Without Wall, Beal insists most pressure comes from within
WASHINGTON (AP) — Entering the preseason with backcourt mate John Wall sidelined due to injury, Bradley Beal insists most of the pressure to be the Washington Wizards’ leader is coming from within.
“It’s no problem,” Beal said Monday at the team’s media day. “I think I would probably say I force myself into that role versus maybe a coach or the team. It’s definitely going to be harder. But John’s still going to be around. He’ll still have a voice. I’ll have a voice.”
Beal already has spent much of the past two seasons without Wall while Wall dealt with numerous injuries. The most recent and serious was a ruptured Achilles, with recovery expected to keep the point guard out until at least February.
Although the Wizards — who were hit with other injuries as well — fell short of the postseason last year, Beal thrived, averaging 25.6 points, 5.5 assists and 5 rebounds while playing all 82 games.
Coach Scott Brooks believes the two-time All-Star is capable of even more as a distributor.
“I think Brad can be a six- or seven-assist guy this year,” Brooks said. “I think he can even take it to another level.”
Whether that gets the Wizards back to the postseason is another matter. Beal is one of only two certain starters, alongside third-year center Thomas Bryant. Gone are veterans Dwight Howard, Jeff Green, Markieff Morris and Trevor Ariza, while incoming guards C.J. Miles (stress fracture) and Isaiah Thomas (thumb) aren’t yet practicing.
Of 20 players currently under team control, 14 have three years’ NBA experience or fewer. But Wall thinks that might be helpful as Beal stamps his identity on the group.
“It’s always tough to play on a team that’s got so many guys on one-year deals,” Wall said. “Everybody is trying to play at a high level and make sure they get theirs.”
Other things to know about the Wizards:
NO SET TIMELINE
Brooks insisted the team will not rush Wall back after he had surgery last February.
“There’s a good chance that he misses most of the season, if not all of the season,” Brooks said. “He’s not going to play until he’s ready 100%. And he understands that. But what I love about John is he’s going to fight us over it. He’s going to challenge us over it.”
Wall also pledged patience.
“Only me can know how my body feels,” Wall said. “Everybody has a deadline of, ‘OK, at a year point, you’re supposed to be playing basketball.’ It doesn’t always work that way.”
With the uncertainty surrounding the Wizards’ depth chart, there’s clearly an opportunity for 2019 ninth overall draft pick Rui Hachimura to earn a starting spot. However, Brooks said it won’t be doled out just for the purpose of development.
“You have to earn minutes and you have to earn your starting job, and it’s going to be there for him to earn it,” Brooks said.
Brooks said the 6-foot-9, 230-pound Hachimura will see most reps at power forward but could play any of the three front-court positions.
“He’s not a legit 4, he’s not a legit 3,” Beal said. “It’s kind of the best thing about him. Because now we can mold him into what we need him to be.”
ONE THUMB DOWN
Thomas played only 44 games over the past two seasons because of the effects of a torn hip labrum that resulted in surgery last March. He currently is recovering from a procedure on his left thumb, which he hurt while working out at the team’s practice facility.
“I thought I just jammed my finger, and then the next day it was like swelling in it and it was a little purple,” Thomas said. “Unfortunately, it was a torn ligament.”