“He came in the next day, gave me a fist pump, smiled and he was ready to go to work,” Lee said with a laugh, in a telephone interview. “From that moment on, I never had a problem with Bradley. He’s very grounded. He’s mature beyond his age.”
That maturity contributed to Beal leaving high school as the Gatorade national player of the year, leading Florida to the Elite Eight as a freshman, enter the NBA draft after one year and become the third overall selection for the Washington Wizards.
With the Wizards opening training camp on Tuesday with two of their cornerstone pieces — John Wall and Nene — sidelined with injuries, Coach Randy Wittman hasn’t tried to place any extra or unnecessary pressure on his only rookie. But Beal has already assumed that he will have to accept more responsibility and again play older than someone who turned 19 on draft night last June.
“I’ve been faced with this situation almost all my life. I’ve always had to grow up faster than what I am,” Beal said. “I’m mentally prepared for that, honestly. I’ve always been like that. I’m humble, and guys always say I act older than what I am so I always keep that mentality and make sure everything is focused and serious. It’s a business. So if I have to grow up fast, like everybody wants me to, I’m willing to do that.”
Beal was understandably disappointed when he discovered that he would have to wait awhile longer before he is allowed to share the backcourt with Wall, who will miss the next eight weeks with a stress injury in his left knee.
“We just have to move on, honestly,” he said. “Hopefully, he gets well soon, before the eight weeks are up. But I mean, I have this year, hopefully next year and years down the line [to play with Wall]. When that time comes, I’m definitely going to cherish it.”
Until then, Beal is anxious to assist in filling the scoring and leadership void in the absence of both Wall and Nene. “I may be young, but I can always lead by example and still be vocal in practice and things like that,” Beal said, adding that he expects the team to remain competitive this season despite the early setbacks. “I think this team can be great, honestly, with the assets that we have. Mr. [Ted] Leonsis said it himself; he said there is no reason we shouldn’t make it to the playoffs and not be in the lottery and I totally agree. We have older vets and we have a lot of youth, guys that are willing to win and sacrifice for the team. We have a great chance of making a run for the playoffs.”