The Washington Wizards offered Bradley Beal a contract extension of $111 million and he has a couple of weeks yet before it is off the table. But so far, Beal is dragging his feet. On purpose. He already has enough money. He’s in the midst of a max contract with two years left. No one in the Beal household is taking a vow of poverty. “I can retire today and be okay.” But what Beal is waiting for is for the Wizards to do something important on the team front. Like, build a contender. Currently, they are cash strapped. The Washington Wizards have the tenth highest payroll at $131 million, way over the salary cap. They will continue on this road to nowhere unless they cut costs, get into the lottery, or cut costs and sign a max free agent. Right now, their desire to keep Beal and John Wall means standing still.
Beal is letting the Wizards and other suitors know that what he is interested now at this stage of his career- he is 26 years old, the same age as Anthony Davis,- is a winning organization. He wants to compete for a title. He’s earned that right as he did it the right way. He developed from a 19 year old who took 12 shots a game his rookie year to a 25 ppg, 20 shot attempts last year. He’s been to back-to-back All-Star games and looks to add one more this year. As long as Wall is out, it’s going to be the Beal show. But the conundrum for the Wizards is that Beal isn’t a number one. He can’t carry a team to wins. He doesn’t make players better. He is a great asset to have on a team, a prodigious scoring talent, but he needs a sidekick to thrive.
Beal and Wall have been mercurial partners. Sometimes, it is a honeymoon. Other times, it’s bad blood. Like the Lakers did with Shaq/Kobe, the Wizards have to decide who they trust more and then trade the other for draft picks, young pieces, and cash. The haul the Pelicans got for Anthony Davis should be on every team’s idea board who wants to get rid of a max player. Top-5 lottery picks. Young role players. Draft picks. That is what the Wizards need and pronto. Or, a transcendent talent.
LeBron, Kawhi, Steph aren’t changing teams. So, the Wizards are between a rock and a hard place. They have Wall and they have Beal and there is zero money to do anything else. The East is becoming the conference of Giannis. Philly is building with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. The Raptors are the defending champions. The Wizards are looking up at a contending line growing longer and deeper before they have any shot to compete.
Beal is very grounded and decisive in what he wants and more specifically, what he doesn’t want.
“It’s not the money. It’s not the money factor here. It’s me. Are we gonna win?” Beal to The Athletic.
What we like to do with athletes and money is pretend we have their same decisions. Many of us would take the money. But after that first max deal, happiness is always factored in. Winning brings NBA happiness.
Bradley Beal is not in a fog. He knows what this year is about. There will be a lot of 30 and 35 point Beal nights. A lot of losses. Some wins. But up will be down and down will be up. Beal is following in the footsteps of a lot of superstars who don’t necessarily grab the money and run. They look at the situation like an economist. They forecast and then hesitate. They are not sure they want to take the money, not because of the money per se- who wouldn’t want another $100 mil- but because of the years and the fear of being stuck. Being unhappy.
These days, stars are willing to take less and play where they want, what makes them happy. Kawhi took less to be in L.A. Anthony Davis took less to be in L.A. Kyrie and Durant took less to be in Brooklyn. Happiness matters and happiness is about winning.
Bradley Beal wants to win. A max extension won’t guarantee that. And so he waits.