Bradley Beal pondered the question for a split second, his eyes looking past the small group of reporters in front of him and onto the Washington Wizards' practice court.
The seven-year NBA veteran had been asked about his mental approach to the game when playing without fellow all-star guard John Wall, as was the case Wednesday night at Atlanta and in the 41 games Wall missed last season because of left knee surgery and rehabilitation.
“I just trust my teammates,” Beal said Friday as he brought his attention back to those in front of him. “I just play the same way I would if John was playing. Granted, I have to be a lot more aggressive and I tell myself I can’t do it by myself, and that’s all it is. It’s the realization that I am not going to win this game by myself and I have to trust my teammates and depend on them to make plays and depend on them to knock down shots and get stops on defense just as well as I do.”
For personal reasons, Wall did not travel with the team to Atlanta, and it’s not clear when he’ll return to the team. Beal shouldered the offensive load in the Wizards' 131-117 win over the Hawks. The 25-year-old scored a season-high 36 points, tallied nine assists and collected six rebounds, helping extend Washington’s winning streak to three games. The Wizards visit the Cavaliers on Saturday night in Cleveland.
Wednesday’s game was the first Wall has missed during the Wizards’ 11-14 start. Coach Scott Brooks tweaked his starting lineup by turning to three ballhandling guards: Beal, Austin Rivers and Tomas Satoransky.
“Everyone has to step up when he is out,” Beal said of Wall. “He carries such an offensive load of getting everybody shots, attacking the basket, getting to the free throw line and creating for everybody.”
Wall did not practice with the team Friday, and Brooks did not say whether Wall would play against the Cavaliers. Brooks said he has talked to Wall in the past day or two and said “everybody was good.” With Wall’s status uncertain, Beal on Saturday again could be asked to carry the team offensively. After his season-best game Saturday, Beal is averaging 22.4 points, 4.4 assists and 4.4 rebounds.
“I was due for a game like that, I guess,” Beal said. “That is kind of always our mind-set when sometimes we have off nights or we don’t have big nights: We always say we are due for one, and I guess that was just that moment. That is definitely a good game to build off of and keep the momentum going.”
Leaning on last season’s experience, Beal said he understands that he has to be a “little bit” more aggressive in Wall’s absence. He stressed the importance of being smart about fouls and more aware of his decision-making, of playing off the ball and “letting the game come to me and not forcing anything.”
Power forward Markieff Morris said he has seen that flash from Beal every day, but that the team knew Beal had to be more aggressive on and off the ball without Wall.
“I thought he was going to go for 50, but he cut it short,” Morris said. "[Almost] to 40. Same thing, though.”
With Beal the less flashy of the two guards, his all-around game is sometimes overlooked. Brooks said it was “good for him to bust out and have that type of game,” but he still wants to see improvement from Beal at the three-point arc. Beal is averaging 2.2 made three-pointers per game while attempting 6.8.
“He’s definitely been due for a big game offensively,” Brooks said. “He battles. The thing I love about Brad is that he is an all-around player. He can have a bad shooting night — and we don’t want that — but he can have one and still have an impact on our team with his defense and his overall playmaking ability."
Read more Wizards and NBA coverage: