Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal discussed his decision to sign an extension with the franchise, saying requesting a trade would have been the "easy way" out.
"Exactly what you just said, it was the easy way," Beal told ESPN's Zach Lowe on the Lowe Post podcast. "Granted, it looks great, but who's to say it's a guarantee on the other side? For me, the whole summer last year, I kept playing Devil's Advocate on both sides. If I stay, what are the positives and negatives? If I leave, what are the positives and negatives?
"Ultimately, I felt staying, the positives outweighed leaving. The reason being is because I had more control here. I have an organization who basically gave me the keys. We're gonna build around you, we're gonna get guys around. If I go anywhere else, granted, it may be a good team, but I would be a piece. Who knows if my role would be the same? My role here, I love what it is. I love [head coach Scott] Brooks, I love what we have. I love our young guys, and I think the fact that we have guys who are committed to getting better."
Beal was slated to become an unrestricted free agent in 2021, and a refusal to sign an extension would have essentially acted as a shadow trade request. Instead, Beal signed a two-year, $71.8 million extension that carries a player option for 2022-23.
The move came as a surprise around the league, given many expected Beal to push for a trade to a contender with the Wizards in the midst of a rebuild. Others also pointed toward speculation of tension between Beal and John Wall, who has missed the entire 2019-20 season with an Achilles tear.
Beal saidthe outside noise created some level of discomfort between himself and Wall, but the two have since patched things up:
"I honestly think it was something the media stirred up and I think we allowed it to kind of affect us in a way. I don't wanna say affect us, but we allowed it to kind of enter our realm. It was noise that was noticeable, we couldn't ignore it. Eventually, it got to the point to where we actually had a conversation. Do you have a problem with me? No, do you have a problem with me? No. And that's what it was. It was enough of the ‘Oh he's saying this, he feels this way.' Like if we have a problem, we're both grown men, we're not going anywhere. It's either two things: It's either we're going to be childish about it and continue to avoid each other, not talk and kind of let whoever stirred it up stir it up or be men about it and figure out how we can be better as players and as men moving forward.
"[...] We were close way before I even got to the league, and even now, he's a big brother to me and he's taken me under his wing since day one and we're still like that to this day. We're both alpha dogs, we both feel like we're winners, we both want to take the shot at the end of the game, that's just how we are, but at the end of the day, I think we both trust each other. I know that I wouldn't be who I am without him and I think he wouldn't be part of who he is without me either."
Much of the tension came from Beal's clear ascent to become the Wizards' best player over Wall, who struggled in 2018-19 before his Achilles tear and has a supermax contract that stretches through 2022-23. Wall's contract is widely viewed as one of the worst, if not the worst, in the NBA.
Beal managed to prop up the Wizards to a ninth-place standing in the East without Wall, but there's a clear lack of promise for the franchise's immediate future. Wall's game was predicated on speed and athleticism, the two things Achilles ruptures sap the most from players. It's unlikely Wall will be an All-Star caliber point guard upon his return, and his contract hangs over the franchise like an albatross.
Of course, there's little preventing Beal from eventually forcing his way out of Washington. The extension carried only one more guaranteed season, and Beal could theoretically ask for a trade over the summer if he's unsatisfied with the team's direction.
That said, his quote to Lowe makes it pretty evident Beal wants to be built around, not be a piece in someone else's story.