The Washington Wizards’ breakout forward, Davis Bertans, enjoying the best season of his career, has elected to sit out of the NBA’s re-start.
The already uncertain path to the playoffs for the Washington Wizards just got even less certain, as Davis Bertans will reportedly sit out the team’s games at Walt Disney World’s Wide World of Sports next month, per ESPN.
Adrian Wojnarowski and Tim Bontemps reported earlier today that the 27-year-old forward, who has been a breakout star for the Wizards this season, is supported by his team in this decision, and that Washington remains “determined” to sign him in free agency later this year. Bertans – who averaged 29.3 minutes played, 15.4 points and 4.5 rebounds per game this season, all career highs – is likely to receive multiple offers, and is certain to sign the first long-term deal of his still-young career.
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His choice to forego the remainder of the season, most likely, isn’t solely due to his looming free agency. Consider the fact that, at 27, he’s already dealt with two past ACL injuries and isn’t looking to push his luck. As The Athletic’s Fred Katz noted on Twitter, players’ number-one concern isn’t the ongoing threat of the coronavirus (which, notably, has seen a recent spike in cases in Florida), but their general health.
“Guys haven’t played for real in months,” he said. “It’s totally natural to be worried about a hammy or Achilles or something else. And if you’re Bertans, for what? Eight games?”
That idea alone is perhaps one of the more intriguing aspects of the league’s restart, and particularly the general plan to fill in the final seed in each conference. While there are never guarantees for advancement in a typical playoff format, participating teams are at least guaranteed involvement.
In this format, the additional teams not presently in their conference’s top eight seeds will fight for the right to make a play-in game – which also isn’t even a guarantee; the ninth seed must finish within four games of the eighth to force a play-in game.
So let’s say the Wizards, who are the only additional Eastern Conference team to be invited to Orlando, go 1-7 in their eight seeding games, while Orlando goes 5-3. Orlando would then continue on to at least fight for their dignity against Milwaukee in the first round.
Washington, on the other hand, would have essentially participated in the equivalent of an unsuccessful run at the local YMCA. Except that this Y is in Florida, where you’re quarantined in a bubble at Disney World from July 9 to August 15, and are only promised eight games in that timeframe. Oh, and you probably can’t even ride Space Mountain when you’re bored.
So is it worth it for a player like Bertans – bound to receive a lucrative new contract in free agency and certainly not bound to advance past the first eight games – to travel, quarantine, and risk possible injury? Probably not. He probably won’t be the only player to opt out, either; players have until June 24 to decide, per The Athletic’s Shams Charania.
For those in the (wrong) camp condemning him for “bailing” on his team, fear not. Bertans will face a sort of penalty for his decision, though it won’t come from the league nor his team (necessarily). If the Wizards fail to advance past the seeding games, he’ll lose just over $600,000 in salary, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks.
In the grand scheme of things, that would be like stealing the Dunkin Donuts gift card with $2.81 left on it out of my wallet. It has some value – two donuts, to be specific – but will I be immensely crippled by such loss?
Bertans won’t find himself crippled either, and he’ll avoid any crippling injuries by using a bit of agency to sit out. It will undoubtedly be interesting to monitor whether other players from the 22 invited teams elect to do the same, whether it’s due to fear of the coronavirus or fear of neglecting their societal impact during a time when it’s needed most.