Though Bradley Beal’s gruesome landing late in the fourth quarter of the Wizards’ win over Philadelphia on March 3 left the impression that he would be out for some time, a quick return always seemed a possibility with the left ankle refusing to swell up like an inflatable ball, tests revealing no structural damage, and crutches ditched after one day.
But Beal’s the day-to-day journey back to playing on his sprained ankle lasted closer to two weeks – and it may have been a little longer had he not declared himself ready to play a few minutes before the Wizards tipped off against the Phoenix Suns. Following an intense pregame workout of cutting and running in the practice gym, Beal decided to test his ankle after a six-game hiatus in advance of the Wizards’ upcoming four-game road trip, beginning on Monday in Charlotte.
“Somehow magically, God willing, I was able to play,” Beal said after scoring 13 points off the bench in the Wizards’ 127-105 victory over the lowly Suns. “It felt pretty good and hopefully I’ll be able to play on Monday.”
Beal missed his first shot attempt, a running jumper in traffic, but it didn’t take long for John Wall to sprint up the court, jump and whip a pass to the right corner, where Beal made a three-pointer to put the Wizards ahead, 25-21. He finished 5 of 10 from the floor and made three three-pointers, contributing to the Wizards’ best shooting night from long distance this season (14 of 21).
With Martell Webster going bonkers with a career-high 34-point scoring night, and Wall continuing to push and control the tempo, the Wizards didn’t necessarily need Beal to come back in order to defeat the Phoenix. But Wall and Garrett Temple weren’t complaining about having some reinforcement after playing heavy minutes the past two games with A.J. Price also sidelined with a sore right groin.
Temple essentially was both the starting shooting guard and backup point guard as he played a combined 87 minutes in wins over Milwaukee and New Orleans. He got 35 minutes against the Suns.
“Whew,” Temple said when asked his reaction when he found out that Beal was going to play. “When he hit that first three, I knew he was back. Almost back to his old self. It’s going to take a little time for him to get back to game shape. He told me on the bench how he was a little tired. We really need his scoring, his play-making ability.”
Wall also didn’t waste any time welcoming back the rookie with some good-natured ribbing. “When he made his decision, he was happy. He was cheesing the whole time with Afro and stuff. It was good to have him back,” Wall said. “He wanted to play more minutes, but you know coming off an injury, you got to take your time. But he came in and made shots. I told him it seemed like he didn’t lose a rhythm.”
The Wizards were without Price, Trevor Ariza (sore left knee) and Chris Singleton, who missed the game to attend the funeral of a family member. But Coach Randy Wittman said those absences didn’t play a factor in deciding to bring back Beal.
“Ultimately it’s up to the player,” Wittman said. “I don’t ever want to put a player out there who’s not ready to go, who doesn’t want to go. It was good though. I didn’t see any ill effects. He said he felt good. It’s all on the recovery.”
Wittman wanted to keep Beal at close to a 20-minute limit but Beal was actually upset that he played 21 minutes; he wanted to play more.
“I got mad when Witt took me out. I already knew it was going to happen. But I knew it was for my own benefit,” Beal said, adding that missing the past two weeks was tough. “Just healing. Just sitting down. That’s the worst part. Actually having to listen. Listen to trainers just tell you when it’s time to sit down. So that’s all I have to do and it actually felt good today so I just wanted to give it a go to see where I was at…I felt like it just stopped on me and I couldn’t do anything about it. But I really didn’t have too many problems.”