- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 26, 2019

General manager Tommy Sheppard called guard Bradley Beal “a tremendous cornerstone” for the Washington Wizards and said that even if Beal makes the Hall of Fame someday, he’s a better person than player.

The All-Star is no doubt appreciated in Washington. The big question that still lingers is how long he’ll remain in town.

The Wizards offered Beal a three-year extension in July, but on a podcast published Thursday Beal said he hasn’t deliberated on whether to sign it quite yet. He has until Oct. 21 to sign, but if he declines, he still has two years left on his contract.

“Honestly you might slap me, but I haven’t thought about it,” Beal told NBC Sports Washington’s Chris Miller. “I’m just getting better and letting my agent, Tommy and everybody else deal with it. I just go hoop. Every day I see somebody and they ask, ‘Beal, you leaving?’ and I’m like, ‘I’m still living in D.C., I ain’t going nowhere.’”

Sheppard said he wasn’t worrying about if and when Beal agrees to an extension.

“I take my cues by how he’s interacting,” Sheppard said at his preseason press conference Thursday. “We get all these young players and I bring them in and we start talking and I say, ‘The only thing I’m gonna ask you, all you have to do is work as hard as Bradley Beal.’ Sounds easy, and then you come in and you see all the work Bradley puts in every day and the leadership that he exudes every day. He’s shown time and time again how committed he is to D.C.”

The offer is worth $111 million, but even that amount of money might not be enough if Beal were to decide he wants to play for a championship contender and requests a trade. Teams reportedly approached the Wizards earlier this year with interest in acquiring Beal.

But Beal will be present when the Wizards begin training camp Tuesday. Many players have been in town for a few weeks to work out at the team facility. Among them is injured point guard John Wall, who continues to recover from surgery to repair his Achilles tendon.

Sheppard said coach Scott Brooks “has kind of made him an assistant coach” at offseason workouts.

“(Wall) has got some people he’s gonna be responsible for. I think anybody that’s ever sat with John, he’s a basketball savant,” he said.

The Wizards applied for a disabled player exception for Wall, which, with some restrictions, essentially would grant them a temporary extra roster spot while he is out.

In the meantime, Sheppard said Wall is “doing fantastic.

“I think he’s in a place right now where it reminds me of a kid that can’t go out and play,” Sheppard said. “He’s watching all these pick-up games and he’s over on the elliptical or he’s running or he’s working out, and you can just see how much it physically pains him to miss playing games.”

Wall potentially could miss the whole 2019-20 season. With that in mind, some analysts pegged the Wizards as a bottom-five team in their offseason NBA power rankings.

Sheppard said measuring the team’s success in his first year on the job will come down to player development.

“Watching the players on our roster every time and being able to measure and watch, and it’s not just by a stat sheet. It’s all the things that you’re asked to do on the floor,” he said. “We’re asking players to be stars in their role, essentially, right? You got some guys that the only time the ball’s coming to you is the end of the shot clock. So we’re asking you to set great screens. We’re asking you to be a selfless, help-side defender. We can evaluate that and see if you’re doing those things.”

The general manager also mentioned that the Wizards won’t need to monitor rookie Rui Hachimura’s minutes in camp and the preseason. The first-round draft pick played for Japan in the FIBA World Cup this summer but dropped out of the team’s final two games due to “knee discomfort and general fatigue.” But that’s not expected to be a concern going forward.

Hachimura has become a star in his home country. Sheppard traveled to watch him play some exhibition games with Team Japan in Tokyo this summer.

“They were sold out, and they definitely weren’t there to see the other team,” Sheppard said. “There were No. 8 jerseys everywhere. So he’s got a following in Japan and it’s only going to grow.”

• Adam Zielonka can be reached at azielonka@washingtontimes.com.

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