Bradley Beal gets first taste of the NBA at Wizards workout

Katherine Frey/THE WASHINGTON POST - Wizards assistant Sam Cassell schools rookie Bradley Beal at minicamp.

A little less than two weeks ago, the Washington Wizards selected Bradley Beal with the No. 3 overall pick in the NBA draft. On Monday morning, the prized shooting guard donned a practice jersey for the first time as an official member of the team during the opening of minicamp at Verizon Center.

Beal joined 13 other attendees, including second-round pick Tomas Satoransky and 2011 selections Jan Vesely, Chris Singleton and Shelvin Mack, for a morning workout that lasted approximately two hours. They were back at it on Monday night in preparation for the NBA’s summer league in Las Vegas, which begins on Friday.

Wizards Coach Randy Wittman and his staff, meantime, intend to use the first four days of this week to acclimate Beal to the pace of the NBA and to gain familiarity with several of his new teammates who did not have the benefit of minicamp or summer league play last season during the lockout.

Although the only portion of the workout open to reporters was a relaxed post-practice shoot-around, Wittman indicated he presented Beal with plenty of information to process and did not hesitate to demand the most out of him physically. The rugged practice featuring mostly drills and half-court sets left Beal smiling afterward and eager for more of the same the rest of the week and in summer league.

“We got after it a lot,” Beal said. “Coach expects us to just play hard every possession, never take any possessions off. The speed is very different [from college]. The physicality is different as well. I mean there’s a lot of things I have to adjust to, but I think I’ll be fine.”

Beal especially has leaned on Mack for guidance because both play in the back court. Mack was the 34th pick in last year’s draft and spent last season backing up point guard John Wall, the top overall selection in 2010 around whom the Wizards are constructing their franchise.

Mack also spent four years at Butler, where he twice went to the Final Four and was part of a winning culture. Beal declared for the NBA draft after averaging 14.8 points per game during his only season at Florida.

Beal “is a competitor. He always wants to win,” Mack said. “I think that’s the great thing, especially coming to this team. You always want to take steps forward regarding winning. He’s a shooter. I was able to make some plays [in the workout], and he was able to knock down some shots, made it easy for me. I’m going to try to make it easy for him, the process.”

Shooting, particularly from midrange and beyond the three-point line, was high on the Wizards’ wish list in the offseason, and Beal’s June 14 pre-draft workout at Verizon Center confirmed he was the best available in that regard. The 6-foot-5 Beal was so enamored with the Wizards that he asked the club’s decision makers to promise they would draft him before he left the District.

There were some tense moments in the days, hours and minutes before the draft as reports surfaced the Cleveland Cavaliers were in negotiations with the Charlotte Bobcats to move into the No. 2 spot so they could draft Beal. The Wizards couldn’t exhale fully until those talks broke down and the Bobcats selected Kentucky’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

Officials in the Wizards’ draft room collectively cheered when that pick was made, and shortly thereafter team President Ernie Grunfeld got the player he had been targeting to complement Wall on an evolving roster. Eight days before the draft, Grunfeld acquired Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza from the New Orleans Hornets in exchange for Rashard Lewis and the 46th pick.

Beal, 19, officially became an NBA player on Friday by signing a rookie-scale contract. The first two years are guaranteed for approximately $8.3 million, and the Wizards have one-year options for the third and fourth years.

Beal “plays with a lot of confidence,” Wittman said. “He’s a confident kid, and he should be. Players of his caliber, that’s why he’s good. He’s got great confidence in who he is, and he came out there today like he knew what he was doing, and he didn’t have a clue what he was doing, if that makes any sense.”

Wizards note: The Wizards announced they have hired Don Newman to join Randy Wittman’s coaching staff. Newman spent the past seven seasons with the San Antonio Spurs and was a part of Coach Gregg Popovich’s staff that won two NBA titles.

“Don is an outstanding coach and a great addition to our staff,” Wittman said in statement. “He brings championship experience from his time with the Spurs and has been very successful in every stop of his career.”

 
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