Beal break­ing out with more re­spon­si­bil­ity in back­court

Guard shoul­ders load, trusts team­mates with Wall on side­lines

Baltimore Sun - - NBA - By Sa­man­tha Pell

Wash­ing­ton Wizards guard Bradley Beal pon­dered the ques­tion for a split sec­ond, his eyes look­ing past the small herd of re­porters in front of him and onto the team’s prac­tice court.

The seven-year NBA vet­eran had been asked about his mental ap­proach to the game when play­ing with­out fel­low all-star guard John Wall, as was the case Wed­nes­day night against At­lanta, and in the 41 games Wall missed last sea­son be­cause of left knee surgery and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion.

“I just trust my team­mates,” Beal said Fri­day at the Wizards’ prac­tice fa­cil­ity, bring­ing his at­ten­tion back to the group. “I just play the same way I would if John was play­ing. Granted, I have to be a lot more ag­gres­sive and I tell my­self I can’t do it by my­self, and that’s all it is. It’s the re­al­iza­tion that I am not go­ing to win this game by my­self and I have to trust my team­mates and de­pend on them to make plays and de­pend on them to knock down shots and get stops on de­fense just as well as I do.

Wall did not travel with the team to At­lanta due to per­sonal rea­sons, and it’s not yet clear when he’ll re­turn. With­out Wall, Beal shoul­dered the of­fen­sive load in the Wizards’ 131-117 win over the Hawks. The 25-year-old scored a sea­son-high 36 points, tal­lied nine as­sists and col­lected six re­bounds, help­ing ex­tend Wash­ing­ton’s win streak to three games. The Wizards face the Cava­liers tonight in Cleve­land.

Wed­nes­day’s game was the first Wall has missed dur­ing the Wizards’ 11-14 start. With­out Wall, Wizards coach Scott Brooks tweaked his start­ing lineup against the Hawks, start­ing three ball­han­dling guards in Beal, Austin Rivers and To­mas Sa­toran­sky.

“Ev­ery­one has to step up when he is out,” Beal said of Wall. “He car­ries such an of­fen­sive load of get­ting TV: Ra­dio: ev­ery­body shots, at­tack­ing the bas­ket, get­ting to the free throw line and cre­at­ing for ev­ery­body.”

Wall did not prac­tice with the team on Fri­day in Wash­ing­ton and Brooks did not say if Wall would play against the Cava­liers. Brooks said has talked to Wall in the last day or two and said, “ev­ery­body was good.” With Wall’s sta­tus still un­cer­tain, Beal could once again be looked upon to carry the team’s of­fen­sive pro­duc­tion. The sev­enth-year guard is qui­etly av­er­ag­ing 22.4 points, 4.4 as­sists and 4.4 re­bounds per game.

“I was due for a game like that I guess,” Beal said of his per­for­mance in At­lanta. “That is kind of al­ways our mind-set when some­times we have off nights or we don’t have big nights; weal­ways say we are due for one, and I guess that was just that mo­ment. That is def­i­nitely a good game to build off of and keep the mo­men­tum go­ing.”

Lean­ing off last sea­son’s ex­pe­ri­ence, Beal said he un­der­stands that he has to be a “lit­tle bit” more ag­gres­sive in Wall’s ab­sence. He stressed the im­por­tance of be­ing smart about fouls and more aware of his de­ci­sion-mak­ing on the floor, of play­ing off the ball and “let­ting the game come to me and not forc­ing any­thing.”

Wizards power for­ward Marki­eff Morris said he’s seen that flash from Beal ev­ery day, but that the team knew Beal had to be more ag­gres­sive on and off the ball with­out Wall on the court.

“I thought he was go­ing to go for 50, but he cut it short,” Morris said. “[Al­most] to 40. Same thing, though.”

With Beal the less overtly flashy of the two guards, his all-around game is some­times over­looked. Brooks said it was “good for him to bust out and have that type of game,” but he still wants to see im­prove­ment from Beal be­hind the 3-point arc. Beal is av­er­ag­ing 2.2 made 3-point­ers per game, while at­tempt­ing an av­er­age of 6.9.

“He’s def­i­nitely been due for a big game of­fen­sively,” Brooks said. “He bat­tles. The thing I love about Brad is that he is an all-around player. He can have a bad shoot­ing night — and we don’t want that — but he can have one and still have an im­pact on our team with his de­fense and his over­all play­mak­ing abil­ity. I think the last [few] years now he has re­ally im­proved his play­mak­ing.”

TRADE: The Wizards ac­quired for­ward Sam Dekker from the Cleve­land Cava­liers as part of a three-team trade with the Mil­wau­kee Bucks. As part of the deal, the Wizards sent Ja­son Smith and cash con­sid­er­a­tions to the Bucks and a 2022 sec­ond round draft pick to the Cava­liers.

JA­SON DECROW/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Guard Bradley Beal, driv­ing to the bas­ket against the Knicks’ Mitchell Robinson, is lead­ing the Wizards, av­er­ag­ing 22.4 points a game.

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