Bradley Beal has become one of the NBA’s best scorers over the past few seasons, as he continues to morph his skillset from when he entered the Draft known primarily as a three-point shooter into being one of the best finishers at the rim in the entire league.
Because of his stature as a rising star entering his 10th season on a team that has struggled to build a contender around him, Beal’s name constantly comes up in trade rumors, no matter how many times he insists he wants to stay in Washington. As Beal explains, that’s just life in the NBA and he’s accepted rumors as just the part of the deal for getting to play “the best sport in the world” for a living.
Right now, Beal is in Las Vegas for USA Basketball camp before the Tokyo Olympics, where he and much of the roster will make their debut on the Olympic stage later this month. Late last week (prior to the team’s loss to Nigeria in exhibition action), Beal spoke with Dime on a Zoom call on behalf of Rockin’ Protein about his USA Basketball journey from U-16s to the Olympics, adapting to a different role on Team USA, the good and bad of this Wizards season, learning to play through rumors, and much more.
Let’s start with USA Basketball camp. This is going to be your your first Olympics. What went into your decision to join the team and what this means to you to be able to play in an Olympics for Team USA?
I mean, one it’s a blessing. I’m definitely honored to be here. You don’t — it’s a very prestigious fraternity as we like to call it. You know it’s a very elite group but it’s hard to get into. I’m thrilled and happy — I’ve always been a part of USA Basketball since I was 15 years old. I played in the U-16 and the U-17, played in the Hoop Summit, and been through the Select Team process and now had several chances to try out for the national team. And now I’ve officially made it so, you know, it means the world. It’s a dream come true.
Not everybody has this opportunity, it comes every four years. You know, guys are getting better and better, and guys are getting older and older too, so time sure enough passes you by, but I’m definitely happy that I’m able to represent our country.
Yeah, and obviously this year there’s there’s a lot of turnover from the the 2016 team — I think KD and Draymond are the only two that are holdovers. What is the atmosphere in camp because it is a lot of new faces and a lot guys that I’m sure it really excited for their first opportunity?
It’s been intense. One, it all starts with Coach Pop, and he’s just — his philosophies, how he carries himself and what he expects of us and his is accountability for everybody, man, it just trickles down. He has a high standard for us, and he just tries to emphasize how we didn’t do so well in [World] Cup in 19. So we want to really change that around and be better and understand that we have to respect all of our opponents. So we have that mentality every single day in practice: we go super hard, competing at a high level, and it’s been great. It’s been really good. It’s been an adjustment, because none of us have played together. We’re all on different teams, versus, you know, teams from their respective countries, they’ve been together for years, they’ve been playing together for years. So, it’s gonna it’s an adjustment for us, but you know we have to get it done.
Something that guys talk about when they come out of the USA Basketball process is it changes how you play or at least changes your perspective, because you have to adapt to different roles. Because you’re all stars but it’s not like an All-Star game where it’s a one game thing. Like, you’re coming together for a long run here, and are you already seeing that, where you’re kind of learning how to play in different roles than you ever really have in the NBA?
A hundred percent. Like with my team, I have to go score 30 for us to win, and I don’t have to do that with this team. Everybody over here can score 30. So, like, I can focus on defending. Let me go guard the best player on the other team, let me go guard the best guard, whatever the case may be. Let Dame rock, you know, let KD get — I mean, come on, man, like come on I’m not gonna get in his way [laughs]. Let Jason rock.
So, we have so many scorers, and that’s not going to be our problem. It’s going to be, can we defend, can we rebound, and can we do all the little things that we need to do in order to make sure that we win. We don’t want any close games, we don’t. We want to win, we want to win big. So, you know, we have to be attentive to that because it won’t be easy.
Yeah, and then looking back on this season for you and the Wizards, obviously it started slow and you guys had injuries and COVID things, but getting into the playoffs and getting through the play-in and all that, what, when you look back now and you’ve had had a little bit of time, what’s your perspective on how this season was obviously just a unique season and in good and bad ways, and where your approach is going into next season?
That’s kind of how I see it, it was like a good and bad season. It was just that, you know, it was like, yeah, it was good but I wasn’t satisfied at the end of the day. So the biggest thing was, we didn’t come off to a good start. Granted, we can blame COVID, we can blame the million things because those things did happen and, like, half of our team did get infected we had new guys we have implement, we didn’t practice for two weeks. It was, it was tough, so there was adjustments along the way. But, you know, for the most part when we were healthy, we still had our inconsistencies, but eventually we did turn them around and we win a huge amount of games post All-Star. So, you know, to get us into the playoffs, we won outright, and got the 8-seed. So that was very telling in a lot of ways, but at the same time we had higher expectations for ourselves coming into the year.
From a mental standpoint I want to ask you something because you have been in rumors for years. Learning to play through the noise, what are the things that you’ve been able to kind of lock out some of that and being able to separate the things that you get asked about, things that people are writing and people are saying, and learning how to deal with that? Because I have to imagine the first time you go through it, it’s got to be tough and obviously you’re pretty experienced with it at this point.
For sure, it’s just all about training your mind, bro. I think it’s at the end of the day, everybody’s gonna critique you, everybody’s gonna have, you know, something to say. But at the end of the day you have to realize that comes with it. We make a lot of money, we play the best sport in the world, and to whom much is given much is expected. So, I always say, don’t make the noise bigger than your job, but the noise is always going to be there.
People are always going to have their opinions, people are always going to tell you what to do, what they think the team should do, how you should play, but you just have to train your mind to what’s important to you. Why do you play the game, and never lose sight of it.
You’re always one of the league leaders in minutes per game and you play a ton of games each season. What have you learned about taking care of your body and the things that you need to do with that, and how does this partnership with Rockin’ Protein factor into your process, especially coming off of this season and now coming into an extra season basically with USA Basketball that’s got to be additionally taxing?
Well, you’re 100 percent right, man. Like what you put into your body as an athlete is always important, just as much as lifting and recovery and all the other things that you may do in your training. So what you intake into your body is just as important if not more so, I teamed up with Rockin’ Protein because, man, one it tastes really good. So that’s an obvious, but they have a high quality amount of protein, and it’s all natural nutrients from real milk from Shamrock Farms.
Growing up I was always a big milk kid, my kids, I have two boys now, they absolutely love milk, and so it was for me, versus a lot of products out there, they’re not necessarily made with real milk — some have lactose, some have a lot of added sugars and things that your body doesn’t need to perform at the level that you need. So, there are different variants of, you know, their protein builders, their recovery drink, their energy drink. It gives you different options as an athlete and just as a person who just likes to work out and take care of their bodies. So it was a no brainer for me, and they’re an unbelievable company they’ve been awesome to work with, and their product is my go to.