Washington Wizards owner Ted Leonsis said his team will "never, ever tank," per Candace Buckner and Scott Allen of the Washington Post, and he received assurances from his star player the strategy will work this season.
"Bradley Beal told me, 'We got enough. We're going to make the playoffs. We're not going to let you down,'" Leonsis said. "So who am I to change the goals? We said, 'No excuses.' It would be easy to say we have so many players out injured, but we're not going to do that. We're not letting anybody off the hook. We got to make the playoffs."
The comments from Beal and Leonsis are notable because John Wall is out for rest of the season with a heel injury and the Wizards are 2.5 games behind the Charlotte Hornets for the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference.
However, they are 6-4 since Wall's last game thanks largely to Beal's effort. Buckner and Allen noted he is averaging 29.8 points with 5.8 rebounds and 6.2 assists over his past 10 games, and he finished with 26 points and nine rebounds in a dramatic 101-100 victory over the New York Knicks in London on Thursday.
Allonzo Trier's goaltending on Thomas Bryant's shot in the final second gave Washington the win.
Leonsis pointed to another Eastern Conference team when explaining where he doesn't want his team to end up while talking about tanking.
"We just played Philadelphia, and they have shoes that say ‘Trust the Process.' And they were really, really bad for seven years. And I looked when we beat them at home, they had two guys that they picked in the first round in the lineup. So, you know, that process is pretty risky in and of itself. I don't think you can tell players, coaches, staff: 'Don't make the playoffs and tank!' We will never, ever tank."
Despite his take, the 76ers are the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference. Their Big Three of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Jimmy Butler is as talented as any in the league and makes them a legitimate threat to win a conference that is now wide-open after LeBron James departed for the Los Angeles Lakers following eight straight NBA Finals trips.
While Philadelphia went through its struggles, the Wizards haven't made it past the second round of the playoffs since 1979 and aren't exactly enjoying sustained success either.
They've also had plenty of drama this year, including a November report from Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com revealing Wall was fined "for unloading a verbal barrage at coach Scott Brooks in a recent practice session."
Buckner also detailed altercations between Wall and Jeff Green, Kelly Oubre Jr. and Brooks, and Beal and Austin Rivers in series of tweets, although Rivers and Oubre are no longer on the team.
Beal told team officials at the time, "I've been dealing with this for seven years," per Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium, but he had a different message to Leonsis this time.