Beal has shown so much potential at such a young age (he turns 20 on June 28), you can only wonder how good he’ll become once his body and game develop fully. Or if you work for the Wizards, you’re confident you already have a good idea of how high Beal could go. Responding to a reporter’s question the other day about whether Beal is headed to big things, Coach Randy Wittman put it this way: “We’re seeing it.”
With Beal, there’s certainly a lot to watch, having received the Eastern Conference’s rookie-of-the-month award for both December and January.
The perception around the league is that Beal took off once point guard John Wall returned from a knee injury, but Beal’s climb actually began earlier. Now, Beal is comfortable, confident — he recently chewed out teammates for their lackadaisical play — and convinced that he’s capable of delivering for the Wizards for a long time.
“The fact that people are starting to notice what I’m capable of doing, yeah, I like that,” Beal said. “Sometimes [early in the season], I took a back seat too much just wanting to fit in. There were times I should have been more aggressive, more assertive. Now, I’m attacking.”
Although Beal’s statistics have steadily improved (he scored a career-high 29 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in Friday’s loss to the Knicks), the Wizards’ excitement about Beal is based on much more than numbers. Unlike most rookies, who in this one-and-done era of college basketball enter the league with no clue on how to play, Beal, who left Florida after his freshman season, has court awareness. He understands that in-game situations — the score, an opponent’s defensive scheme, who’s in the lineup with him, etc. — actually are important to consider before making a move.
On several plays in Wednesday’s 96-95 loss to Detroit, Beal showed that he just gets it. In the first quarter, Beal was isolated near the right sideline against Pistons guard Brandon Knight. Recognizing that the Pistons weren’t providing Knight with double-team help, Beal made a turnaround jumper instead of passing the ball with the shot clock close to expiring.
“The game has slowed down,” Beal said. “I’m making better reads.”
Preparation helps. No one on the roster works harder than Beal, Wizards officials say. Even after completing early shooting drills on game days, Beal continues to shoot by himself long after his teammates have left the arena. He trains daily on his own. Beal wants to be great. He won’t fall short for lack of effort.