- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Tommy Sheppard knows how consequential this summer is for the Wizards. 

The biggest question the team’s general manager faces revolves around whether Bradley Beal wants to remain with the organization he’s spent his entire 10-year career with. But Sheppard also knows that decision, at this point, is mostly up to Beal, who could make a whopping $246 million over five seasons if he signs a max contract with the Wizards.

“He’s really excited about the opportunity here in D.C. to get better and what we’ve done,” Sheppard said in his end-of-season press conference Tuesday. “The future is there. It’s his decision in July, but I felt comfortable this is the place for him.”

Beal, who Sheppard said will begin rehab for the wrist injury that ended his season in February, has indicated multiple times in recent months that he will likely remain in Washington. He told reporters in March that it’s “fair” to say he is leaning toward re-signing with the Wizards. Later that month, he said on Warriors star Draymond Green’s podcast that he wants to build a championship-level team in the District. 

“I think people don’t understand that I want to do that here,” Beal said, referring to building a team in D.C. capable of winning a title. “And my mindset is like, OK, why can’t I do it here? There’s a lot of other teams that are out here doing it.” 

Assuming Beal turns down his $36.4 million player option for next season, Beal can’t officially agree to a new contract until July when free agency begins. The max deal the Wizards could offer is expected to be $246 million, while the best offer other teams can give is $180 million over four years. 

“With the way that the NBA calendar is set up, we can’t do anything earlier than July 1,” Sheppard said. “I can just go off of 10 years of a relationship with him. I think he feels comfortable here, we certainly feel comfortable with him here. It’s a good fit.”

While most expect Beal to remain in Washington, it’s not a guarantee until the ink is on the contract. If Beal were to be on the market, several teams would be interested in the guard heading into his age-29 season. The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported in March that the Miami Heat would be a “legitimate suitor” for Beal this summer, while the 76ers were putting together a package to acquire him at the trade deadline before his season-ending surgery. 

“I feel every indication he‘s given me is that he wants to be here moving forward,” Sheppard said. “I stick to the 10 years of confidence I have in the relationship we’ve had. It’s a lot of time, a lot of equity and a lot of conversations. I feel that we’ve shown this is a place we can build around him. I think he‘s shown to the community here that when he‘s healthy he‘s one of the best players at his position.”

Sheppard expects Beal to come back better after his injury. Beal scored 30-plus points per game in the two years before the 2021-22 campaign, but in 40 games this season the former Florida standout saw his scoring average plummet to 23.2 points per game as he posted a career-worst 3-point percentage (30%) and his worst shooting percentage (45.1%) since becoming a star player. 

“You’re talking about a guy who led the league in scoring pretty much all of last year, an All-NBA last year. He comes in and gets injured, and in the NBA that minimizes you. In the NBA, you almost don’t exist when you’re hurt. I see stuff about Bradley and I kind of wonder, my goodness, are we talking about the same player? He‘s a special player, one of the best at his position in the NBA,” Sheppard said.

“It’s not a revenge tour or anything like that, but he wants to reassert that, ‘Hey, I’m one of the top players in the league.’ The only way you do that is come back, results and put up wins. That’s a challenge he’s relishing.”

• Jacob Calvin Meyer can be reached at jmeyer@washingtontimes.com.

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