When was the last time a player was remembered for having a successful, winning career with the Washington Wizards?
It’s been decades.
The Wizards haven’t won 50 games since 1979 — and in the time that has spanned, the likes of Gilbert Arenas and John Wall have come through the capital, enamoring fans nationwide with their superstar talent. Both, though, failed to reach the top of the NBA mountain for various reasons, ranging from terrible luck to poor management that’s forced the franchise to play catch-up year after year.
Still, it’s not completely out of the realm of possibility that the Wizards will turn it around.
The Golden State Warriors were largely obscure until just a few years ago. It took a generational talent in Stephen Curry to right the ship, and now they’ve arguably compiled the most impressive roster in the league’s history. No one will remember the years spent in misery.
But chances are, the Wizards won’t have such luck — and history shows them not having the front office capable of finding a Curry, Klay Thompson or Draymond Green in the draft (because, well, they had the chance to draft all three and didn’t).
Odds are, the Wizards — unless a massive overhaul takes place soon — will continue to be the most miserable team in the NBA, and it could have severe consequences on their ability to ever bounce back from what happened this season.
This year, the Wizards have relied on Bradley Beal to carry them out of purgatory. Beal, like basically every other player in the NBA (see: LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers), is incapable of doing it alone.
As of Thursday evening, the Wizards were officially eliminated from playoff contention, although some will say their chances of making the playoffs unofficially ended in November.
The numbers are stellar — Beal is averaging 26 points, 5.5 assists and 5 rebounds per game — and he’s getting plenty of recognition for it. Beal has played at such an elite level that pundits have been willing to put aside the Wizards’ dysfunction and constant losing to consider naming him to an All-NBA team once the season is over.
An argument could certainly be made for it. You’d be hard-pressed to find another shooting guard besides James Harden who’s played better basketball than Beal this season. And for Beal, the benefit goes beyond just an accolade — it could give him an opportunity to sign a $192 million extension with the Wizards.
It’s basically a godfather offer — but Beal, for his sake, shouldn’t fantasize about swimming in golden coins like Scrooge McDuck, and instead focus on the repercussions that signing that extension would have on his finite career.
During NBA All-Star break — perhaps dazed by all the bright lights — Beal openly talked about wanting to spend the rest of his career in Washington. That, of course, happened when the Wizards retained hope for the remainder of the season and the possibility of making the playoffs was still alive.
Months later — with the Wizards out of the playoffs — Beal was less decisive about his future when Fred Katz of The Athletic asked him about whether or not he would potentially sign an extension with the Wizards.
“I have no idea. … I try not to (think about it),” he said. “I’m not gonna be naïve to it. I know about it. But … I haven’t even gotten that far, because I need to figure out what we’re gonna do in this offseason, where we’re going, which direction we’re going.”
Beal has been with the Wizards for seven years, and he made his frustrations with the team clear when he reportedly called Ernie Grunfeld out during a practice at the start of the season.
He’s seen Wall express blind faith in the organization, only to be left with a locker room filled with recycled players who inevitably become weights on their backs. He’s seen his backcourt mate sign the same contract and how quickly the jubilation became a case of remorse, likely for both parties involved.
Beal, like Wall once did, has given his team more of his energy than any other player in the NBA, quite literally. And what’s he gotten in return? Another failed season — one where his Herculean efforts have often gone to waste.
Money aside, Beal has no incentive to sign a supermax extension with the Wizards — especially after how this season unfolded. Ultimately, Beal will want to be remembered for having won something — for having his effort amount to victories that he’ll remember once his career is over, because when it’s all said and done, those who settled for the money (like Carmelo Anthony) will only be remembered for valuing the dollar more than their legacy. The cautionary tale sits next to Beal in the locker room — and while the money is damn near undeniable, it’s always going to be there for a player of Beal’s caliber.
Primes come and go, injuries happen, and the window for success is incredibly tiny. Not signing the extension after the season would only put pressure on the Wizards — and more importantly, the ownership — to make the change they’ve refrained from making for 15 years. Being loyal is an admirable trait in today’s league, but it’s one that comes back to haunt those that foolishly reject the truth.
The Wizards — seven years later — haven’t done nearly enough to earn a career-long commitment from Beal, and maybe, just maybe, rejecting a seemingly undeniable offer would serve as the wake-up call the team so desperately needs.