Recently, there have been nights after games when Bradley Beal has sat in front of his locker with bags of ice wrapped around both knees while soaking his feet in a tub filled to the rim with cold water. Before a tip-off this week, Beal didn’t attend chapel, his normal pregame routine, because he needed to lay on the Washington Wizards’ locker room floor while strapped inside high-tech recovery boots.
This is what comes with being an iron man.
Beal, who not too long ago as a younger player mused about playing under a minutes limit after coming back from a stress fracture injury, may need more ice and rapid recovery methods than any other player in the NBA because he leads the league with a 37.7 minutes average. On Friday night, Beal’s heavy workload continued as he led all scorers with 40 points (15-of-29 shooting, 7-of-13 from the three-point arc) and played 44 minutes, 41 seconds as the Wizards dropped a 116-110 decision to the Charlotte Hornets. Beal did not rest during the entire second half because the Wizards (29-40) had to climb out of a deficit against a team they’re chasing for a playoff seed, even though the Wizards were playing in the first night of a back-to-back set.
At this point in the season, NBA teams do not practice or hold morning shoot-arounds the day of games as frequently as earlier in the year. So, Beal did very little in preparation for Hornets — only walking through offensive plays and participating in a three-minute rebounding drill, according to Coach Scott Brooks.
“Those are key areas we manage and monitor the guys’ loads and those are the things NBA minutes don’t ever show,” Brooks said. “That’s why I don’t really worry about if he plays 38 or 42 minutes because in reality it’s 40 minutes of basketball. There’s a lot other hard things in the world to get through other than playing 40 minutes of basketball.”
Even so, Beal’s time on the court appears to be taxing him both physically and mentally.
Early in the game Friday night, Beal collided with Tomas Satoransky, which resulted in Satoransky eventually leaving the game to undergo concussion testing. Later, Beal stumbled and slid with his back impacting a courtside seat. When he tried wrestling the ball away from Charlotte’s Jeremy Lamb to create a jump ball, but the Hornets were rewarded with a timeout instead, Beal bounded away, visibly heated by the call. Following the game, Beal left the locker room before reporters entered, so he did not offer a comment about the game or his minutes.
But one question begged an answer:
Forty-plus minutes . . . with a game in another 24 hours?
The answer lies in the Wizards’ win-now mentality. Though Beal has played all 69 games and logged 2,602 minutes, as long as the Wizards have a chance to make the playoffs — they have 13 games remaining to make up 3 1/2 games behind the eighth-placed Miami Heat — he will remain on the floor.