Miami Heat all-star guard Dwyane Wade can probably relate to rookie Bradley Beal’s early struggles better than most. Wade started his NBA career with seven straight losses and couldn’t find many reasons for optimism.
“I remember I was sleeping a lot. I was tired,” Wade said. “I didn’t think I was going to win a game. I was like, ‘Aw man, we might go 0-82.’ ”
With a promising first-round pick opening the season with a left knee injury (Caron Butler) and a big free agent acquisition still working himself back into shape (Lamar Odom), Wade was having a hard time adjusting to the league and learning an unfamiliar position (the Heat was trying to convert him into a point guard).
Beal is in his natural position at shooting guard but he has opened his career with John Wall on the shelf because of stress injury in his left knee and Nene easing himself back after missing three months with a sore left foot. He has managed to stay positive – at least publicly – about the Wizards’ 1-13 start, but he admitted that not performing at the high level he anticipated moved him to tears after his first two games.
Wade advised Beal to stay with it.
“He has talent,” Wade said. “You watch film on him and you see that he has potential to be a really good player in this league. He has no reason to be down at all. He’s got to continue to keep working like he’s always done. That’s the one thing.”
Beal has drawn comparisons to Wade and future Hall of Fame Heat guard Ray Allen but he understands that he has a long way to go before he is mentioned with those two legendary players. He is averaging 11 points on just 33.6 percent shooting in his first season.
When asked which career he would most like to duplicate, Beal smiled and said, “Can’t complain with either one to be honest with you. They’re like two opposites. Ray’s like a complete shooter. D-Wade a complete slasher. To have both of them would be great. Both of them I’m not even going to choose one.”
Beal would probably also like to have the same finish as Wade’s rookie season, which ended with the Heat having a complete turnaround and finishing with a 42-40 record and the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference.
“You’ve got to keep believing,” Wade said. “Anything can happen. We made the playoffs that year and into the second round. Anything can happen. It takes one game. It takes one moment. The biggest thing is, you’ve got to have people around you that believe and believe that it can change.”
When asked if then-coach Stan Van Gundy stayed positive through the rough start, Wade quipped, “He stayed yelling.”
“We had good talent,” Wade said of the 2003-04 Heat. “It just took us time to put it together. Once we put it together, by the end of the season, we was one of the toughest teams to play. You’ve got to stick with it because you never know.”
The Wizards have a much steeper hill to climb, especially with Wall’s return still an unknown. But even if Beal and the Wizards are unable to make significant progress the rest of the way, Wade said Beal should never lose focus about what he wants to make of his career.
Kevin “Garnett told me, back in the day – when he used to talk to young players. I remember when we was struggling and he was in Minnesota and after the game, he grabbed me by the head and said, ‘No matter how bad your team looks right now, never give up on the game, never give up on the guys. Always give it your all.’ I always remember that as a young player,” Wade said.
“So I remember doing the same thing to John Wall and telling him, ‘You’ve got to always work your habits to be a great player. Just because you have a bad record or things are looking bad, you can’t get in that habit of being one of those players. You have to continue to work to be great.’ Same thing with Bradley Beal. He’s a young player in this league, so this year, he might not even remember one day.”