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Morning tip: Bradley Beal is still headed toward max deal

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Morning tip: Bradley Beal is still headed toward max deal

Now that Bradley Beal is back in the starting lineup, playing starter's minutes and playing in back-to-backs, it's worth revisiting whether or not his status as a max player going into restricted free agency has changed.

So far, it hasn't. In 13 games he has played with the Wizards going into the All-Star break, after returning from a stress reaction in his lower right leg for the fourth year in a row, Beal is shooting 83 of 153, 54.2%, from the field. 

He played 32 minutes in two of three games earlier in the week before logging 37 -- two above what was projected to be his maximum by some close to the situation -- in Thursday's 99-92 loss at the Milwaukee Bucks.

"Hopefully we can keep these extended minutes where they are," said Wizards coach Randy Wittman after Tuesday's game in New York. "It's hard. You play 32 minutes one game, 16 the next, 22 the next. I told the doctor to go on vacation and let’s hope he does that after the All-Star break.”

He was joking, but the Wizards have to be careful. Before the onset of Beal's injury Dec. 9, he played 40-plus minutes in five of seven games. In the other two, he logged 38 minutes. A stress reaction, a dark spot on the bone, is a precursor to a season-ending fracture that heals with rest. 

The Wizards are using a different method of tracking Beal's movements, which is now possible with the SVU cameras used in each NBA arena, such as the distance he's running and how much he's cutting.

After the data is received, they huddle to determine what his minutes should be. Going into a week off because of the All-Star break might've factored into the sharp minutes increase Thursday.

Even though Beal said when he returned that he could be facing a minutes cap for the rest of his career, there's an expectation that he will receive a max offer when he becomes a restricted free agent this summer and the Wizards will give it to him. 

Beal is finishing at almost 60% at the rim and has made a concerted effort to eliminate long two-point shots from his game. He's shooting a career-high 46.3% from the field and making almost 40% of his three-point looks. If Beal can stay off the injury list, he can take off like John Wall did when he signed a max offer based on his ceiling and potential rather than his accomplishment at that point of his career. 

"That's one of my goals for this whole year, increase my efficiency, my shot selection. I try to eliminate those long twos as much as possible," Beal said. "It’s awesome to be able to see my percentages go up."

The open market will ultimately set Beal's pricetag, and at least one team that's betting on his potential should make him a max offer. Then the ball is in the Wizards' court on whether or not to match it to retain Beal.

They'll have no choice because letting him walk for nothing as the salary cap grows from $70 million to almost $90 million isn't really an option for a franchise that'll be at a crossroads as it remakes the roster with or without Kevin Durant.

Scorers in today's NBA are more valuable than ever. Beal has a good reputation because of his character and attitude, too. A replacement player of that level, which they'd have to have in stow before allowing Beal to leave, aren't just waiting around in bunches. There's competition from 29 other NBA teams to land them which drives up the price automatically because of supply vs. demand. 

"If he was not injured, he would've been an All-Star this year," Mark Bartelstein, Beal's agent, told CSNmidatlantic.com on Thursday. "That's the way he was going."

There's a confidence now, unlike in past seasons when Beal had the stress reaction in his leg, that everything is under control because of the protocols in place. His minutes will be watched closely. And none of it is expected to interfere with his summer activity with USA Basketball to compete for a spot for the 2016 Olympics in Rio. 

This is Beal's make-or-break year in more ways than one. If he avoids any more setbacks with his leg, he's still in prime position to cash in. 

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Wizards vs. Sixers: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

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Wizards vs. Sixers: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Kelly Oubre, Jr. and the Washington Wizards battle Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, J.J. Redick and the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday night.

Here is all you need to know: TV, live stream and radio info, tip-off time, plus three things to watch:

WASHINGTON WIZARDS VS. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS

Where: Capital One Arena
Tip-off: 8 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Washington (coverage begins at 7 p.m.)
Live stream: NBCSportsWashington.com
Radio: 1500 AM

Another test

The Wizards continue their difficult stretch coming out of the All-Star break against a very dangerous Sixers team. Philly has proven to be very streaky this season, but right now they are rolling. They come to Washington having won their last seven games dating back to Feb. 6 when they beat the Wizards at the Wells Fargo Center. The Wizards are also playing well, having won eight of their last 11, despite their loss to the Hornets on Friday.

The Sixers are currently seventh in the East and appear on track to make the playoffs. If they keep rising the standings, they could meet the Wizards, who are currently fourth, in the first round. 

PODCAST: BIGGEST STORYLINES COMING OUT OF ALL-STAR BREAK

Season series

Speaking of the playoffs, this game could end up looming large for postseason seeding. The Sixers have won two of the three matchups between these teams this year. If they win on Sunday, they will take the season series and own the tiebreaker over Washington.

If the two teams tie head-to-head and end up with the same record at the end of the season, it will then come down to conference record. The Sixers currently have a better record against East teams than the Wizards. But if they can beat Philly this time, the Wizards will have a chance to secure the conference tiebreaker down the stretch of this season.

RELATED: BEAL IMPRESSED BY LEBRON AT ALL-STAR GAME

Sixers are tough to guard

The Wizards have found out the hard way this season just how difficult it can be to match up with the Sixers, who are led by two emerging stars in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Embiid is 7-foot-1 with rare abilities to stretch the floor and beat opponents off the dribble. Simmons is 6-foot-10, yet can lead the fastbreak with rare speed and vision to find his teammates with crisp passes.

The mobility for their size is almost unmatched and it has not been easy for the Wizards to answer. In their last meeting earlier this month, Simmons had 15 points, eight assists, six rebounds and three steals. Embiid had 27 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks. The Wizards have to try to limit those guys while also dealing with other challenges like Robert Covington, Dario Saric and J.J. Reddick.

RELATED: LATEST NBA POWER RANKING

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Warriors will visit D.C. kids instead of White House when they play Wizards

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Warriors will visit D.C. kids instead of White House when they play Wizards

Instead of visiting the White House when they come to Washington this week to play the Wizards, the defending-champion Golden State Warriors plan to hold an event with D.C.-area kids.

Their invitation was rescinded by president Donald Trump following a back-and-forth between the two sides last year. After the Warriors won the title, they openly questioned whether they should follow the tradition given many of the players and coaches disagree with his policies. Trump took the opportunity away before they came to a final decision.

PODCAST: WIZARDS MAKE A FREE AGENT SIGNING

The Warriors' event will be closed off to the media and held at an undisclosed location. It is set for Tuesday, the day before they play the Wizards at Capital One Arena. The Warriors had the option of holding a ceremony with other politicians in the Democratic party, but decided that would send the wrong message. 

"It's their championship. They got disinvited to the White House, so it's up to them what they wanted to do. So they made their plans," coach Steve Kerr said. "I want the players to have a good day and to do something positive and to enjoy what they're doing."

The Warriors are the first NBA team to make this choice since Trump was elected president. Last season, the Cleveland Cavaliers held their celebration with president Barack Obama in November. They did so just days after Trump was elected and LeBron James questioned at the time whether he would visit the White House with Trump in office.

RELATED: DURANT MAKES HUGE DONATION TO PG COUNTY SCHOOLS

Sports teams visiting the White House goes back to the mid-1800s. The first World Series title team to visit was the 1924 Washington Senators. By the 1960s, NBA teams were going and by the 1980s NFL and NHL teams made it a tradition.

Entire teams snubbing the White House is unusual, but many players have turned down the opportunity. In the NBA, some famous cases include Larry Bird in 1984 and Michael Jordan in 1991, according to Rolling Stone.

Perhaps the Warriors start a trend, or maybe it will be a one-off thing. Regardless, the alternative they chose is a respectable one. 

RELATED: LATEST NBA POWER RANKINGS