Washington’s “Monumental Basketball” and Bradley Beal’s Monumental Decision
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Attached to the promise of a new dawn for the maligned Washington Wizards comes the very real risk of the unknown. Wizards ownership fired long-time general manager Ernie Grunfeld last April in an attempt to finally end its decades-long mediocrity.
Wizards owner Ted Leonsis affectionately called this new Wizards era of “monumental basketball” his “new baby.” Founded on a collaborative and executive leadership, Leonsis and Co. brought in a crop of new talent. This includes new general manager Tommy Sheppard, former Cleveland Browns general manager Sashi Brown, former Georgetown basketball coach John Thompson III, and Daniel Medina, who previously worked with the Philadelphia 76ers and F.C. Barcelona. This new, dynamic leadership team is a far-cry from Washington’s previous regime.
It’s both an unorthodox and unprecedented approach that was a by-product of Leonsis’ three months-long introspection while talking to more than 50 thinkers and movers from within and outside the league.
But how will this shift in leadership and culture impact the Wizards’ future?
Leonsis’ vision is to make the Wizards the best basketball organization when it comes to meeting players’ wants and needs on and off the court. He is hoping that this holistic approach will resonate around the league, and will help the Wizards become more attractive to superstars, taking a page out of the Los Angeles Clippers’ book.
Leonsis spoke highly of the Clippers’ organization who were able to get arguably the best two-way players in the league today, Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, to lead their last season’s 48-win team. The Clippers did need to tear down their roster, trading away former stars Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and Tobias Harris along the way.
Despite the recent change in the leadership, the Wizards have thus far been adamant on keeping their own stars: Bradley Beal and the injured John Wall. This partnership has yet to make a splash in the weaker Eastern Conference. Regardless, Sheppard confirmed during the “monumental basketball” press conference that Washington will offer Beal the three-year $111-million extension.
“At the very first moment allowed, we are going to offer [Brad] the full max extension. Sheppard told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Whether Beal is sold on the new leadership is the question that will be begging for an answer starting on Friday. He has until Oct. 21 to decide on the extension offer.
At only 26, Beal has more basketball ahead of him. Coming off a career season where he averaged 25.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5 assists while almost willing a depleted Wizards team for the eight seed, Beal is being viewed as one of the league’s fast rising superstars in the same way he’s become a prime target of several teams.
Beal had indicated in various reports last season that he’s all about loyalty and money isn’t a motivation. This could be a monumental mistake.
Loyalty may play in part but at the end of the day, recent history suggests that it’s the opportunity of winning and forging a legacy which has been the strongest driving force for players in this kind of dilemma.
From a financial standpoint, it makes no sense for Beal to sign the extension as he will be eligible for a super max extension next summer if he gets an All-NBA nod or he can test his value in the free agency in 2021 summer and go where he thinks he can get the opportunity to win, something that may still be years away from happening in D.C.
Under Sheppard’s interim tag this summer, the Wizards have started to clean the house vacated by his former boss, Grunfeld. They were able to get high character and coachable young guys led by their rookie Rui Hachimura, get under the luxury tax and traded away former superstar-turned journeyman Dwight Howard.
Now that he’s been officially installed as the new GM, Sheppard and his other counterparts in the Monumental Basketball will have to think hard and bounce off ideas whether keeping Beal and Wall is the right path towards contention or getting stuck in mediocrity.
Because it’s still hard to imagine how can Washington can make significant roster changes with Wall’s albatross contract and Beal eating a large chunk of their cap space. The Wizards may need to unload Wall’s contract, but there may not be a front office crazy enough to do so without Beal attached to it.
Beal has the option to delay his decision which is the most prudent thing to do. If Beal will go that route and won’t be moved this summer, this season will be an audition for the new leadership to show Beal that he has a really good reason to stay and look forward to the future in Washington.
The “monumental basketball” is a step in the right direction as the Wizards finally acknowledged their missteps in the past. But it’s a long winding road towards relevance and title contention.
Can Beal afford to wait? Can the Wizards find a quicker path without moving Beal?
The future maybe unknown but finally there’s a hope in the horizon. Both the Wizards and Beal are at the crossroads.
Beal’s upcoming monumental decision will dictate the future of Washington’s “monumental basketball.”