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Bradley Beal joined ESPN’s Zach Lowe on the most recent episode of “The Lowe Post” podcast. Beal and Lowe discussed everything from Beal’s All-Star omission, the NBA’s hiatus, his relationship with John Wall, the Wizards’ future and the expansive work he’s done in the community this season.
In what has been the best year of Beal’s career so far, highlighted by 10 games with at least 40 points, a streak of 21 games with at least 25 points, including 53 and 55 points on back-to-back nights and a scoring average above 30.0, he was left off the All-Star roster. Lowe opened the podcast by giving Beal the opportunity to address the omission:
“I was angry, but I wouldn’t say I played angry because of that,” Beal said. “At the end of the day, I wanted to make the playoffs. The All-Star game was what it was. I’m not mad at you for your votes. For me, I will never take that moment away from the other 24 guys. Because that was me two years ago and a year ago. I can’t sit here and take that moment away from Jayson Tatum and Donovan Mitchell and guys who got their first one. I can’t sit here and do that. But for sure, I feel like I deserved it, my numbers and the way I was playing and the impact I had on my team showed that I should have been an All-Star. I think the players around the league showed that. I think the fact that the players voted me to actually start in the game was a sign in and of itself that I should have been one. I didn’t let it break me. I just continued to work.”
And work he did. In the days surrounding the announcement that Beal was not selected, he began the best scoring run of his career, a 21-game streak of games with at least 25 points. Forty-point games against the Hawks, Bucks and Warriors. A stretch of five wins in seven games. Two weeks later, back-to-back 50-pointers against the Bulls and Bucks. Then a 42-point, 10-assist showing against the Jazz. The streak propelled Beal’s scoring average above 30.0 points, something only four players this decade to accomplish that over the course of an entire season.
Beal said that averaging 30.0 points per game has been a goal of his for the last couple years. According to Beal, he and his trainer, Drew Hanlen, met two years ago and assessed what Beal needed to do to take his career to an All-Star level. He asked Hanlen if he thought averaging 30.0 point was realistic, to which Hanlen said “yes and no.” Hanlen told Beal he needed to make strides both from beyond the arc and at the free throw line, but agreed that it was feasible. Beal said that as soon as he adopted 30.0 points per game as a goal, scoring came easier to him.
Beal’s ability to maintain his current average could depend on the status of the league and how many of the Wizards’ remaining games actually get played. Beal offered this when asked by Lowe about the viability of resuming the season and what he is doing to stay ready:
“We haven’t been doing anything for a month, going on two, who knows how long,” Beal said. “I think ultimately, not just for me, that plays a factor for everybody in the league. I don’t think anybody can come back and just go from zero to 100 and pick up right where we left off. There’s going to be some bad basketball if that’s the case…For me, I always want to compete and play. It’s a blessing for me at this time. I actually have a gym in my house so I’m still getting my shots up, I’m still getting my work in the weight room so hopefully I can pick up right where we left off if we do resume the season.”
Much of Beal’s success this season has come as a result of him taking on a greater workload. Beal’s usage rate (34.4) is the highest of his career by six percentage points and ranks fifth in the league this season. That weight and responsibility is not just something that he welcomes, but was one of the driving factors in his decision to sign an extension last summer
“I have an organization who basically gave me the keys,” Beal said. “‘We’re going to build around you. We’re going to get guys around like’ – if I go anywhere else, granted, it may be a good team, but I would be a piece. Who knows if my role would be the same? My role here is, I love what it is. I love [Scott] Brooks. I love what we have. I love our young guys. I think the fact that we actually have guys that are committed to getting better.”
The Wizards have made clear their dedication to building for the future and Beal has backed up his own interest in being a part of that process. The 2019-20 season has been, from the beginning, labeled as a developmental opportunity to put the team in prime position to compete in the coming years. A big piece of hitting the peak that Beal and the rest of the organization are looking toward is the return of John Wall. Lowe asked Beal about his relationship with Wall, their past and their future.
“We were close way before I even got into the league,” Beal said of Wall. “Even now, he’s a big brother to me. He’s taken me under his wing since day one. We’re still like that to this day. We’re both alpha dogs. We both feel like we’re winners. We both want to take the shot at the end of the game. That’s just how we are. At the end of the day, I think we both trust each other. I know I wouldn’t be who I am without him and he wouldn’t be part of who he is without me either. I think we both have that understanding.”
“I actually think you guys have been and underrated playoff team since you got there since, you and John got there,” Lowe said. “No one in the league is excited to play Wall and Beal in the playoffs. When they see you coming up on the series, they’re like ‘those are two star players,’. That’s just a pain in the ass to deal with.”
Along with Beal and Wall leading the way, the Wizards’ collection of young players will play a sizeable role in the team’s ability to jump back into contention. Chief among them is Rui Hachimura, who has shown throughout his rookie season a high basketball IQ, versatility and a skillset well-suited for the modern NBA. Beal talked about the first time he saw Rui in action last summer and was impressed by his ability to do a little bit of everything.
“I was like, he has a high ceiling,” Beal said of Hachimura. “He’s not really a four. We can make him into a three. We can make him into a playmaker. He can post those smaller guys. He can guard those bigger guys. He’s very versatile in a lot of ways. I think his ceiling is high. I love him. He’s a workhorse.”
Lastly, Lowe asked Beal about the sizeable amount of work he’s done off the court in recent years, serving as a mentor to students at Ron Brown High School in Washington, D.C.
“It’s a brand-new school,” Beal explained. “It’s only been open four years, so this is their first year having seniors. I’ve been building a relationship with these guys since they were freshman, so I’ve been able to see them migrate through their last couple years of high school and this year, planning some college tours for the seniors. To actually go to some different HBCUs around the city. Howard, Hampton, different schools around the area, Morgan State…Just to give them the idea and a push to see that college is right there in their grasp.”
“There are plenty of schools in the area that would take them, that would love them, that they have an opportunity to succeed at whether its academically or in the sports realm. For me, it was just trying to be a mentor as much as I possibly could. Helping the basketball team, providing gear for them. During this time, I’m buying the school about 50-100 laptops so the seniors can finish their senior year. Just trying to give them some light, trying to share gems as much as possible. Trying to uplift these young men to be great and be who they want to be and know anything is possible.”