Bradley Beal signed a two-year extension worth nearly $72 million with Washington on Thursday, a major victory for the Wizards and a move that will keep the All-Star guard out of free agency for at least the next three summers.
Beal still had two years left on his existing contract. The extension kicks in for the 2021-22 season, has a player option for the following year and means that Beal won't be part of what has been shaping up to be an NBA free-agent extravaganza in the summer of 2021.
"It's a blessing, man - for one, that they even consider me a franchise player, a piece of this organization in itself," Beal said at a news conference in Washington. "And I was prideful of that. You don't get that type of love and respect and responsibility from anywhere."
The Wizards were willing to give Beal a three-year extension that would have been worth about $111 million. Beal went the two-year route and that protects his future options - he could opt out of the deal in the summer of 2022, coinciding with his 10th year in the league.
The 10-year milestone is significant: By having that many years of service, Beal would be eligible to sign a new deal worth in excess of $250 million over the next five seasons.
"You ask yourself a lot of questions during free agency: Why do people leave? Why do they go other places?" general manager Tommy Sheppard said. "We've always retained our free agents. The ones we wanted to keep, we did. And this is a humongous opportunity right here with Bradley Beal. It speaks to the rest of the league that he believes in this place, and that's huge."
Sheppard told a story as the team was getting ready to begin training camp about what he says to young players he meets for the first time: Work as hard as Beal.
"It sounds easy," Sheppard said. "Then you come in and you see all the work that Bradley puts in every day, all the leadership he exudes every day. He's shown time and time again how committed he is to D.C."
Beal has played more minutes than any other NBA player in the last two regular seasons, is one of only five players to not miss a game in that span - and is the lone player to have started all 82 games in both of those seasons.
He's an elite scorer, 12th in the league last season at a career-best 25.6 points per game. And he will be the centerpiece again for a Wizards team that's without point guard John Wall for the entire season as he recovers from an Achilles injury.
"This is where I've been for the last seven years, going on eight," Beal said. "I have an opportunity to be able to turn this thing around. A lot of people doubt that. I view it as a challenge."
Sheppard said Beal is poised for yet another big year, and that the way he was interacting with teammates in recent weeks didn't give him any reason to believe he wasn't committed to the team.
"The fact that he showed up in summer league and worked with our young players and watched what we were doing - he was so committed throughout the summer," Sheppard said. "He came in in September, had everybody out here working out. All those actions showed somebody that really wanted to be here."