Each new photo spawns a torrent of online trade chatter and is usually accompanied by the 27-year-old’s preposterous numbers. Wednesday’s stat du jour, according to ESPN Stats & Info, was that Beal set the record for most consecutive losses (10) in 40-point games after he poured in 47 in the Wizards’ 124-106 loss to the Pelicans.
“I’ve got to be better with that,” Beal said of his late-game body language. “I mean, the media’s going to blow it up — I’m mad about losing. If I’m sitting over there laughing and smiling, what is the media going to say then? Like, ‘Oh, he doesn’t take it seriously?’ I just hate losing. I hate losing. And I’m going to continue to show pissed-off faces. I try to control them as much as I can, but I don’t like losing.”
Meme talk aside, Beal was as frank Wednesday as he has been all season about his frustrations being a top scorer on a poorly performing team for the second season in a row. The shorthanded Wizards come home for their next three games with Atlanta and then high-scoring Brooklyn and Portland scheduled to visit Capital One Arena.
The guard was adamant that the group cannot sink into a “3-11 mentality” given that the Wizards have been missing six players because of the league’s coronavirus protocols and have only recently resumed their season after a two-week coronavirus pause. Three of the players — Rui Hachimura, Davis Bertans and Moe Wagner — are expected to return Friday.
But, Beal said, the reality is inescapable. The guard is under contract through next season, and he has been clear for months that the organization needs to do just one thing to keep him around — show him it can win.
He reiterated his stance in a video conference after Wednesday’s loss.
“It’s tough. I’m not going to sit here and be naive. It’s tough. We want to win, and I want to win. This is why I stayed; I want to win,” Beal said. “I figured this is the place I can get it done. So it’s tough. Last year was what it was. We had a lot of guys out. John [Wall] was out last year. … Covid hit. Last year was just crazy. This year was the same thing, like a mini-bubble outside the bubble. No fans, no nothing, no practice time. It’s been tough, you know.”
Limited time on the court this year hasn’t affected Beal’s play. He has logged a 60-point performance and two 40-point games in 2021, all in losses. In his past six games — of which the Wizards have won one — he has averaged 41 points on 50 percent shooting from the field while taking 30 shots per night.
He is also often operating alone. Russell Westbrook is the team’s second-leading scorer, averaging 18.1 points, but the point guard injured his left quadriceps in training camp and hasn’t been a consistent threat since he joined the Wizards in a blockbuster trade in December. Washington’s next three leading scorers have either been wrapped up in the league’s coronavirus protocols for most of the month or, in center Thomas Bryant’s case, are out for the season with a partially torn ACL.
“When he’s got three people around him, somebody’s got to come get the ball, knock down a shot. It’s not just him that needs to score the whole night,” guard Garrison Mathews said. “Of course he can carry us, but somebody’s got to step up and help him out.”
Mathews lauded the franchise star after the game Wednesday for his leadership during the Wizards’ tough stretch, as did Coach Scott Brooks.
Beal said he has heard similar words of encouragement from General Manager Tommy Sheppard.
“He’s telling us to keep our heads up and keep chilling even though we’re shorthanded and it’s a lot of stuff going on. … We’ve just got to work with what we’ve got and keep chipping,” Beal said of the team’s top basketball executive. “He’s positive. He’s working. I don’t know what he’s doing behind the scenes or whatever, but he’s encouraging. He doesn’t quit on a team, on us. He’s around us all the time. He’s at every game. He’s bought in. Can’t question that.”
Still, the theme of Beal’s postgame news conference was starkly clear. The last question of the session was a short one: “Are you frustrated?”
Beal paused a moment before answering.
“Is the sky blue?”