In an interview on Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green's podcast, "The Draymond Green Show," Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal discussed his outlook ahead of free agency and the position that his team is in. Beal turns 29 in June, and he can hit free agency in July if he turns down his $36.4 million player option. Earlier this month, he said it's fair to say that he's leaning toward re-signing with the Wizards.
Green directly mentioned the recent report by The Athletic's Shams Charania that the Miami Heat are expected to go after Beal if he considers leaving the Wizards. (In the same story, it was reported that the Philadelphia 76ers worked on a Beal deal involving Ben Simmons before Beal underwent season-ending wrist surgery, which jibes with other information that has come to light since the trade deadline.)
"I'm kind of embracing everything," Beal said, "so I'm not upset about the rumors, I'm not upset about, you know, teams wanting me. I feel like that's a good thing, right? We put in the work and we're wanted by a lot of people, not just where we're at."
Beal said that he knows "it's a lot of noise" and "it can be distracting at times," but told Green that "you know as well as I know it's nothing better than grinding it out and kind of doing it on your own." He said he loves and respects that Washington "hasn't been shopping me," and rather been "hanging up the phone" when teams call about him.
He continued: "It's kind of funny. I've never been a free agent. It's kind of reminding me of college recruiting. Like I hear every single game somebody's recruiting me. Someone's like tagging on me, whether it's another player or whether it may be a coach or whoever it may be, somebody's chit-chatting: 'B, what you want to do this summer? What you doing this summer?'"
Beal has said this kind of thing before, and, while he emphasized that he has great communication wish Washington, he was also honest about the position that the franchise has been in for years.
"We've always been a team that has kind of been right in the middle of the pack, right in limbo," Beal said. "We're either a player away or a few possessions away from being a top-four seed or a bottom-eight seed. So that's kind of always been our downfall. And then you look at it, it's like, when you're drafting in that, you're drafting from mid-, late lottery."
On the Wizards' "frustrating" inability to attract star free agents, Beal said: "D.C.'s a great market, D.C.'s a sport town, D.C.'s an awesome city, D.C. should be desired I think by a lot of [players] but I think it's us shooting ourselves in the foot. When you don't necessarily win, when you don't necessarily always have a positive light coming out of your locker room -- because we've had history of negativity and all that B.S. coming out of our locker room, so that plays a factor -- ... then you're not necessarily going to get those free agents.
"So that's where we have to explore the trade markets," he said, and that sometimes means trading recent draft picks rather than signing them to extensions. "That's kind of been our position. Do I love it? Not necessarily, because you always want some type of stability, you need to have your core. Once you have your core established, you can find guys that you can plug into your system and just take off and run. So it's a little bit of both. We're still finding that core."
Beal mentioned the acquisition of Kristaps Porzingis at this year's trade deadline, but said that Washington now needs to add more "guys who've been in those [playoff] wars before to propel us."
If Beal ops out, he is eligible to sign a five-year, $246 million contract with the Wizards. The most any other team is allowed to offer this summer is four years and $182 million, and the teams that have cap space are not contenders. If he decides not to commit to Washington, he could opt in for next season, request a trade and then sign a four-year, $199 million extension six months after he is traded. Beal said he "can really make any decision I want" and "it's a matter of if I'm comfortable" with making a long-term commitment.
"I have to have that understanding with Washington that we are in the pursuit of winning," Beal said. "That is my destination and goal. The money is awesome. Granted, when we grew up playing, Dray, we played the game to make a lot of money. We played the game to take care of our family. Don't get it twisted. Like, we all -- that is still in the back of our head, that is priority No. 1, taking care of yourself, making sure that you get every dollar that you possibly can make and that you feel comfortable with doing. But that also comes with, when you make that money, you want to win ball games. You want to be able to play for something. Right? I want to play in meaningful games. Right? I want to be playing in late June. That's what I want."
Beal continued: "And I think people don't understand that I want to do that here. And my mindset is like, OK, why can't I do it here? There's a lot of other teams that are out here doing it."
"It's possible for teams to do it and it's possible to go on those runs and not all those teams have two, three, four All-Stars," Beal said. "They developed their guys. They're putting the pieces together. So it's a possibility and it's, I mean, shoot me if you want, but that's my mindset. Like, I have that mindset. I want to do it here. But there also comes a point, Dray, that you also know that it becomes a business. And if you feel like the stars aren't aligned with that, then everybody's going to do what's best for them, regardless of what the money is."
Beal said that his "competitive spirit" makes him want to turn things around with the Wizards, but also acknowledged that it would be fun to play with other stars.
"I have desires to, hell, play with everybody," Beal said. "For sure. You know that. That would be remarkable. Like, the USA team, that was one of the most fun experiences ever. Just being around so many elite guys, sacrificing to hoop. Everybody's good, everybody's really good. Trust and believe I would love to be in an environment around K.D. [Kevin Durant], Dray, Steph [Curry] and going hard, winning games. That would -- what? Who wouldn't? But it's also just as fun to compete against that team as well. When it's so many elite guys you're competing [against], that brings the best out of you."
For now, Beal and the front office appear to be on the same page. The question is how long that will remain the case. Neither side wants to remain in the middle of the pack.