WASHINGTON — Washington Wizards forward Davis Bertans will skip the Disney-based resumption of the NBA season, making him the first known example of a healthy, eligible player sitting out.
Bertans can become an unrestricted free agent this offseason and is expected to command a big contract as one of the league’s top 3-point shooters.
Bertans’ decision was first reported Monday by ESPN and confirmed to The Associated Press by a person familiar with his plans, speaking on condition of anonymity because neither the player nor team had made an announcement.
In his first season with Washington after being acquired from the San Antonio Spurs as part of a three-team deal in July 2019, the 6-foot-10, 225-pound forward from Latvia was averaging 3.7 made 3s per game, tied for fourth in the NBA when play was suspended because of the coronavirus outbreak. He was shooting 42.4 percent from beyond the arc.
His 200 total 3s in 2019-20 rank seventh in the NBA and — in just 54 games — put him 23 from tying Bradley Beal’s Wizards franchise record for makes in a season.
The 27-year-old from Latvia was averaging 15.4 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.7 assists as a reserve for Washington when the season was halted in March.
The league intends to resume its season in late July with 22 of 30 teams playing eight games apiece in a “bubble” set up at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports complex near Orlando, Florida, before the playoffs begin there in mid-August.
Bertans is in the second season of a $14.5 million, two-year contract he signed when he was with the Spurs, and based on his $7 million salary this season he would be forfeiting around $600,000 in gross salary for the eight games that he definitely would be missing.
If the Wizards were to reach the playoffs, the total lost salary could rise to as much as approximately $900,000, depending on how many games Washington plays.
The Wizards, according to a rules memo distributed to teams and obtained by the AP, will be allowed to sign a replacement player for Bertans as early as Tuesday. Bertans would be classified as an “excused player,” which means he forfeits salary but is not subject to any disciplinary action from the league for choosing not to play.
The National Basketball Players Association and the NBA have been in agreement for some time that any player who does not feel safe being part of the restart would not have to participate.
The Wizards are 24-40 and in ninth place in the Eastern Conference. That puts them 5½ games behind the Orlando Magic, who currently hold the eighth and final playoff spot in the East.
But the NBA’s format for the restart of the season gives Washington some more playoff hope, because it only will need to shave 1½ games off that gap to reach a play-in series that will determine the No. 8 seed in the East.
Howard Fendrich and Tim Reynolds, The Associated Press