With a looming free agency, Washington Wizards forward Davis Bertans — a Most Improved Player candidate for the 2019-2020 season — will sit out the NBA’s restart in Orlando, Florida, as a preventive measure, sources told ESPN.
Bertans, 27, is on the cusp of a lucrative, long-term contract and has had two previous ACL injuries.
As an organization, the Wizards are fully supportive of his decision to stay back from the league’s 22-team restart and remain determined to sign him in free agency, sources said.
In Washington this season, Bertans posted career highs across the board, including points (15.9) and minutes (29.3) while shooting 42.4% from 3-point range on over eight attempts per game, making himself one of the best sixth men in the NBA.
If the Wizards don’t advance past the seeding games in Orlando, he stands to lose $520,000, according to ESPN front-office insider Bobby Marks. The Force Majeure clause would be applied to his salary, post 10% escrow and money already taken out of his salary as a result of deductions that started on May 15.
He made a significant career leap this season after being traded to the Wizards in a three-team deal last summer that was done to clear room for San Antonio to sign forward Marcus Morris to a two-year, $20 million contract — only for Morris to reverse course at the last minute and sign a one-year, $15 million deal with the Knicks instead.
The Wizards hope to retain Bertans as an unrestricted free agent this summer, especially in what should be a depressed financial market because of the ongoing issues caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Washington will enter the NBA’s restarted season at Walt Disney World 5.5 games behind the eighth-place Orlando Magic and six games behind the seventh-place Brooklyn Nets. The Wizards will have to get to within four games of whomever is the eighth-place team to qualify for the play-in games, and then would have to beat the eighth-place team twice in order to advance to the playoffs and face the East’s top seed, the Milwaukee Bucks.
Bertans, who will turn 28 in November, tore his right ACL twice before coming to the NBA in 2016 — in June 2013 with Partizan Belgrade and in March 2015 with Baskonia in the Spanish league.
Originally drafted in the second round in 2011 by the Indiana Pacers — before being sent to the San Antonio Spurs on draft night as part of the Kawhi Leonard trade — Bertans joined the Spurs for the start of the 2016-17 season and quickly established himself as a strong 3-point shooter off the bench.