- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Wizards guard Bradley Beal said Wednesday he is undecided if he’ll play when the NBA resumes its season later this month near Orlando.

Beal said he’s working out as if he’ll participate, but has yet to make a decision. The 27-year-old did not indicate which way he was leaning, but mentioned if he withdraws, it would be related to concerns about his health.

“It’s more or less going to be a decision that comes down to the medical staff and I, just because our precautions and coming back and going from zero to 100,” Beal said. “Then, I had some nagging stuff at the end of the year that we’re trying to clean up, too. We’re looking at it from all angles, but I’m definitely working out every single day.

“It’s good to back in the facility, but I’m not swayed one way or another.”

If Beal doesn’t play, it would be a huge blow to the Wizards’ already long odds of making the NBA playoffs. Washington (24-40) sits 5 1/2 games behind the eighth-seeded Orlando Magic, but needs to be within four games of the eighth spot by the end of the season to force a play-in tournament.

Before the season stopped in March due to the coronavirus outbreak, Beal was in the midst of a career year — scoring 30.5 points per game, the highest average for the franchise since Walt Bellamy’s 31.6 in 1961-62. He also grew as a facilitator with a career-high 6.1 assists per game.

If the two-time All-Star withdraws, it won’t be for social justice reasons. Some NBA players like Kyrie Irving and Dwight Howard have expressed concerns that playing basketball would be inappropriate given the social justice movement sweeping the country in the wake of George Floyd’s death.

Beal, however, said he does not see playing basketball as a distraction that would undercut the movement’s momentum. Instead, he told reporters the league and its athletes can use the platform to amplify the message.

Over the last month, Beal has taken an active role in his team’s response to police brutality and racial injustice. He penned the team’s statement on the civil unrest happening around the country, which said the Wizards would “no longer tolerate the assassination of people of color.”

Beal also joined his teammates and the Washington Mystics in marching on Juneteenth in support of  Black Lives Matter. He shared his own experience with law enforcement and detailed a story on how a police officer threatened to ‘[expletive] up’ his day with a headlock, a story which he retold Wednesday.

Beal said it was important to take action, such as meeting with local officials.

“We have to utilize our platform as athletes to speak out for those who aren’t able to be vocal, to show face, to be involved,” Beal said. “I think we’re able to do both, but I get it from both sides who think it’s a distraction. I don’t think it is.”

Regarding the restart, Beal expressed some concern about the way NBA teams plan to ramp up when the regular season resumes on July 30. As of now, players are only limited to individual workouts with one coach, and teams are not allowed to hold formal scrimmages until training camp begins July 9 at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando. “It’s tough,” he said.

Beal said he’s curious to see how the league and the players’ union handle the surging number of coronavirus cases in Florida, calling the rise a “little scary.”  He also shared his opinion of being in the league’s isolated-environment, saying it would be tough because “you’re asking people to basically stay in their rooms and play basketball.

“There’s a lot of [stuff] we can’t do,” Beal said.

So far, forward Davis Bertans is the only Wizard to voluntarily skip the league’s restart. Commissioner Adam Silver has said players won’t be in a breach of contract for doing so. Bertans will sacrifice more than $500,000 in remaining salary, but stands to gain millions when he hits free agency after the season.

Beal said he supports Bertans’ choice to not play.

“I have nothing but respect for his decision,” Beal said. “I’ve yet to make mine.”

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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