The Washington Post

Wizards’ John Wall, Bradley Beal already beginning to connect

(Getty Images)

John Wall didn’t need much time to develop trust in Bradley Beal. That was evident when he found Beal for his first assist of the season, a flip to the trailing rookie for an emphatic dunk in Wall’s debut last Saturday against Atlanta.

Beal has been the recipient of eight of Wall’s 20 assists through the first three games, but Wall’s comfort in Beal was evident early in the fourth quarter of the Wizards’ 95-94 loss in Sacramento on Wednesday. As Wall dribbled up the floor with the team holding a five-point lead, Coach Randy Wittman wanted to call a play but Wall waived him off to work a two-man game with Beal.

Wall felt that if Beal came to set a screen, the double-team would come his direction and leave Beal wide open in the left corner. Beal approached, rolled to the corner and Wall found him for a wide-open look that Beal drained for his season-best sixth three-pointer. Wittman and Wall both looked at each other and nodded.

Wittman already knew that Wall was his floor general; now Wall has likely found a safety valve.

“A good knock-down shooter,” Wall said of Beal. “Somebody that can make plays. He can push the break also and it makes it easier for me.”

Wall’s presence has also helped Beal, who has had his two best shooting performances of the season against Orlando on Monday and Sacramento. Beal shot 7 of 10 and scored 17 points against the Magic, then made 9 of 14 field goals (64.3 percent) to reach his season-high 26 points against the Kings.

“We make eye contact all the time and he finds me,” Beal said of Wall. “He’s a pass-first guy. He finds everybody. He finds bigs and I was fortunate enough he found me as well. I’m grateful to have a point guard like John.”

Beal has scored in double figures in four consecutive games and nine of his past 10 overall. During that stretch, Beal has hit a game-winning jumper against Oklahoma City and forced double overtime with a three-pointer against Brooklyn. Those games came prior to Wall’s arrival, and Beal felt that it was important to find his confidence and comfort before his expected back-court mate of the future made his debut.

“I think it was kind of big, because I didn’t want it to seem like I was coming here to rely on John. Like he’s the only guy who could come in and help me or vice versa,” Beal said recently. “I just wanted to be able to come in within my own, so to speak. I just tried to establish myself and my teammates did a good job of helping me out and setting me up in great situations to be able to put the ball in the basket.”

In eight games this month, Beal is averaging 18.8 points on 46.3 percent shooting and an incredible 61.1 percent (22 of 36) from beyond the three-point line.

“I think he’s just falling into a comfort of where his spots are now, where his attack zones are, what plays he can be aggressive, the speed of the game, I think it’s all coming around to now to playing in that environment, you get used to it,” Wittman said. “He’s fallen into a good rhythm here.”

And Wall hopes to help him continue.

Michael Lee is the national basketball writer for The Washington Post.



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Michael Lee · January 17, 2013