by utilizing names on the back of the jerseys, doing it until people get pissed off and tired of seeing it,” Beal said.
But concerns about mental health and what daily life will look like inside the bubble — a bubble that’s located in a coronavirus hot spot — lingered.
Beal called Florida’s spike in coronavirus cases and smaller outbreaks in other sports “a little scary.” Major League Baseball’s Philadelphia Phillies shut down their spring training facility in June after five players and three staff members tested positive. The Orlando Pride recently withdrew from the National Women’s Soccer League’s return-to-play tournament after six players and four staff members tested positive.
Inside the bubble, Beal wondered if days would be more than playing basketball and sleeping.
“I think that’s what a lot of guys are concerned about, that we can’t just leave,” Beal said. “We can’t just order whatever food we want, we can’t just do activities we would want to do, we can’t go to our teammates’ room. There’s a lot of [stuff] that we can’t do. It’s tough. I get you on a mental awareness standpoint of, you’re so used to doing this, that and the third [while playing] on the road, and now you’re constrained.
“It’s almost like, what kind of situation can we create in a perfect world? We want to be safe, but we want to come back and hoop, we want to make money, we want to make a statement. There’s so much that we’re trying to grab with just basketball.”
Should Beal decide to sit out the rest of the season, he would be the highest-profile player without an extenuating medical situation to do so. Players coming back from injury such as Beal’s teammate John Wall and the Brooklyn Nets’ Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving won’t be on the court in Florida, and other players — including DeAndre Jordan, Trevor Ariza and Avery Bradley — have decided to sit out. But thus far, no healthy player of Beal’s stature — or importance to his team — has opted against playing.
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