Washington Wizards rookie Bradley Beal taking it all in before real work begins
By Michael Lee,
Since the Washington Wizards drafted him third overall last June, Bradley Beal has already been thrown into a summer league minicamp at Verizon Center, earned first-team honors for his performance at Las Vegas Summer League and been back to Sin City for another three-day training session with rookies and young veterans at longtime NBA assistant Tim Grgurich’s developmental camp.
Even though Beal has been going almost nonstop since declaring for the draft after one season at Florida, the real work doesn’t start for almost another five weeks, when the 19-year-old Beal will have to lace them up in his first NBA training camp.
“The time is coming pretty quick,” Beal said in a recent telephone interview. “At the same time, I’m just really enjoying this. You only get to go through this once, so it’s always great to sit back, relax and take it all in.”
But before he got the chance to sneak in a few more movies — his summer pastime when not working on his game — or hang out with his family in St. Louis and friends in Gainesville, Fla., Beal was back in the classroom gathering knowledge about what awaits him as a professional basketball player at the NBA’s annual Rookie Transition Program.
After being wiped out last season because of the NBA lockout, the RTP — created in 1986 and run jointly between the league and the National Basketball Players Association — returned to offer lessons on finances, health, groupies and other challenges to the past two draft classes. Second-year players Chris Singleton and Shelvin Mack of the Wizards also participated in the four-day program, which was held at a hotel conference center in New Jersey and concluded Monday.
“I think the thing we hope that they gain is . . . a better understanding of their overall role in the business, besides being players, but how they are also representatives of themselves and the NBA,” said Michael Bantom, NBA senior vice president of player development. “Also, we show them how important it is to think about the decisions that they are going to make, because there are so many decisions that they make on a daily basis, in a lot of different areas in their life that can have an impact on their career. We do that through education, but also through pitfalls and errors that have made by others in the past.”
Legendary players such as Bill Russell and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar passed along tales of their exploits in the NBA, while another former player, Chris Herren, explained how his career was derailed because of a dependency on drugs. Beal had heard about Herren’s fall when Florida Coach Billy Donovan invited Herren to share his story with the team last season, but the message still resonated.
“It’s a powerful story and it helps you actually realize how valuable life is,” Beal said, adding that the entire crash course was informative, especially after just signing a deal that will pay him $4.13 million this season. “I think the biggest thing I’m taking from this, how to handle your finances. Because you hear a lot about people possibly going bankrupt when they’re out of the NBA.”
Just as Beal doesn’t plan to get ahead of himself as it relates to money, he also doesn’t plan to arrive at George Mason University for his first official NBA practice with any preconceived notions about his role on the team.
“I want to just come in and try to earn everything. I don’t want anything given to me. I want to earn everything and show these guys that I’m a hard worker and I’m a winner,” Beal said. “You know we have a young team, but we have a few vets as well and I just want to come in and try to set the tone and try to get this team back on a winning pace.”
Beal averaged 17.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.8 assists while leading the Wizards to a 3-2 record last month during summer league but believes he has plenty of room to improve. “I can always get better. I just want to be more aggressive and contribute a little bit more than what I did,” he said. “I think overall I had a solid performance, but I’m still pretty happy.”
The Wizards had one day off between games in Las Vegas and Beal used the time as an opportunity to develop a better off-court chemistry with his future back-court mate John Wall, who was in town to observe the team. The two ate lunch, walked along the Strip and discussed their offseason plans and how they would complement each other on the floor. “John is a great guy,” Beal said. “I knew John before I even came to the NBA. The relationship and the bond was already there, but now that we’re on the same team, it’s that much stronger.”
After the RTP, Beal posed for pictures on Tuesday for the trading card company Panini and NBA Entertainment. He plans to move to Washington shortly after Labor Day, then get ready for the upcoming season. “I’m still a kid, so there are things I may do, like hang out and things like that, but it’s strictly business from here on out,” Beal said.