Beal believes play-in spot would be 'step back' for Wizards


Bradley Beal has some theories on why the Washington Wizards have been a markedly different team since their 10-3 start.

Beal sat down with NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller in the wake of their fourth loss in five games, a historic defeat which saw them blow a 35-point lead to the L.A. Clippers. Beal thinks the looming trade deadline is having an effect on the team's chemistry, as the business side of the game is coming to the forefront for some of his teammates.

"A lot of my teammates are fighting for minutes. They're fighting for a spot, they're fighting for survival in a lot of ways, trying not to be traded, trying to stay in the league, trying to get another contract," Beal said.

"So, I get it from the business standpoint and it's tough to manage that from different roles because everybody has a different agenda in a way. Once we have a committed group to what's important and winning, then I think that's what's going to change."

Beal didn't mention specific names, but the Wizards do have quite a few players in that boat. Those who are in contract years include Montrezl Harrell, Thomas Bryant, Raul Neto and Aaron Holiday. Rui Hachimura is also eligible for a contract extension this summer.

Beal is technically in that category as well, given he can opt out of the $37.3 million he's owed next season to seek a larger contract. Though he has indicated he intends to do so, Beal doesn't feel the same pressure as others, having already made roughly $180 million in NBA salary during his career. His next contract is likely to surpass that total.


Beal, though, sees the contract uncertainty of some players affecting the team as a whole. He also put blame on himself with a self-aware evaluation of his own issues.

"I can be better on defense. Like, I can stop complaining to refs and get back on defense and help my team on defense," Beal said.

Where Beal did allude to his future in the interview with Miller was when the play-in tournament came up. The Wizards are currently 10th in the Eastern Conference, which would give them the final play-in spot if the postseason began today. 

The Wizards were the eighth seed in the East last season and advanced through the play-in tournament to the playoffs where they lost to the Sixers. Beal hopes the Wizards can finish with the sixth seed or better this year, so they can avoid the play-in altogether.

When Miller asked Beal "what is the long-term effect of [the play-in tournament],' here's how Beal responded:

"Oh, that would be something I’ve got to sit down and think about, honestly, because I don't want to be a play-in team. I don't think anybody in our organization wants to be a play-in team. And I think so from that standpoint, I'm not alone in that thinking. I think we all know that we can be better than a play-in team. And we’ve obviously got to put in the work and do that," Beal said.

"But I mean, I feel like that's a step back in a lot of ways and we're trying to proceed forward and that's kind of either staying the same as last year or not making any progress at all. And so, that plays a factor into it. But until that happens, I can't [say]."

The Wizards made a contract extension offer to Beal in October, which he can technically sign at any point, though it appears more likely than not that negotiations will carry into the offseason. In the meantime, we know how he would feel if the Wizards fall short of an outright playoff spot.