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Wizards’ Davis Bertans 1st player to opt out of NBA’s Disney restart

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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 off-season and is expected to command a big contract as one of the league’s top 3-point shooters.

Washington general manager Tommy Sheppard told The Associated Press on Monday that Bertans had informed the team of his decision. The Wizards are allowed to sign a replacement player for Bertans as early as Tuesday, and Sheppard said the club “will look at it closely.”

Bertans’ plan to miss the remaining games was first reported by ESPN.

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 per cent 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 was averaging 15.4 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.7 assists as a reserve for Washington when the season was halted in March.

Could forfeit nearly $1 million US

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, Fla., before the playoffs begin there in mid-August.

Bertans is in the second season of a $14.5 million US, 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.

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 5 ½ 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 1 ½ games off that gap to reach a play-in series that will determine the No. 8 seed in the East.

WNBA players pull out

Jonquel Jones, the star centre for the Connecticut Sun, has decided not to play in the WNBA this season because of concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

Jones led the Sun to the WNBA Finals last year, averaging 17.9 points and 10.4 rebounds in the post-season after putting up 14.6 points and 9.7 during the regular season.

She becomes the first WNBA player to cite the virus in opting out of the upcoming season.

Renee Montgomery, the former UConn guard now with the Atlanta Dream, had previously announced she will skip the season to focus on social justice issues.

“This was one of the toughest decisions I’ve made but the resurgence and unknown aspects of COVID-19 have raised serious health concerns that I do not feel comfortable competing in,” Jones said Monday in a statement.

Curt Miller, the team’s general manager and coach, said the Sun respects that choice.

“We recognize the amount of unique challenges, sacrifices, and unknowns this season presents, and from the top down, there is an unwavering commitment to support each player’s respective decision,” he said. “We look forward to having JJ back leading us next summer.”

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