Russell Westbrook, born and raised near Los Angeles, asked the Wizards to trade him to the Lakers. Bradley Beal could probably understand Westbrook’s desire to play for his hometown team. NBA players tend to support their teammates exercising their leverage, even if that means parting.
But Beal might be staying in Washington, not despite Westbrook leaving – but because Westbrook is leaving.
The Wizards agreed to the Westbrook trade, league sources say, believing it would enhance their chances of Beal committing to a long-term extension to stay in the nation’s capital rather than hasten his exit.
Perhaps, the Wizards merely believe – correctly, I’d say – they can construct a stronger team sans Westbrook. There isn’t necessarily any animosity between Beal and Westbrook.
But this continues a long run of Westbrook’s star teammates not feeling especially compelled to keep playing with him.
Kevin Durant left the Thunder in part because he disliked how the offense flowed with Westbrook. Paul George requested a trade from Oklahoma City to the Clippers. James Harden decided the Rockets weren’t good enough and requested a trade after one season with Westbrook. And now Beal is staying with Washington after Westbrook leaves.
This fall, Beal will be eligible for a four-year, $181 million extension that begins in 2022. However, if he waits until 2022 free agency, he could sign a five-year deal worth a projected $235 million – an extra $54 million.
Obviously, the Wizards would prefer Beal locking in sooner. Keeping him into unrestricted free agency would risk he leaves for no return.
Beal has signed an extension that didn’t look financially advantageous before. He could do so again.
And maybe it’s even more likely with Westbrook outgoing.