Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal will not join the team in Florida when the NBA restarts this month because of a right shoulder injury, the team announced Tuesday. Beal experienced discomfort in his rotator cuff this season, and symptoms worsened when the two-time all-star resumed on-court workouts in recent weeks.
“I appreciate the support of my teammates, the fans and the entire organization and look forward to returning next season to continue the progress we have made.”
General Manager Tommy Sheppard said in an online news conference Tuesday that he does not think surgery is an option for Beal. Sheppard believes the guard initially injured himself during a game in Phoenix in November but was adamant that the injury won’t be a long-term problem. Sheppard was confident that on a normal offseason timeline Beal would have been ready to play, but having to be game-ready after such a long hiatus amid the novel coronavirus pandemic and then a short period of preparation posed issues.
Ultimately, the decision to not have Beal compete in Florida was about mitigating risk of further damage.
“The best way to look at it [is] there’s just a lot of rust on it,” Sheppard said. “Obviously the injury during the season didn’t hinder him performing at a high level. … What was troublesome for us is the ramp-up time to get us to where we are now. …
“Wisdom would tell you, if it’s bothering him right now, let’s not go out there and try to do anything that’s going to hinder his future, and our future with Bradley is obviously contingent on him being healthy.”
Beal was not expected to travel with the team Tuesday and will instead spend the remainder of the season working out in Washington without many of the same restrictions he had to abide when the entire team was at its facility.
“He’s going to be able to do a lot more treatment now that the NBA is moving our timeline forward,” Sheppard said.
Beal’s injury means the Wizards’ already stiff task in Florida now looks herculean. Washington (24-40) must try to scrape its way into the playoff picture without its top two scorers when the league resumes July 30 with eight additional regular season games for the 22 returning teams. In addition to Beal, forward Davis Bertans, the team’s best three-point shooter, opted out last month ahead of an offseason in which he will be a prized free agent.
Point guard John Wall also remains unavailable after suffering an Achilles’ tendon injury in January 2019.
The team will try to make up Beal and Bertans’s combined 45.9 points per game when the season resumes. Washington sits 5½ games behind the eighth-place Orlando Magic and six games behind the seventh-place Brooklyn Nets and needs to finish within four games of the eighth seed to force a play-in round to get into the playoffs.
Because an injury is forcing Beal to miss the restart, he will be paid for the additional regular season games and the Wizards will not be able to sign a replacement player. Beal was averaging career highs of 30.5 points and 6.1 assists when the league shut down in March.
Coach Scott Brooks could turn to guard Troy Brown Jr. in Beal’s stead. The 20-year-old averaged 9.7 points in 61 games but will have the opportunity to facilitate like never before in his young career.
As for leadership, the task of providing veteran guidance to a young core of players now falls to 32-year-old point guard Ish Smith and, to a lesser degree, 33-year-old backup center Ian Mahinmi. Smith spoke Monday about his approach to leadership in Florida.
“We all do this as a team. Now I know, obviously, I’ve got age and experience, but I’ve always told this to the guys: Leadership is strategic. When it’s your time to lead, we got to lead. And when it’s your time to step up and say something, say something,” Smith said. “… I just want the guys to go down there and have fun, enjoy it. If we weren’t playing there, we’d have been playing pickup ball somewhere. So let’s go out there, be aggressive, doing what we’re supposed to do, defensively get better, try to make a push, try to make a run, and build on some things. I’m excited. I’m sure the guys are excited. The guys just want to play.”
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