WASHINGTON -- Bradley Beal is not your average NBA star and Wednesday's news of his contract extension with the Washington Wizards is the latest piece of evidence. In a league where stars forcing their way out is en vogue, Beal has yet again differentiated himself from his peers.
Beal, 26, could have asked for a trade. He could have viewed the grass as greener in L.A. or Miami or some place else. Instead, he committed to at least the next three years in Washington with a player option on the fourth.
The reasons why are numerous, as Beal explained on Wednesday at the team's practice facility. But most important to him was loyalty and the desire to be part of building a winner from the ground up.
"It's easy to think it's all about money when it's not," he said. "I guess it's legacy at the end of the day. This is where I've been for the last seven years going on eight. I have the opportunity to be able to turn this thing around. A lot of people doubt that and I view it as a challenge."
Beal did several interviews in recent weeks where he said he had not thought much about the extension, which was first offered on July 26. Technically, that's true as he left much of the negotiating to his agent.
But there were some moments along the way that gave him clarity. One was a meeting in Chicago last month between him, his representatives and Wizards' brass.
According to multiple people familiar with the negotiation process, Wizards managing partner Ted Leonsis flew to Chicago along with the team's general manager Tommy Sheppard and other executives. They met at the offices of Priority Sports with Beal's team of agents led by Mark Bartelstein and Beal was able to ask questions about where the organization was headed.
The Wizards made sweeping changes to their front office and coaching staff over the summer. They also reworked their roster to create financial flexibility and replace veterans with young players that present upside. What the Wizards had to sell Beal on was a view of the future that can't necessarily be proven in the short-term.
Beal had a lot to consider ahead of the Oct. 21 deadline to make his decision, but ultimately gave all sides the go-ahead to strike a deal.
"I just felt comfortable with where we were going," Beal said. "I talked to Ted and they kind of projected the future and gave me the layout of what we can do in the future."
Some of the other times Beal grew more convinced to stay in Washington involved the city's other sports teams. He went to several of the Mystics' playoff games while they were en route to winning the first title in franchise history. And he attended Game 3 of the NL Championship Series between the Nationals and his hometown Cardinals.
Though the Nats beat his favorite team, he looked around the stadium and saw potential for what the Wizards can do someday in Washington.
"I can't neglect that because they've all built powerhouses. They're having success and continual success over the last couple of years. I can't ignore it," Beal explained.
"I view it as something a lot of D.C. sports [teams] have been a part of, rebuilding something and building them into championship-caliber teams. So, why not me? Why sell myself short of a great opportunity I have in my hands right now? I'm blessed to be in this position and honored, too. I also think I'm ready."
Beal has given the Wizards' newly-designed front office a major victory just months into their tenure. Sheppard already has a major success to count on his record.
He was also part of the previous administration that re-signed John Wall to a second and a third contract. When it comes to keeping stars, the Wizards have been able to buck league trends.
"We've always been able to retain our free agents," Sheppard said. "We feel this validates a little bit of what we're trying to do."
Aside from occasional meetings, and continuing conversations with Bartelstein, Sheppard said he took a hands-off approach to Beal as he awaited his decision. Sheppard said he himself doesn't like to be nagged over and over by those who ask him favors, so he gave Beal distance.
"I left Bradley alone," Sheppard said.
Instead of bothering Beal about it, he paid attention to his actions. Sheppard said he took his cues from Beal showing up to the Summer League in Las Vegas to support the team and from him participating in voluntary workouts before training camp began.
Beal, it turns out, wasn't leaving the Wizards in the dark completely despite taking months to decide on his new contract. According to a person familiar with his thinking, Beal was up front with the Wizards on his plans, indicating early on that they wouldn't string the Wizards along. The silence on his part was a good thing, not a bad thing. If he wanted out, he would have told the Wizards from the get-go.
The time that passed was only for Beal and his camp to see the front office and coaching staff changes through and to then evaluate where the organization was headed. Once the dust settled, negotiations ramped up and a deal was achieved.
Now the Wizards can move forward with the comfort of knowing their best player is in it for the long haul. And, as Sheppard explained, that will have significant benefits as they aim to develop young players in the mold that Beal has followed to become a star.
"I think what this does for our young guys is it shows tremendous leadership and commitment from one our franchise's top players," Sheppard said. "I think he sets an example for everyone to strive towards. If you work and you perform, the Wizards will take care of you."
What this new contract ultimately does is buy the Wizards an extra year, given he can opt-out of the final season of his contract in 2022-23. But Beal has said over and over he doesn't want to play anywhere else.
And until that changes, maybe it's time we take him at his word.
"I love D.C. This is where I've always wanted to be and this is where I want to be for the rest of my career," he said.
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