In almost any other year, we would be talking about the Washington Wizards’ training camp which is ongoing. And to be clear, we have. Ron Oakes-Cunningham wrote about media day and the mindset players have coming into camp earlier this week.
Earlier today during media availability after training camp practice, forward Kyle Kuzma spoke about how he breaks down film and complimented one of his former Lakers teammates, Rajon Rondo to be specific.
Kuzma said there are layers to watching film.— Bullets Forever (@BulletsForever) September 30, 2021
1) Watching yourself and your movements
2) Watching weakside - where the help and rotations are coming from
Kuzma said Rondo helped him focus past the 1st layer and focus on what was happening all over the floor.
And he also spoke about Bradley Beal’s versatility as a passer as well as a scorer.
Kyle on what he's learned about Beal "Every single day you find out something more about him" - citing passing as a recent example some something he's seen from a player also capable of scoring 30ppg.— Bullets Forever (@BulletsForever) September 30, 2021
But let’s be honest.
The major story of Wizards Media Day and training camp isn’t about Beal’s versatility on offense or even his trade value. We’ve seen Beal’s performance over the past three seasons as he blossomed from a catch-and-shoot target of John Wall to franchise cornerstone. It’s that Beal openly stated that he isn’t vaccinated against the coronavirus, and that he also openly questioned the efficacy of vaccines themselves last Monday during Media Day.
Sure, Kuzma also more-or-less left open the possibility that he isn’t vaccinated against COVID-19 himself. But he is a complementary player. Beal is the franchise. After all, I read a story about a various trade proposal involving Beal at least once a month!
Ultimately, this news has caught the wind of various political figures like U.S. Senator Ted Cruz who want to use that to their advantage, whether locally or nationally. When politics get involved with sports on various hot-button issues like coronavirus response, they can cast a dark shadow on a team. And if one wants to speculate around how team owner Ted Leonsis feels about it, he gave a message to the team after practice earlier today according to head coach Wes Unseld Jr during press availability. The players don’t just represent themselves or even the team. The Wizards also represent the D.C. area.
It’s important to note that Leonsis didn’t call anyone out specifically. But I can definitely say for sure that Leonsis is definitely aware of any negative publicity around the team.
Wes Unseld Jr. says Ted Leonsis's message to the Wizards players after practice is that they do not just represent their individual selves but also the organization and the city of DC.— Hoop District (@Hoop_District) September 30, 2021
While it is clear that Leonsis didn’t call anyone out for not getting the coronavirus vaccine or putting negative attention on the team, David Aldridge of The Athletic wrote a column this morning where he didn’t hold anything back (subscription required). Aldridge openly critiqued Beal for his response regarding the vaccines, challenging him to think about his decision whether to get a vaccine “for the common good” instead of for just himself.
Since last Monday, Beal has softened his position on whether to get the coronavirus vaccine. Beal has stated that many of his family members are vaccinated and that he himself is considering it. The vaccines have been helpfully preventing severe illness in those who received the shots. It remains to be seen what the optics of the last few days will do for him.