The competitive portion of the 2018-19 Washington Wizards‘ season ended after a dismal 2-9 start, and things only got bleaker from there. John Wall got injured in December and never returned. A trade was nearly derailed when the teams involved confused two players with the same last name. Franchise stalwart Otto Porter Jr. was dealt in February, and as the franchise sank toward its worst season in years, nobody would have blamed the team for giving up hope and packing it in.
But Bradley Beal refused to do so. The Wizards were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs on Mar. 28, but as Wizards coach Scott Brooks told Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated, Beal would not sit out down the stretch.
“I mean, we were going nowhere at the end of the season pretty fast. And I’m like, ‘Brad, you know what, I appreciate everything you’ve given me the last couple of years. And this year we’re not making the playoffs, we’re out. You want to like chill out the last couple of weeks and rest? And he said, ‘You know what, I signed up to be the leader of this team and do it every night.’ And he wanted to do that, and he wanted to play every game and that’s why he played for two years in a row already too.”
Beal, who had injury concerns earlier in his career, has played all 82 games two years in a row. He led the NBA in total minutes last year as well. In an era defined by load-management from superstars, Beal chose to play more than any other player in the NBA on a team with little hope of winning.
That likely informed the team’s decision to keep him this offseason. As Jovan Buha and Sam Amick of The Athletic reported in July, the Los Angeles Clippers made an offer for Beal prior to acquiring Paul George and were quickly rebuffed. Given how much the Clippers paid for George, their offer for Beal was likely substantial, and they were almost certainly not the only team to ask about his availability given the uncertainty in Washington.
But culture-builders like Beal are rare. Plenty of players talk the talk when it comes to leadership. Few have walked the walk as Beal has. The Wizards may be better off rebuilding given Wall’s onerous contract and their lack of immediate talent or assets, but for now, they are betting that Beal’s attitude can rub off on the rest of their team and help them build the right kind of organization.