By William J. Ford
One day after getting his second straight All-Star nod, Washington Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal credited his teammates with his success.
“I wouldn’t be where I’m standing without them,” he said Friday after practice at the Entertainment and Sports Arena in southeast D.C. “I mean that from my heart. This year, especially, with all we’ve been through — the injuries [and] rocky road we’re still experiencing. My teammates pushed me every day … and my coaches as well.”
The sixth-year guard carries an especially heavy load this season, with five-time All-Star John Wall undergoing season-ending heel surgery in December and key contributors Dwight Howard and Markieff Morris missing extended stretches with various injuries.
Beal, 25, leads the team in scoring, minutes played and 3-pointers made. League-wide, he is tied with New Orleans Pelicans center Anthony Davis for second in minutes per game at 37.
Beal also ranks 13th in scoring at nearly 25 points per game and tied for 13th in 3-point field goals made at 2.6 per game with Boston Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving.
Wizards head coach Scott Brooks said the most impressive improvement in Beal’s game is his defense.
“He gives us so many great looks offensively because he can score in so many ways, but the defense separates him from a lot of other two-guards in the league,” Brooks said. “He had a great summer and came back a much better player. He still has some opportunities to get better.”
The Wizards host the Milwaukee Bucks and All-Star forwards Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton on Saturday. The Bucks (37-13) come into town with the league’s best record.
Washington defeated Milwaukee on Jan. 11, but the Bucks were without superstar Antetokounmpo, who is tied for seventh in the league in rebounding (12.6) and ninth in scoring (26.4).
The Wizards (22-29) currently sit at the 10th spot in the Eastern Conference, 2 1/2 games from the eighth and final playoff spot behind the Charlotte Hornets (24-26).
Wizards owner Ted Leonsis said this week the team has no plans to break up its core of Beal, Wall and Otto Porter Jr. ahead of the league’s trade deadline Thursday. He also scoffed at the notion of tanking the rest of the season to improve Washington’s chances in this summer’s draft.
“We have to stay the course for this season,” Leonsis said.
Beal echoed those words Friday.
“Tanking is not in my vocabulary and it damn sure [isn’t] in Ted’s,” he said. “He believes in us and he’s not getting rid of us. We pretty much have to go out there and figure it out. We’re trying to make this push and it’s right in front of us. I’m going to do my best to lead us there.”
‘Pick Me Last’
The NBA will have captains choose teams from the pool of All-Stars for the second straight year. This season’s captains are Antetokounmpo and Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James.
The draft will be televised, but Beal doesn’t plan to watch.
“I think it’s dumb,” he said. “Why is it on TV?”
The only people who care about the draft order and subsequent slights — real or perceived — are fans and the media, Beal said.
“Who gives a damn?” he added. “We’re all All-Stars. You can pick me last, man. At the end of the day, I’m still an All-Star. It doesn’t change anything. People are going to be mad to be picked last. I don’t care. Pick me last.”
This article originally appeared in the Washington Informer.