NEW ORLEANS – One of Bradley Beal’s earliest childhood memories is sitting on his parent’s bed and shooting on the little Nerf hoop in their room. Even then, Beal’s mother, Besta, would try to teach him the right mechanics on his shot.
“I started when I was like a little baby,” Beal said. “When I was like 6, 7, she started teaching me more and more.”
Those lessons helped produce the textbook form that allowed Beal to reach the NBA at age 19, after one season in college, and will be on display on Saturday night during the three-point shootout at Smoothing King Center. Beal got a chance to warm up on the same floor on Friday, when he made four three-pointers and scored 21 points to help Team Hill defeat Team Webber in the Rising Stars Challenge, 142-136.
“I was making shots, I made a few,” said Beal, who finished 7 of 13 from the field. “I’ll be in the same gym. Hopefully, a few of those will carry over.”
Detroit Pistons second-year Andre Drummond claimed MVP honors after scoring 30 points and grabbing a record 25 rebounds. Team Webber had a total of 28 rebounds.
“He was aggressive. He shoved me out of the way for a few rebounds. I didn’t like that too much,” Beal said with a laugh about Drummond. “That’s the type of player he is. He played hard. He was kind of padding his stats, missing shots, getting his own rebound, but he’s still a good player. He’s going to continue to get better and he played a great game.”
Beal is now 2-0 in the annual showcase for the league’s best rookies and second-year players and claimed afterward that the results were not coincidence. “Lucky I can’t play again,” Beal said. “Great picks by coaches and GMs out there. Whatever team I’m on, guaranteed to win.”
Beal now moves on to his first individual event during all-star weekend and he said on Friday that he likes his chances.
He is tied for eighth in three-point field goal percentage (43.0), which is the second-highest among the five other competitors. Since taking a practice run shooting balls from a rack last Saturday after practice at Verizon Center, Beal started to find a decent groove from long distance, connecting on 13 of 22 attempts in his next three games.
Reigning champion Kyrie Irving from Cleveland, Golden State’s Stephen Curry, Lillard, Minnesota’s Kevin Love, Orlando’s Arron Afflalo, Brooklyn’s Joe Johnson and San Antonio’s Marco Belinelli make up the field. Beal had a hard time choosing a winner aside from himself but leaned toward Belinelli, who has the highest three-point percentage among the competitors at 44.8.
“That’s a tough pick there. You got a lot of great shooters. You got Kyrie, Steph. Belinelli,” Beal said. “Mess around it might be Belinelli, to be honest with you. Who knows? Any given night, that big stage, hopefully a lot of guys freeze up.”
Beal wasn’t feeling any nerves on Friday but admitted, “I probably will when it gets closer to the time. At the end of the day, I’m doing what I normally do. Just shooting the ball. So hopefully, I’ll just continue to do that and we’ll see. Don’t get too worried about everybody in the stands. Just shoot the ball, man. Shoot it the same way, have fun and try to win, of course.”
Beal already has an excuse in case he has a poor shooting performance in New Orleans – beignets, gumbo and po’ boys. “I won’t be eating nothing healthy,” Beal said with the laugh. “If I’m not jumping on the threes, you’ll know why, but you’ve got to get a little taste of everything down here.”
Beal hadn’t heard anything from his mother as he prepares for the three-point shootout but is certain that he will get a few pointers in the moments leading up to the competition.
“She’ll probably give me a lecture,” Beal said of his mother, who played at Kentucky State and served as athletic director at University City High in suburban St. Louis. “I got to be ready to hear that.”