During the brief breaks in action in the Wizards’ first summer league minicamp practice — times when Coach Randy Wittman would pause to offer instruction or mild admonishment for a broken play — Bradley Beal would sneak onto the floor to dribble between his legs or toss up a floater before scurrying off to observe.
Beal cracked a joke at times or shouted a few words of encouragement from the sidelines, but he clearly would have rather been competing and playing on Monday with the newcomers, Otto Porter Jr. and Glen Rice Jr., and even holdovers Jan Vesely and Chris Singleton.
More than three months after he was diagnosed with a stress injury in his right fibula, Beal remains limited and was unable to receive full medical clearance in time to play in the summer league in Las Vegas. Admitting that he has probably hit the frustrating period of restraint as he rehabilitates from injury, Beal also acknowledged that he has to remain patient.
“It’s definitely tough, not being able to work out for 12 weeks or whatever it was, and now I’m actually starting to get into it. Gradually I’ll work my way back into it, and hopefully I’ll be back in no time,” Beal said. “It’s definitely going to be a slow progression, and it’s still a little pain on the touch, but as far as hurting when I’m running, it doesn’t hurt at all and jumping at all. But I’m still going to take my time because it might come back on me.”
The Wizards announced in April that Beal would be sidelined for approximately eight weeks before getting back to basketball-related activities, but the 6-foot-5 shooting guard said when he received his last X-ray a month ago, doctors told him that he is actually progressing at the appropriate pace. But that also means Beal remains questionable for participation in Team USA’s minicamp in Las Vegas from July 22-25, though he still plans to attend.
“It’s just up to me to stay patient and let it heal fully. I’m not sure yet,” Beal said, when asked about trying out for the U.S. men’s national team. “I wish I could play summer league. But if I don’t, I don’t. USA, I want to play, but if I’m not 100 percent, I’m not going to force it.”
Beal will be with the Wizards throughout the week and plans to travel to Las Vegas for the summer league. He said he has used his time away from playing the game to focus on watching film of last season and finding areas that he needs to correct when he finally makes his return.
“A lot of things I have to improve on, including my shot. A lot of times, my balance isn’t right and certain little things I’m not doing right, like my ballhandling. Definitely working on my ballhandling, and pick and roll, and helping John out, and being able to create in [isolation] situations, and being able to create my own shot and get to the basket as well,” Beal said. He added that he has watched film “in the past. I’ve done it since high school and I did it in college as well. It’s something that helps you get better, helps you think the game, become a lot more intelligent and it makes the game easier for you.”
Beal turned 20 on June 28, the day after the NBA draft. As he watched the draft, Beal said part of him wondered if he would’ve been the No. 1 pick had he stayed at Florida another season.
“Sometimes, I think like that,” Beal said, with a smile. “But I definitely made the right decision. I couldn’t have been in a happier place. It’s a better place on a better team, so I really can’t fault that. But I do think about that a little bit.”
This time last year, Beal was preparing for his summer league debut, anxiously anticipating how much different the NBA would be and what adjustments he would have to make in order to succeed. After making the all-rookie first team and finishing third in rookie of the year voting, Beal probably didn’t need the summer league, but he would have played if given the chance. Now, he is watching players eager to make an impression.
“The year really goes by fast, so you have to take advantage of that and take advantage of all of your opportunities and blessings you have,” Beal said. “It’s kind of surreal how fast everything happens and before you know it I’ll be 10 years in hopefully. It’s definitely exciting to be put in this situation. We have a great group of guys with this summer league team, so I’m looking forward to it.”