About 90 minutes before the Wizards played the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday, Bradley Beal was on the court, in a T-shirt and shorts, warming up as he usually does before games. He stepped to the foul line and dropped free throw after free throw, displaying that pure shooting form. Only this time, Beal was knocking down all of his shots with his left hand.
Kevin Seraphin tried to contest him, so Beal stepped back and hit a jumper from about 18 feet, again with his left hand. Beal doesn’t claim to be ambidextrous but he isn’t exactly new to shooting with his left, after his mother, Besta, challenged him to develop the shot when he first started playing. At times, Beal actually shoots with his left to get a good rhythm and focus before going back to his natural right hand.
But with his right wrist taped up after sustaining a sprain in Denver on Jan. 18, Beal doesn’t have much choice but to shoot with the only hand that’s working. He’s even used it to hustle some money away from doubting teammates. Maybe.
“I actually bet a few guys,” Beal said. “I’m going to see if they’re going to be pay me, but I definitely won a few bets.”
Beal also won another honor earlier in the day after earning Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for the second time after leading all rookies in three-point shooting percentage (50.8) – becoming the first rookie since Stephen Curry in 2010 to connect on 50 percent of his three-pointers in a calendar month – and all rookies in the conference at 15.1 points per game. He had five games with at least 20 points, including a career-high 26 points in Sacramento.
“It just shows me that I’ve been playing well and I’m just trying to stay consistent. I can’t let this injury bother me,” Beal said of the award. “I just have to keep it going. Just staying confident and my teammates giving me that faith and confidence as well as coach, to be able to make plays and just be aggressive.”
First, Beal has to get back on the court and he isn’t certain when he will make his return after missing his second consecutive game in Memphis. He had to purchase a sport jacket to watch the Wizards lose 85-76 to the Grizzlies and is unlikely to suit up in San Antonio. During his visit to a hand specialist in New York this week, Beal was told that he should take his time before coming back and plans to heed the advice.
“I’m not going to rush back. Going to take my time and wait until it heals,” Beal said. “It’s always because the type of kid I am, it takes a lot for me not to play. If I’m hurt or not. But I have to be smart now. But if I want to have a long career and just finish the season out strong, I have to take care of my body more than anything. It’s real tough, but I’m still cheering my teammates on.”
Beal doesn’t want to be out too much longer, especially after he was named as a participant in the Rising Stars Challenge on Feb. 15 during all-star weekend in Houston.
“It’s a blessing. I’m really just there to represent myself, my family and the Wizards organization. I’m going to represent them proud and just try to do it all when I play,” Beal said, adding that he is anxious to see if he ends up playing for Team Chuck or Team Shaq. “It’s going to be hilarious, either way. It’s going to be all fun and games.”
The Wizards (11-34) have struggled since Beal was injured, going 3-5 the past eight games and losing three in a row. They are averaging just 82 points in the past two games. But Beal said he has to patient, no matter how much he wants to be out there out there to help the team get back on the right course.
“It hurts like heck,” Beal said. “Whenever I feel as though I’m going to be back to being 100 percent, I’ll definitely give it a shot. The doctor basically told me, it’s going to be sore, but I could barely move my wrist after I seen the doc. But the past few days I’ve been taking meds to help calm down all of the swelling and stiffness in my wrist and I’m really just staying on top of it, exercising and doing everything to maintain my body, but it’s just something I have to let heal on its own.”
But don’t expect him to return as the second-coming of Chris Mullin with those left-handed jumpers.
“It’s just a little thing I picked up to just have fun,” Beal said with a laugh.