“I know I’m defending him now," Brooks said, “and I don’t know why because I know he’s an all-star."
Beal appears likely to be among the chosen when the reserves are announced Thursday, but would his third straight all-star appearance be his most deserving?
“He’s been banged up, and Brad is not going to make excuses," Brooks said. “He hasn’t shot the ball well, but he’s not going to end up being a 30 percent three-point shooter. The guy is money. You’re an all-star for a reason, and he keeps leading us. That’s what I love about him. None of us expected this season to end up with the situation that we’ve had, but he’s led us and battled for us and puts us in positions to compete every night.”
The Wizards (15-29) barely have more wins than they have had injured players this season (13 including CJ Miles, who was waived this month). And even Beal has needed time to mend: His consecutive games played streak ended at 194 because the pain had become too much to play through. He has missed seven of the Wizards’ 44 games.
“It’s tough. Your body breaks down as you play more games. … Your body gets tired on you a little bit, so I’ve had some soreness that’s obviously kept me out a few games, but it’s nothing I would say is worrisome,” Beal said of playing through shoulder and knee issues. “It wasn’t anything like I’ve had in the past, which is one of my biggest concerns. So it’s just being smart about it, honestly.”
While playing through the pain, Beal has increased his scoring (27.5 points per game) and assists (6.4) from this time a year ago, when Eastern Conference coaches chose him as an all-star reserve. But if the coaches look beyond the numbers this season, they would see that the demands on Beal also have increased.
With point guard John Wall sidelined as he rehabilitates an Achilles’ tendon injury, Beal came into the season as his team’s only star for the first time in his eight-year career. The nightly burden of being bombarded by extra defenders is a challenge known only by the game’s most elite players, and Beal has gotten to know it well this season.
“Every team that we play against, if he’s getting double-teamed, then that says something,” forward Davis Bertans said. “There’s not that many players in the league that are causing so much trouble for the defense that, every single pick and roll, he’s getting trapped. The players know how hard it is to guard him.”
Given the extra attention, Beal’s turnovers are up to 3.3 per game from 2.7 last season, and his rebounding average and shooting percentages have dipped. If his three-point shooting remains at 31.6 percent, it will be the worst of his career.
But nights such as Thursday suggest those numbers will move toward the norm before the season ends. While scoring a game-high 36 points, Beal made 4 of 8 attempts from beyond the arc, the fifth time this season he has shot 50 percent or better on at least eight three-point attempts.
“He’s going to make shots. He’s a shot-maker; he’s a playmaker,” Brooks said. “He’s a good player, and that’s why we’re being able to compete this year the way we have.”
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