There’s a tradition in the NBA, as well as most sports, that says a starter doesn’t lose his spot due to injury. Not all coaches adhere to it, but it’s common for a key player who’s gotten hurt in the line of duty to be ushered back into his usual role regardless of how well a replacement has played.
But can a team offer the same assurance to a star and his spotlight? OK, so maybe that’s a bit melodramatic, but the way Bradley Beal has played lately for the Washington Wizards, the sooner-rather-than-later return of All-Star point guard John Wall from left knee issues is a potential issue of ball and scoring sharing. Given the 110 points Beal has poured in over Washington’s past three games, no one associated with the Wizards wants to see the shooting guard suddenly go cold or get shy. Least of all Wall, writes Candace Buckner of The Washington Post:
Beal eventually will come back down to earth. But Wall doesn’t want to be the reason behind this inevitable descent.
“We got to find a way to still keep him in his rhythm when I come back,” Wall said, “Keep him the same zone that he’s in.”
Wall has missed the last eight games after receiving platelet-rich plasma and viscosupplementation in his left knee. But during the team’s stop in Los Angeles, Wall participated in his first practice in two weeks; an encouraging sign that he could soon return as the starting point guard. When he does, he’ll assume his role as top dog in the offense and the dominant ballhandler
“[Beal is] going to have opportunities to score a good amount of points. But Brad, he’s all about doing the right things and being aggressive and making the right plays,” Coach Scott Brooks said. “John is a 20-something point scorer himself, so do the math. There’s going to be less shots but the bottom line is as long as they’re good shots we have a lot of scorers in our starting lineup.”
Being handed the keys to Washington’s offense in Wall’s absence, and playing with aggression, have been vital to Beal’s hot stretch. Brooks can get a second set of keys cut so both his backcourt stars have them, but it’s on Beal to maintain the latter.