Bradley Beal’s teammates were more relieved than disappointed when they found out that the promising rookie shooting guard was shut down for the remainder of the season with a stress injury in his right fibula.
The Wizards are surely going to miss Beal’s shooting and occasional playmaking ability during the final seven games of the season, but they also know that it is best that he takes care of his body first.
“He been battling that ankle injury for pretty much all year,” reserve point guard A.J. Price said after the Wizards lost, 88-78, in Toronto. “So it was in his best interest to do what he needed to do for his future, because he’s been battling that injury for a long time and he gave us all that he could.”
Beal had sprained both ankles at different times since the preseason, but was eager to keep competing and playing through the pain until he simply had to stop. He will wind up missing 26 games in his rookie season, but still managed to earn the respect from his teammates and coaches for his toughness, dedication and talent.
“He’s young, athletic. He played with confidence and we definitely miss him,” Nene said.
Beal will be held out of basketball-related activities for about six weeks. Center Emeka Okafor didn’t know that Beal was done for the rest of the season until after the game, but wants the 19-year-old to “make sure this injury doesn’t get worse and he gets a good offseason and gets ready for next season.”
After a rough start to his career, Beal eventually settled down in December and started to show in January why the Wizards made him the third overall pick of the 2012 draft. Beal recorded 10 of his 13 20-point games between Jan. 1 and March 3, before he sustained the most debilitating ankle sprain of the season. He missed 11 of the next 14 games before scoring 24 points in a win on Sunday over the Toronto Raptors.
“He was feeling fine. The Toronto game, there was no problems at all,” Coach Randy Wittman said. “It’s just sometimes, when you have a recurring thing of turning [your ankles], it was just after what happened [against Chicago on Monday], saw him limping a little bit. He came down with [Bulls point guard Kirk] Hinrich and he felt a little bit of pain in there again. Left leg, right leg. It was the right thing to do. He just needs rest. He’ll be fine.”
Beal averaged 13.9 points, shot 38.6 percent from beyond the three-point and established a new franchise record with 91 three-pointers. But in 25 games with Wall, Beal averaged 15 points, shot 46.8 percent from the floor and 46.6 percent from beyond the three-point line. He also made 48 of his three-pointers during that span.
“It’s going to be tough, but we’ve been playing through a lot of different guys being injured and out of the lineup for the whole year,” John Wall said. “We know we just have to go out there and keep fighting. That’s another reason we just go out there and compete when one of your brothers is missing.”
The Wizards (28-47) don’t have any immediate plans to sign a player to replace Beal and expect Price, Garrett Temple and Cartier Martin to take over the minutes that need to be filled in Beal’s absence. Temple has started the past 15 games for the Wizards and they have a 13-10 record with him starting in the backcourt next to Wall.
“We need do our job to make shots, for John, the team,” Price said. “We can’t really pack it in on us as much. Brad did so much in spacing the floor. You had to respect his shooting ability. Garrett and myself need to try to bring the same thing that he would bring.”
Martin hasn’t played much this season because of injuries and improved perimeter depth, but the current opportunity is not lost on him.
“Got to approach them like we can win every one, even with the young fella going down for the season,” Martin said of the final seven games. “We have to pick up from where he was leaving off, continue to try to fight and win as many games as we can to finish the season. I have to pick my game up to another level. I know it’s toward the end of the season, but this is big for me, as far as my career and showing everybody what I can do. It’s important to try to help this team win and play the best basketball that I can, try to take off some of the slack for some of the other guys.”