If there was any suspense about who would be the eight playoff teams in the Eastern Conference when the NBA restarts in the Disney bubble later this month, that evaporated on Tuesday.
The Washington Wizards will enter the bubble 5.5 games back of the Orlando Magic with eight games to play and were already going to be without the services of sharpshooter Davis Bertans, who opted out of the restart due to injury concerns as he enters a critical free agent summer. Tuesday, the team announced All-Star guard Bradley Beal will likewise not be joining the team in Orlando out of caution for a shoulder injury that bothered him all season.
“Bradley did everything possible to be ready to play, but after closely monitoring his individual workouts we came to the conclusion that it was best for him to sit out the upcoming games in Orlando and avoid the risk of further injury,” said Wizards General Manager Tommy Sheppard. “Although he was able to play through the majority of the season with the injury, the layoff from March until now did not leave any of us feeling comfortable that he would have enough time to be ready to perform at the extremely high level we are all accustomed to seeing and agreed that not participating in the games in Orlando was the right decision.”
“This was a difficult decision and one that I did not take lightly as the leader of this team,” said Beal. “I wanted to help my teammates compete for a playoff spot in Orlando, but also understand that this will be best for all of us in the long term. I appreciate the support of my teammates, the fans and the entire organization and look forward to returning next season to continue the progress we have made.”
Beal sitting out due to an injury means he will not miss out on game checks during the bubble that those who opt out will, and for the Wizards the decision wasn’t very difficult given the stakes. Risking Beal’s long-term health was in no way worth the potential to sneak into the 8-seed where the Milwaukee Bucks would be waiting in the playoffs, and their stay in Orlando was almost assuredly going to be brief.
Washington will look to use the eight-game restart to continue developing young players like Rui Hachimura, in hopes of being ready to jump into the playoff picture again next year with a healthy Beal and John Wall.