Bradley Beal wins Eastern Conference rookie of the month

January 3, 2013

I’m honored and blessed. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

The losses continue to pile up for the Wizards (4-26), threatening to bury Bradley Beal under a mountain of misery. But Beal refuses to succumb to his circumstances, continues to work on improving and is starting to see some cracks of light through a challenging rookie campaign.

Though he would’ve preferred two wins over Dallas and Indiana, the first two days of 2013 have wrought some positive recognition for Beal. A day after receiving his personal bobblehead – which he liked while admitting it bared little resemblance to him – Beal was named Eastern Conference rookie of the month on Wednesday after averaging 13.4 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.4 assists in December.

“It’s a blessing waiting to happen. A great moment for me,” Beal said. “I’m honored and blessed for this situation. It’s just an accomplishment that I have to keep working. I can’t settle for what I have now. I have to keep climbing the ladder now.”

Beal scored at least 14 points in eight of his 12 games last month, leading all rookies in the conference in scoring and total assists (41). He also matched his career-high with three three-pointers while scoring 20 points in Houston and connected on a career-high eight field goals in a 100-95 loss in Atlanta, where he had a 14-point third quarter.

“My best month, so far,” Beal said. “Just being comfortable, knowing where my shots are coming and they are playing good defense as well. Just letting the game come to me. Like I said, the game is starting to slow down for me and come together now.”

Beal became the first Wizard to claim the award since John Wall won four in a row from January 2011 to April 2011. Brendan Haywood (December 2001), Courtney Alexander (April 2001), Juwan Howard (February 1995) and Jeff Ruland (January 1982) are the only other Washington players to claim the award since the league started handing out the honor in 1981.

“I’m proud of him, to get that honor in the East, here,” Coach Randy Wittman said. “Shows that he’s coming along. Now he’s got to continue to do that. He should strive to have that every month, play up to that caliber of trying to do those things. It’s a good honor for him, but he’s got to take it another step.”

Beal has already gotten off to a decent start in January, averaging 18 points through the first two games. He matched his career high with 22 points in the Wizards’ 103-94 loss to Dallas. He is shooting 41.9 percent this month, after connecting on just 35.2 percent of his shots in his first 26 games.

“I’m just making shots now,” Beal said with a laugh. “I feel my shot selection is the same. I’m still taking smart shots. Not forcing anything. Now I’m shooting with more confidence and they’re falling now. Earlier in the year, it wasn’t that way. That’s one thing I’ve been trying to work on is my consistency. I just have to keep working and staying with it.”

Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard claimed Western Conference rookie of the month honors for the second time after leading all rookies with 18.4 points and 6.3 assists. Charlotte’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was Eastern Conference rookie of the month in November.

Michael Lee is the national basketball writer for The Washington Post.
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