Bradley Beal grew up in a household with extra large, football-playing brothers, so taking hits is nothing new to him. He’s prepared to make shots and take shots from opponents and is often looking for contact when he drives into the lane – such as his leaning, kicking, underhand scoop layup during the Wizards’ 108-101 loss to the New York Knicks.
And two games into his preseason career, Beal is already taking notes on what he has learned from playing against wily veterans and the men with the whistles.
“More than likely, once you hit a defender, likely the foul’s going to be called on the defender,” Beal said. “I mean the refs always told me that, so I just try to find a way to get the ball up to the rim as best I can.”
A fan of driving daredevil Allen Iverson while growing up in St. Louis, Beal took a game-high seven free throw attempts, making six, while scoring 15 points in just 26 minutes in his home exhibition debut. Beal’s teammates also noticed the tenacity in attacking the rim and praised him for not settling on being a jump shooter.
Martell Webster wondered if Beal’s pre-draft comparisons were a bit off-base.
“He says he wants to compare himself to Ray Allen, but he has a little more flash than Ray Allen,” Webster said. “I’d say he has a little of The Flash – [Dwyane] Wade – in him.”
Beal is certainly closer in height to Wade than Allen. He is also crafty and has deceptive speed, though nothing close to the way Wade blazed across the floor early in his career.
Wade also didn’t enter the league with a reputation as a shooter and hardly ever took three-pointers in his first five seasons; he essentially eliminated them from his arsenal last season. But the two-time NBA champion and former NBA Finals MVP has made a living from the foul line, averaging almost nine free attempts per game throughout his career. Webster thinks Beal might be able to do the same.
“He can slash, put it on the floor, and make contact,” Webster said. “That’s big. When you can establish yourself at the free throw line, seven, eight times a game, that’s a big difference. He’s got it. He’s still a rookie. He’s learning the basics. If he keeps watching the players that he admires, take little bits and add them to himself, he’ll be a star in this league.”
Beal is averaging a team-best 16.5 points through the first two games as a reserve, serving as a much-needed jolt to a stagnant offense in both games, and Coach Randy Wittman intimated that he might be used in a different capacity as the Wizards get set to play their next six games on the road.
“He’s had two solid games for a kid coming in, for his first NBA action,” Wittman said. “I thought he’s been aggressive. He’s looked at his opportunities. He’s come off the bench both times. Starting and coming off the bench are two different things. We’re going to look at him in different combinations.”
The Wizards have lost their first two games to Charlotte and New York by a combined 19 points, but they have outscored their opponents by a combined 13 points with Beal on the floor. Beal helped ignite a 22-0 second-quarter run against the Knicks, scoring seven points during the rally, but he was limited to just three points on just three field goal attempts in the second half.
“It’s just within the flow of the game, honestly,” Beal said. “I kind of took myself out of the game. I wasn’t as aggressive as I was in the first half attacking the basket and finding a way to get open. I mean, that happens. I just have to find a way to get open. I mean, that just happens. I have to stay aggressive and just keep playing ball.”
Jannero Pargo finally got to share the floor with Beal on Thursday and noticed how the rookie manages to stay under control.
“I’m very impressed. I think he’s poised beyond his years,” Pargo said. “Not moving to fast, just playing at a nice pace. He plays the game at his own pace. He’s not rattled by anything. He takes the game as it comes to him and plays aggressive.”