In an alternate universe, right about now our inboxes and notifications would be flooded by Bradley Beal trade rumors. He was by far the biggest name perceived to be on the market heading into the 2019-20 season, and was expected to be the next frustrated star to seek greener pastures through trade. That all changed, however, when Beal surprisingly signed a two-year extension with the Washington Wizards five days prior to the start of the season.
The extension kicks in during the 2021-22 season and has a player option for 2022-23, which means he could become a free agent during the summer of 2022. It also, by league rules, means that Beal cannot be traded before the upcoming Feb. 6 trade deadline. But that doesn't necessarily ensure that he'll be with the Wizards long-term. Beal can still be traded this summer, which makes his comments following the Wizards' 115-106 loss to the Bulls even more interesting.
A noticeably despondent Beal, whose Wizards fell to 13-27 with the loss, said he was sick of losing, especially "winnable games."
"I don't like losing, so it's going to keep blowing up for me -- until we start winning and changing our culture," Beal said.
Beal was then asked what that culture change would entail.
"Winning games," he said. "Get that winning attitude and winning habits, and we don't have them."
Bradley Beal was particularly down after tonight’s loss in Chicago.— Fred Katz (@FredKatz) January 16, 2020
On why this loss was hitting him harder than usual: “They all do. I don’t like losing. I’m sorry. Especially winnable games.”
On if it builds up: “Yeah, I would hope it does. I don’t like losing.” pic.twitter.com/SYSY1CkQaf
Needless to say this is somewhat concerning for a Wizards franchise tasked with proving to their star that the organization is headed in the right direction. Although, as Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington pointed out, the timing of Beal's comments is a bit curious.
First of all, Washington is just starting to come back from a rash of injuries to key players, including Thomas Bryant, Davis Bertans and even Beal himself. That's in addition to John Wall, who could miss the entire season while recovering from Achilles surgery. To expect a roster led by Jordan McRae, Ian Mahinmi and Ish Smith to consistently win NBA games is a bit far-fetched.
Secondly, the Wizards have performed just about how most expected this season, particularly notable given the injury issues they've endured. Most sportsbooks set their over/under at around 28.5 wins entering the season, and they're right in line to get very close to that, if not exceed it. They've also produced the ninth-best offense in the NBA and gone 4-6 over their last 10 games, with wins over the Heat, Celtics, Nuggets and Hawks -- all without Beal.
Perhaps Beal is putting pressure on the Wizards to make a move before the deadline. His frustration is also likely coupled with his recent ailments -- just as he returned from a sore right leg, he experienced a right shoulder issue. He could be seen riding the stationary bike intermittently during the Chicago loss with large packs on both his shoulder and leg. So it could just be a fleeting moment of anxiety, but any time Beal voices any sort of displeasure it will spark the trade conversation.
Teams like the Miami Heat, Denver Nuggets and Philadelphia 76ers are among the teams consistently brought up as a potential Beal trade partner. While none of them can acquire Beal this season, they all have young cores whose timelines roughly match Beal's, so it wouldn't be a surprise to see any of them (and many others) engage the Wizards this summer.
The Wizards have a tall task ahead. They need to hope that Wall's impending return is enough for Beal to stick with the team, then hope they rekindle the magic that made them one of the league's most promising backcourts. Unfortunately, if Beal decides enough is enough and demands a trade this summer, they may have to deal with the reality that the duo could never play together again.