Bradley Beal didn’t want to be a one-hit wonder.
A year ago, Beal was selected to the NBA All-Star Game for the first time in his career. He made it two straight Thursday night.
Although his first experience was taxing — Beal would later admit he took on too many obligations intended to raise his profile during last year’s weekend in Los Angeles — he wanted to return to the glamour exhibition game this year.
Making the Eastern Conference all-star team a second time marks the next step in an ascendant career. The validation that Beal is not the Lou Bega of basketball -- remember that one hit, Mambo No. 5? The selection proves that last year wasn’t a fluke, and that he has staying power in a league dominated by stars.
“It’s always, ‘Okay, what’s next?’ " Beal asked aloud during the Washington Wizards’ media day last September. “I feel like, I was an all-star so I definitely have to be an all-star again. You can’t just be a one-stop show and fall off.”
Now, the show moves on to Charlotte. On Thursday, Beal accomplished that preseason goal. Beal was voted in as a reserve by the Eastern Conference coaches, who looked beyond the Wizards' underwhelming record and justified honoring one of the league’s best scoring guards.
Although last year was Beal’s best in the league, he is on track to eclipse it. Through 51 games into his seventh season, the Wizards are only 22-29 but Beal is soaring with averages of 24.7 points, 5.1 assists and 5.1 rebounds -- all career highs. Beal is putting up these numbers while taking over as the Wizards' team leader in the absence of an injured John Wall.
Near the end of December, Wall opted for surgery to remove the nagging bone spurs in his left heel. His recovery will take six to eight months. Last season, Beal carried the Wizards while Wall missed 41 games. This year, he needed to take on an even greater role since the team was languishing below .500 at the time of Wall’s injury.
In the 16 games since Wall’s injury, Beal has ranked second in the NBA in minutes played (38.0 per game), second in field goal attempts (21.8), fourth in points (27.5) and eighth in usage percentage (30.5), the estimation of the amount of team plays used by a player while on the court.
Beal has shown more than just a scoring touch. During a Dec. 22 triple-overtime win over the Phoenix Suns, Beal recorded his first career triple-double (40 points, 11 rebounds, 15 assists). Then on Jan. 13, Beal notched another -- scoring 43 to go with 10 rebounds and 15 assists. He joined Wilt Chamberlain in the history books as the only two players in league history to score 40 in their first two career triple-doubles.
“[Beal] is playing amazing,” Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry said following a recent game against the Wizards. “Obviously, the brunt of the load, on the offensive end has to go through him and he is playing at an all-star level.”
Several months ago, when Beal declared his personal mission of repeating as an all-star, he pivoted to the team’s success. The Wizards did not boldly proclaim themselves a contender in the East as they had in previous years, but the team did have a reasonable expectation of making the playoffs. Washington, however, sputtered to a 1-7 start and eventually fell to 10 games below the .500 mark after losing on Dec. 28, the first game in which the Wizards knew it would continue the season without Wall.
Washington has gone 9-6 since, thanks in large part to Beal playing like an all-star.
“That’s an individual goal of mine. But I feel like our team goals and what we have in our locker room and what we want to accomplish are far more and important and better than what I have individually,” Beal said in September.
“I never get caught up in trying to be an all-star and trying to be this and trying to prove myself,” he continued. “I just concern myself with getting better every game. I never let anyone else define my career. I never let anyone else tell me I’m good or better than the next man. I’m myself, I’m my person, I reflect on my game and nothing is more important than my team and winning ballgames.”