Wall, Beal say they’re on same page

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Stephen Whyno

With only one ball John Wall and Bradley Beal know they have to share it.

The dy­namic back­court duo is stand­ing squarely in the lime­light and need to co­ex­ist suc­cess­fully for the Wash­ing­ton Wizards to get back to the play­offs. Wall is healthy again af­ter hav­ing surgery on each knee, and Beal is fresh off sign­ing a $128 mil­lion, five-year con­tract that ranked among the rich­est in the NBA this off­sea­son. Wall con­ceded dur­ing the sum­mer that he and Beal have a “ten­dency to dis­like each other on the court.” It’s a point of ten­sion but one they say won’t cre­ate cracks in the Wizards’ fran­chise foun­da­tion.

“We’re just two com­pet­i­tive peo­ple,” Wall said re­cently. “When­ever you have your two best play­ers and they both want the gamewin­ning shot and want those type of plays, you’re go­ing to have dis­agree­ments on the court. But other than that, we’re fine.”

Wall and Beal are com­ing off ca­reer highs in points and a low in team suc­cess as Wash­ing­ton fin­ished .500 and missed the play­offs af­ter two con­sec­u­tive post­sea­son ap­pear­ances. New coach Scott Brooks is in the midst of in­stalling a de­fense-first men­tal­ity and is count­ing on Wall and Beal to set the tone there. To be lead­ers de­fen­sively, Wall and Beal have to be on the same page. They say they are, even if some­times they ar­gue like broth­ers.

“We both re­al­ize that that’s what’s im­por­tant here: us win­ning games, us be­ing lead­ers of a team and us grow­ing as a back­court to­gether,” Beal said. “I’m go­ing to be here an­other five years; he’s go­ing to be here for hope­fully the rest of his ca­reer, as well. We have a great sys­tem, a great team, our chem­istry’s great. Me and John are fine, and we’re go­ing to be in the rank­ings of the best back­courts.”

The Wizards don’t usu­ally make those rank­ings, and be­ing over­looked is some­thing that mo­ti­vates Wall and Beal. Brooks, who doesn’t mind healthy dis­agree­ments and be­lieves they are a sign of a strong team, wants his top play­ers to be fu­eled by slights but not dis­tracted by them.

“You still want to play with a chip on your shoul­der,” Brooks said Tues­day. “Ev­ery team has tal­ent and ev­ery team has a lot of skilled play­ers, but when you have a guy like Brad and John, you want that. You want that in them.

That’s what gets them go­ing.” Wall and Beal push each other as much as any­thing, even if that can cause fric­tion. Wall just wants to down­play the ef­fect that fric­tion has on the Wizards’ suc­cess.

“With Brad, peo­ple want to put words in your mouth and make it seem like it’s worse than what it was,” he said. “Nah. We all knew Brad was go­ing to get paid a cer­tain con­tract and he de­serves it. All I said is the same thing I did — when I got paid, ev­ery­body said oh I didn’t de­serve it. We just got to go and prove it.

“I think when he’s healthy, he’s proven that he can play in this league. He can be an all-star, he can be one of the best two-way play­ers.”

Wall will get eased into an­other prove-it sea­son and ex­pects to play around 32 min­utes in the Wizards opener Thurs­day at the At­lanta Hawks. With Brooks want­ing to keep Wall’s min­utes in the low-30 range, he’d also like the 23-yearold Beal to take over some more of the ball-dis­tri­bu­tion re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and cre­ate for team­mates as much as he looks for his own shot.

“We have a lot of play­ers that can make plays,” Brooks said. “I think Brad has re­ally im­proved in that area. That’s one of the things I’ve chal­lenged him when I first took over the job in May is to be a bet­ter play­maker. I think he can be one of the best two-way off guards in the league. That growth has to hap­pen.”

ALEX BRAN­DON — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Wash­ing­ton Wizards guard John Wall (2) and Wash­ing­ton Wizards guard Bradley Beal (3) stand on the court dur­ing an NBA basketball game against the Min­nesota Tim­ber­wolves, in Wash­ing­ton on March 25.

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