LAS VEGAS – The team dynamic will be extremely different for the Wizards in 2016-17, but at the head of the table it’ll remain John Wall and Bradley Beal. Or is that Bradley Beal and John Wall?
Beal, who has had an injury-plagued four seasons and yet to be an All-Star, has signed his five-year, $128 million max offer. Wall, long considered the team’s best player and three-time All-Star who played through so much discomfort that he required surgery to both knees this offseason, is entering the third year of a five-year deal that totals $80 million.
“It’s everybody’s team. I don’t really think about it. It’s John and it’s my team,” said Beal to CSNmidatlantic.com after he watched the Wizards play at summer league. “We are the leaders of the team. It’s not about money. That doesn’t matter.
“In three years he’s going to make more money than me, too. It’s not going to matter. We’re both cornerstones of the franchise. We’re both leaders.”
Beal came up for a new deal during a time when the salary cap jumped from $70 million to $94 million. Whereas Wall signed in 2013 as an extension under a $58.7 million cap and wasn’t allowed to become a restricted free agent, Beal became one on a market that was thin on shooting guards. Like Wall, he'll have to grow into those big shoes.
The roster has had a lot of turnover, with the Wizards opting to get younger rather than hold on to veterans such as Jared Dudley, Ramon Sessions, Garrett Temple, Nene and Drew Gooden. They also have a new coach in Scott Brooks who is noted for developing younger players better than previous coach Randy Wittman.
“It’s different. We have a lot of new guys on the staff, a new system but I’m looking forward to it, being around coach Brooks. I’m getting a great feel for him,” Beal said. “We got some great character guys and great role players for us.”
Beal was a No. 3 overall draft pick in 2012. He has had to deal with living up to that standard. He has been on center stage in two playoff runs, including with Wall out with a broken wrist and he carried the extra load successfully then. The expectations that come with a max contract don’t feel any different.
“It’s always going to be pressure. It’s kind of automatic. It’s a two-way relationship,” Beal said. “They put the trust in me to bless me with a max contract. I have to be able to produce on the floor. It’s that simple. I’m going to do whatever it takes to get it done.”
The Wizards were 41-41 last season and Wall and Beal admitted they didn't do as good of a job as they could've as leaders. Without the security blanket of a Dudley, who called a players-only meeting in January when the season went south, who will be the one to take charge? The roster has gotten significantly younger and is filled with role players so Andrew Nicholson, Trey Burke, Ian Mahinmi and Jason Smith will look to them.
Wall will be 26 in September. Beal is just 23.