NBA Saturday: Beal Swims While Wizards Sink
Brad Beal Swimming While Wizards Sink
If you were to ask Washington Wizards rookie Brad Beal how he felt he was doing seven games into his NBA career, he’d answer with, simply, “I’m not good yet,” which really isn’t true considering some of the high-scoring games we’ve seen out of him early in his rookie season. Despite the truth—that he’s doing just fine, especially considering he’s playing without John Wall—Beal doesn’t mind being hard on himself.
“That’s how I’ve always been ever since I was growing up,” Beal said. “I am my biggest critic. I always say, if I do well one game, I feel like I still didn’t play good because there’s still a lot of things I could have done better. I could have made more shots, or I could have got rebounds right in front of me that I didn’t get. Just little small things bother me, and I critique myself on it.”
Of course, that might not be a bad thing for a very young player with very high expectations just starting to make his way in the NBA world.
“I don’t really try to focus on my own expectations,” Beal said. “I always have goals, but I just want to make an impact on the team and get us to the playoffs. I’m not looking to be the savior or the hero of the team, so to speak; I’m just coming in and doing what I’m supposed to do and making sure I know my role.
“And then it’s just about having fun,” Beal added. “This is my first year in the NBA. It’s my dream, and the biggest thing I want to do is have fun and enjoy this year.”
That’s been challenging so far, as the team is off to a dismal 0-7 start and is the only team in the league without a win. It doesn’t help that Wall and starting center Nene have missed so much time, but Beal says that’s no excuse to be as bad as the Wizards have been.
“We’ve got guys playing that still aren’t 100 percent, but we have to work with what we have,” Beal said. “We can’t use everybody that’s injured as an excuse for us not playing well. We’re just going to have to keep competing and playing hard. When we get all our assets back, we will be that much better.”
And then, we’ll finally get a good look at Washington’s backcourt of the future. Beal is especially excited about getting the opportunity to play with his point guard.
“I love the way he plays,” Beal said of Wall. “He’s a fast point guard, and his style of play fits mine. I’m really looking forward to it, and the sooner he gets back, the much better we will be.”
In the meantime, Wall is helping Beal get acclimated to the league. Usually it’s an older veteran who takes the rookie under his wing, but for Beal, Wall has been the mentor early on.
“Ever since I got drafted, he’s been a big brother to me,” Beal said of Wall. “I’ve known him before I got drafted, so the relationship was already there. It’s his personality—he’s real talkative, he’s the leader. I look to him for advice all the time because we are both guards and play somewhat similar games. He loves to play fast; I love to play fast. There are some things he knows that I don’t know—I mean he’s been here for three years now, so I think he has good feel and experience of it.”
But while Beal gets verbal advice from Wall, his coaching staff is reminding him to be aggressive offensively, because that’s why he was brought to D.C.
“My first two games weren’t as good as I expected them to be, but since then I’ve played the way I usually play,” Beal said. “Now, I’m being more aggressive and just having fun. That’s more important to me, just making sure I am getting back to my groove because when I have fun, that’s when I am at my best. As long I get back to playing the way I am always playing, the way I’m used to playing, I think I will be fine.”
He may be individually, but the team has a long way to go. It’s not fair to really judge the Wizards until Wall and Nene get healthy, but Beal, who is currently leading the team in scoring with 11.6 points per game, is coming along nicely.
Just don’t tell him that. He’d rather you tell him there’s room for improvement, and, of course there is. For him and his team.
Derrick Williams Trying to Push Past Average
Nobody thought we’d be saying this three weeks into the season, but even without Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love, the Minnesota Timberwolves are one of the sneakier good teams in the league so far, and that’s a testament to all of the role players who have stepped up in the absence of the team’s two biggest stars.
But one of the players expected to make a leap in his second NBA season, Derrick Williams, has put up numbers eerily similar to those of his mediocre rookie year—same points, same minutes, same inefficient scoring. His rebounds are up a bit, and he’s shooting better from three, but for the most part, he’s looked a lot like the player he was a year ago.
Despite all that, Williams knows the injury to Love provides him with a great opportunity, and despite his per-game averages, Williams has had a few games that have shown flashes of how good he can really be when given big minutes. Rest assured, he’s doing everything he can to be that guy rather than the middle-class player that he was in his rookie season.
“It can be difficult,” Williams said. “Some nights you have it and some nights you don’t. I feel like my minutes have been pretty consistent, and that’s allowed me to be successful.”
He’s scored in double figures three of his last five games, which is a start, but the Timberwolves and head coach Rick Adelman would like to see that happen more consistently. In the other two games, Williams scored only six points total. That kind of inconsistency simply can’t happen, and that’s what Williams is working on correcting.
“I’ve been working hard in practice and just playing the best I can play,” Williams said. “I just want to win. It’s not ever about me. It’s always about the team’s success. I do whatever coach and my teammates need me to do.”
Or, at least, he tries to. It helps a little that Williams says he doesn’t feel any pressure having been the second overall pick last year.
“I’ve never felt that pressure,” Williams said. “Not even last year. Coach just wants me to come in, work hard and continue to improve. I don’t think about where I was drafted.”
But it does matter to the fans, who expect high returns from so high a draft pick. When Williams grew complacent and, frankly, overweight in his rookie season, the Wolves organization and those fans grew concerned that he might not live up to his potential. So Williams lost a significant amount of weight, came into Summer League and played his rear end off, hoping it would translate to the regular season.
“I’m working hard and eating healthy, spending off time in the gym,” Williams said, adding that his offseason regimen has spilled into his regular season routine. “It hasn’t been too difficult keeping the weight off.”
But it has been difficult finding the consistency he’d hoped to achieve, and thus far he hasn’t earned the trust of Adelman enough to boost his minutes from last year, even with the starting power forward out of commission for the immediate future.
The Wolves have been great in the early going, but they could be even better with more out of Williams. The question on Minnesota fans’ minds, though, is whether or not better is in him.
Up Close With Lamar Odom
Lamar Odom’s career has come full circle now that he’s back with the Los Angeles Clippers. He’s trying to rediscover his game after a down year in Dallas last season and HOOPSWORLD recently caught up with him to talk about his return to the Clippers and the state of the team in this video interview.