LOS ANGELES — Before his first NBA All-Star Game, Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal had modest desires.
Beal hadn’t performed up to his standards during the three-point contest Saturday night, failing to even make it out of the first round. By Sunday, he wanted to make his mark on the glamour game by making a three. Beal exceeded his simple goal and finished as one of the most efficient shooters among the stars.
In a competitive game that concluded with Beal’s Team LeBron rushing the court and chest-bumping in celebration for its 148-145 win over Team Stephen, Beal played almost 17 minutes in his all-star debut and scored 14 points on 5-for-10 shooting.
Believing that a shooting exhibition do-over was necessary, Beal drilled four threes in eight attempts — matching the team-high three-point total of his teammates Paul George (who needed 10 shots from beyond the arc) as well as team captain and all-star MVP LeBron James.
“It was great to get out there and get some run,” Beal said. “Some of the best players to ever touch a basketball. To be a part of the group is an honor itself, and I enjoyed it.”
Playing as a reserve, Beal checked in for the first time with 5:45 remaining in the first quarter. Moments after walking onto the Staples Center court, Beal was running while James pushed the fast break. And with an assist from the captain, Beal completed a two-handed dunk for his first career all-star points.
“I was good after that,” Beal said. “I just hoped I didn’t air ball or shoot it off the backboard on my first one, so [James] threw me a nice little bounce pass. It actually came with a lot of heat on a low pass, but I was able to catch and finish it. And once I saw the first one go in, I was like: ‘Okay. I’m cool.’ ”
Once he settled into the game, Beal remembered his goal.
“For me, personally? Make a three,” Beal said Saturday night when asked what he would view as an all-star highlight. “That’ll be about it . . . and I’ll be solid. That’s good for me.
His objective was reached at the 3:43 mark with a three-pointer in transition. But Beal had more all-star moments to come.
When Team LeBron played without a point guard on the floor, Beal often dribbled the ball up court, assuming the responsibilities from his day job while Wizards teammate John Wall recovers from left knee surgery.
Early into the second quarter, Beal drilled a corner three in front of the Team Stephen sideline. Then as he closed the half with Indiana Pacers guard Victor Oladipo and George, the unit played defense fitting of a basketball game that mattered. Beal hounded Stephen Curry on the perimeter and forced a tough step-back three that clanked off the rim.
Incentivized by a hefty payday to the victors, Team LeBron held its opponents to 44.4 percent shooting — the starting backcourt of Curry and James Harden combined to shoot 5 for 24 from beyond the arc.
“The 100K,” Beal said about a motivating factor, referring to the $100,000 given to each player on the winning team. “I think the creation of the game is what made it competitive. Picking teams, you know, it’s like a pick-up [game] feel. Throughout the course of the game there were spurts when defense wasn’t too crazy but there were spurts when it was, and the last seven minutes it got really competitive.”
In the days leading up to the game, Beal spent the weekend building his brand. He made appearances, turned on the charm for interviews and worked as hard as any player on his all-star “break.” Though by Saturday afternoon Beal admittedly felt exhausted, he found new life after stepping into the locker room filled with stars.
Beal sat next to Wall and DeMarcus Cousins of the New Orleans Pelicans. He observed the pregame routine of the game’s brightest, but because he belonged in that space, Beal didn’t remain quiet and interacted with his new teammates.
“That was something that I dreamed of and something that was a goal of mine coming into the year,” Beal said. “The appearances and everything were a little overwhelming, being busy all the time, but when I was out there with other guys, that was a remarkable feeling for sure.
“It was fun. I enjoyed it. [Saturday] night, I don’t know what happened. I’m retired. I might retire from that.”
Though Beal may give up the Saturday night showcases, he is inspired to make all-star Sunday night his new tradition.
“It puts a lot of things in perspective for me,” Beal said. “[It] motivates me to get better and continue to be part of this every single year for the rest of my career.”