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This season will be important for Wizards to sell Bradley Beal on their future

This season will be important for Wizards to sell Bradley Beal on their future

We at NBC Sports Washington are looking at the five biggest storylines for the Washington Wizards as they get set for 2019-20 training camp, which begins next week. Today, a look at Bradley Beal's future... 

The Wizards addressed one of their biggest storylines entering the season twice in the week leading up to training camp. Both Bradley Beal and general manager Tommy Sheppard discussed the contract extension the team offered their star shooting guard back in July.

Two months have passed and essentially nothing has changed. Beal told NBC Sports Washington he hadn't thought much about the contract at all and Sheppard explained how the team is giving him space to make the decision before the deadline to do so arrives on Oct. 21.

Given all the factors at play, that isn't necessarily a bad sign for Wizards fans. But it certainly isn't a good sign, either. If Beal really wanted the contract, he probably would have taken it by now with two months to mull it over.

Unless Beal has a change of heart, the safe bet seems to be that he will let the deadline pass and enter the penultimate year on his current contract. That would set up an important decision for both sides next summer when he will be one year away from free agency.

If that ends up being the case, this season will be pivotal for Beal's future. He wants to win and play in the playoffs. Even if the Wizards fall short of those goals this season, they will need to show some progress towards getting there. 

If they can show an upward trajectory, it will go a long way in assuring Beal the franchise is heading in the right direction. As of now, as they begin a new era in their front office, all they can do is sell him on their vision. This season will put those theories into practice.

Given Beal wants to see the organization show him something before signs another contract, this season will be crucial for their player development. If any number of their young players can emerge, it will give them more options going forward in trades and in building their roster around Beal.

Beal will be able to figure it out himself. He's a very good player and is perceptive. He will be able to tell throughout this season which of the team's young prospects have bright futures and which ones do not.

If Beal wants to win, it would help to have Rui Hachimura emerge as a top rookie, to have Thomas Bryant and Troy Brown Jr. take another step in their development and for some number of their other young players to emerge unexpectedly. Maybe an Admiral Schofield or Moe Wagner can prove to be a diamond in the rough.

Beal will also likely be paying close attention to John Wall's situation. They get along well and would love to complete what they see is unfinished business as a duo. But just as Wall's injury and contract could hamper the Wizards' ability to compete in upcoming years, the same goes for Beal by association.

If Beal is going to win anything of signficance in Washington, it will probably require Wall to have a successful and full recovery. If he can't become close to the same player he once was again, it will be difficult for the Wizards to build a competitive roster with what is remaining of their salary cap.

The Wizards hit the reset button on their roster this offseason and would like to reinstall themselves as playoff contenders sooner than later. They don't want it to take long and Beal probably feels the same.


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Giannis Antetokounmpo says he has no problem with Moe Wagner after headbutt

Giannis Antetokounmpo says he has no problem with Moe Wagner after headbutt

Despite seeking him out after the whistle and headbutting him with force to earn an ejection from Tuesday night's game, Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo says he has no problem with Wizards big man Moe Wagner. He explained the move as general frustration boiling over.

"I don’t have nothing against Wagner, it wasn’t just him. It was just, like, in my mind all these games I’ve played guys hitting me so I lost it for a second," Antetokounmpo told reporters. 

He went on to express regret over the incident, which is certain to result in a fine and possibly a suspension. His explanation, though, runs a bit counter to how the Wizards saw it all.

Wagner was not made available to the media, but his teammates weighed in and all seemed to believe it stemmed from something that happened between them earlier this season.

"They have something in the past, I don't even know," Rui Hachimura said.

"That was just some blood from back then," Ish Smith said. 

They seemed to be referencing the Feb. 24 meeting between the teams when Antetokounmpo fouled out in only 25 minutes, and with some help from Wagner. That night, Wagner gave a quote that could also have been said after this game: "He’s a really good player. I want him out of the game, obviously."


On Tuesday, Antetokounmpo again exited early against the Wizards, and again the Bucks held on for the win, just like they did in February. Still, him leaving gave the Wizards a bit of a break. 

The reigning MVP had been dominating with 12 points and nine rebounds in 10 minutes.

"I'm not saying he's a dirty player, but he's good at those little things," Hachimura said of Wagner. "Giannis was actually out for the game. It was really big [for] us. He changed the whole game, actually. Moe's a great guy."


Wagner has a tendency to get under the skin of his opponents. He has had run-ins with other big men, most notably Joel Embiid.

He did his part, but the Bucks still had enough to beat the Wizards. Now the question is whether it was a pyrrhic victory with a potential suspension for Antetokounmpo coming next.

"There's no place for that. It's unfortunate," head coach Scott Brooks said. "It's unfortunate that it happened. I'm sure the league is going to look at it and make a decision. Fortunately for [the Bucks], it's not a playoff game [up next]. I'm sure he's probably going to miss a couple of games."

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Troy Brown Jr. shows room for improvement in first start as point guard

Troy Brown Jr. shows room for improvement in first start as point guard

The Wizards' time in the Orlando bubble without Bradley Beal, John Wall and Davis Bertans has created some room for head coach Scott Brooks to try some things he would never otherwise be able to try, at least not in a game that counts. On Tuesday, he experimented with Troy Brown Jr. as his starting point guard for the first time.

Brown had played some point guard already in the seeding games, most notably against the Pacers when he closed out the fourth quarter running the show. After that game, Brooks indicated Brown would get a start at the position. Tuesday was the night.

It wasn't exactly a great showing. Brown struggled by shooting 3-for-15. He had nine points, six rebounds and three assists, a far cry from the 16.0 points, 7.3 rebounds and 5.0 assists he averaged in the team's previous six games in Orlando.

Brown was off and it didn't help that as he began the game running the offense, the Wizards missed their first nine shots. 

"He got a learning experience. Sometimes it happens that way," Brooks said. "Didn't play well. We didn't have a good start. I'm not throwing it all on him, we just didn't have a good rhythm."

Brooks added that he won't judge Brown off of one game, but he also made it seem like there won't be a ton of opportunities for him to play point guard moving forward. They only have one more game before this season is over and next season five-time All-Star John Wall will return.

If Brown is auditioning for a larger share of the point guard duties, there are only so many that could go around long-term. Still, it didn't hurt to give him a look.

"This is time that we can experiment with that. Next year, he's probably not going to get those opportunities where he's going to be really the only playmaker on the floor," Brooks said.


Tuesday was mostly just a reminder that Brown is young and still has a lot of work to do if he wants to play more point guard in his future. Brown was drafted in the first round of 2018 as a wing, but has said he feels most comfortable running point.

He has the ball-handling and passing skills to suggest he could someday do just that. But it takes time to find consistent success at the NBA level and point guard is a demanding position.


"Troy is special, man," point guard Ish Smith said. 'He can make plays. He's got a lot of tools. It's crazy, he's just 21. When I was 21, I was on a college campus running around trying to skip study hall. I don't know how some of these guys do it."

Brown, 21, has now had the bar set for himself. He has a better idea of how much more work is required to achieve his goal of playing point guard more often.

It will be something he can keep in mind this offseason as he works towards the 2020-21 campaign.

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