If you're a Washington Wizards fan hoping that their franchise player won't ask for a trade in the summer, then you'll probably like Bradley Beal's first-person essay on ESPN's The Undefeated. In an as-told-to account with Marc Spears, Beal said that he didn't have to agree to the two-year, $72 million extension he signed in October, and being with the team that drafted him No. 3 overall in 2012 remains meaningful to him.
Beal could not be moved this season because of the extension, but would have otherwise been the most high-profile trade target in the league. He controversially did not make the All-Star Game, but is averaging 30.4 points, which is second to only James Harden, plus 4.3 rebounds and a career-high 6.1 assists in 35.9 minutes. The Wizards are 4 1/2 games behind the eighth-place Orlando Magic in the East, which I suppose means they're technically still in the playoff race, but they are 22-39 after finishing 32-50 last season. It is not difficult to understand why observers assume it's only a matter of time before Beal is elsewhere.
The 26-year-old stopped short of saying that he will never leave D.C., but he strongly stated his preference to stay as long as it is tenable. From The Undefeated:
Wanting to have my jersey retired in Washington one day played a factor in me re-signing. Every night we walk into that arena, there's five names up there. Those are some of the five greatest to ever touch a basketball. To be on pace to breaking the records that I am now and to be here for eight years already, that's special. And coming into the prime of my career, you don't know how much longer you have.
For me, I look at Kobe, I look at D-Wade [Dwyane Wade], I look at Dirk [Nowitzki], U.D. [Udonis Haslem], how they can stay in one situation for a long time.
I hate change. If it happens, it happens. But if I can control it, I will finish in D.C.
For me, I am kind of loyal to a fault. I'm kind of like Dame [Damian Lillard] in this realm that it would probably mean so much more to you winning it in Portland or winning it in D.C., because you know you grinding all those years. Then once you eventually come out of that light, I feel like the feeling would be so much grander than necessarily jumping ship. Jumping ship is kind of the easy way out. But at the same time, there's no guarantee that you'll win.
I can sit here and say, 'Yeah, I can go to Boston, I can go to Toronto, I can go to Miami' … I can go everywhere everybody wants me to go. But what would that look like? It wouldn't necessarily be my team to where now I'm in a situation in Washington where I'm being built around.
I know I'm going to have to take these bumps and bruises. I knew this last summer. I knew this, hell, the summer maybe even before that. You just got to grind it out, and stand true to who you are.
I suggest you read the whole essay, especially for the parts about Wall and what Beal has done for a local prep school.
In signing the extension, Beal signed up for a season that would be challenging, to put it generously. The question is what he thinks is awaiting him afterward. Does he think the front office will be able to pull off a big, win-now move in the summer? Does he think John Wall will come back next season in All-Star form? If Beal and the team are going to move forward together, he needs to trust that the front office will not waste his prime. He has had his , understandably, but has repeatedly made it clear that he'd love to be a part of the next great Wizards team.
There will be people who roll their eyes at all of this, and not just because of how often stars hop from team to team these days. While Washington's front office has maintained that it wants to build around Beal, there could come a point where it would be foolish not to trade him. At Beal's age, and in an era where every team is desperate for wings who can create at a high volume and space the floor, there will be plenty of teams trying to pry him away. If there is a bidding war, and the Wizards can get a combination of high-upside young players and future picks, there will be a significant opportunity cost to trying to make things work on Beal's timeline. Do you think the Oklahoma City Thunder regret acquiescing to Paul George's trade request last July?
To summarize: Beal wants to do right by D.C., and he is not planning on going anywhere. His plans could change, though, and so could Washington's. The whole league will be watching to see how this plays out.