A season already skidding off the rails got worse for the Washington Wizards.
“Despite the last 10 days of getting intensive treatment and rehab on my wrist, it became clear that I would not be able to compete to my standards or to the level that our team and our fans deserve,” Beal said in a statement. “I’m disappointed to have my season end this way, but we all agreed that this was the best decision. I look forward to coming back at 100% and continuing to lead this team as we work together to build toward the future.”
Beal averaged 23.2 points in 40 games while shooting a career-low 30 percent from three-point range. The injury for 10th-year veteran, who can become a free agent this summer, could change the outlook for the struggling Wizards (24-29) heading into Thursday’s trade deadline. The team has lost eight of nine and fallen to 11th place in the Eastern Conference entering Tuesday.
Beal already had been part of trade speculation with 2022-23, a player option, being the final season of his two-year, $70.1 million deal. Washington has offered a four-year, $181.5 million extension, but Beal said he was in no hurry to sign. With the team struggling, Beal out and no guarantee that he will sign, General Manager Tommy Sheppard will have plenty of decisions to make by Thursday with a bloated roster and fading playoff hopes.
“My biggest thing is getting us off to a good start,” Beal said before the season. “We worry about the contract money and all that later. I’ll let them deal with it when the time comes, for sure. I got all year to sign, too. So I’m not in a rush.”
Beal was attempting to take a charge in the third quarter against the Grizzlies when he braced himself while going to the floor. He finished the game but was later diagnosed with an injury to the scapholunate ligament of his left wrist. The team initially said he would be out for at least two games.
The team-wide struggles had not evaded the three-time all-star, who made his first all-NBA team last season. His scoring average was his lowest since 2017-18, and his 45.1 shooting percentage was his lowest since 2015-16, although his 6.6 assists were a career high.
There was optimism at the beginning of the season from Beal after the Russell Westbrook trade brought in Kyle Kuzma, Spencer Dinwiddie and Montrezl Harrell.
“I’ve said it earlier — we have depth, we have playmakers, we have shooters, we have bigs, but we can’t just throw it out there and think it’s going to work. We have to figure it out, how to mesh and how we jell the right way,” Beal said before the season. “But it feels good knowing that we have the pieces we need to be able to compete on a nightly basis to win games.”
Coach Wes Unseld Jr. recently adjusted the rotation to have Thomas Bryant, back from a torn ACL, in the starting lineup with Harrell coming off the bench. Daniel Gafford went from starter to out of the rotation.
Kuzma is the No. 1 scoring option with Beal out. His 16.1 points per game tie the second-highest mark of his career, and 8.7 rebounds are a career high. His 45.6 field goal percentage matches a career best. Aaron Holiday has started in Beal’s absence.
“Obviously I didn’t have this type of role at the beginning of the year, and it has picked up over the last two months,” Kuzma said last week after a win over the Philadelphia 76ers. “I’m ready for this moment. I’ve been ready for this moment. Been asking for this moment for years. … I love the game. I study the game. I care about the game, and it’s just coming easy to me right now.”
What to read on the Washington Wizards
Beal gets the max: The 29-year-old guard agreed to a maximum contract that will cement him as the cornerstone of the franchise. Only in Washington do NBA stars get $251 million participation trophies, writes Candace Buckner.
Wes Unseld’s first season: Players praised the coach’s even keel. But the defense was still bad.
Offseason needs: Securing Bradley Beal’s future is at the top of the organization’s to-do list. Finding a permanent solution at point guard is No. 2 on the Wizards’ offseason checklist.
Candace Buckner: Forget the excuses about lineup disruption, chemistry issues brought on by the massive trade-deadline makeover and Bradley Beal’s season-ending injury. The Wizards took a step back this year.
Peace for Kristaps Porzingis: The big man called Washington the “perfect place” to help him reach his career goal because of the Wizards’ mix of young and veteran players.
Kyle Kuzma’s fashion game: What started as a desire to look sharp became part of his identity when he was drafted with the 27th pick in 2017 and he moved to Los Angeles.