Bradley Beal is in the midst of his best individual season, doing his best to hold things together in Washington while the Wizards have dealt with numerous injuries and roster changes.
Beal is averaging career highs in just about every statistical category this season, stepping into the lead role in place of the injured John Wall and managing to post his most productive and second most efficient scoring season of his career. It’s the second straight season Beal has been asked to be more of a playmaker in Wall’s absence, and this season, he looks plenty comfortable taking on that role.
Still, the Wizards are on the outside of the playoff picture looking in and, while Beal is still holding out hope for a late playoff push, he’s able to appreciate his personal growth and that of his teammates despite the turmoil and change the team has gone through this season.
Beal spoke with Dime this past Sunday prior to a meet-and-greet through Tissot to unveil their Chrono XL NBA Collector edition watch. The two-time All-Star discussed the tumultuous season in Washington, his new teammates, what he’s learned about playing a point guard role over the last two years in Wall’s absence, being a new father, and more.
How would you describe this season in Washington?
I would just say growth, growth in a lot of areas. Myself, individually, and us as a team. I feel like I’ve been on, heck, three or four different teams this year with all the moves we’ve made and guys being hurt. I think the biggest thing is learning how to fight through the adverse times and growing through it. I think it’s helped develop me into the player I’m becoming and hopefully pushing us towards getting to the playoffs. The biggest thing is just realizing how big of an opportunity we have, not taking the negatives and just running with them, but trying to turn them into positives and make the best of every situation.
With all that turnover and change, what are the habits you are looking to see developed in the team?
Obviously you want a winning culture, and that’s your approach to games, your approach to practices, film, everything. Doing all the little things the correct way and doing them in unison and carrying it onto the floor. Obviously it’s hard to win in this league, I’d be lying if I said it was easy. We all have a job to do and we’re all competing for the same thing, the trophy at the end of the year, and only one team gets it.
I always feel like if you practice good habits, you believe in good habits, you believe in yourself, and you put the work in the results will always show. If you put the work in, you always get rewarded for it in the end. As long as we continue to do that, we’ll put ourselves in a position to be successful moving forward.
When you have a major trade at the deadline like you guys did, what is your responsibility as team leader to help integrate the new guys and keep things moving forward?
We’ve been just learning who they are and what they like to do. It was kind of easy for us because ‘Bari, Bobby, and Sam Dekker, we all have the same agent. So it was an easy adjustment in that area because we always talked all the time about other clients he had. In that aspect, it was easy for me to understand their game and what it was like and implement it into our system. Still, it’s not going to be easy and we’re still honestly a work in progress, but we’re going to continue to work on it and perfect it as best we can.
While you’ve known them some, it’s obviously your first time being in the building with them on a daily basis. What have you thought of those new acquisitions since they joined the the team?
I think it’s awesome. We have a lot of young talent — young, hungry guys. All three of them, Wes, Jabari, and Bobby, all athletic, all hungry, all want to win, all unselfish, and they’re great locker room guys on top of it, which is even better and arguably the most important thing. Just being able to establish relationships with them and have guys around who want to win and have that winning attitude, and I think that trickles down to everybody else. I love what they’re bringing. They’re bringing attitude and a little swagger, and at the end of the day a different identity that we didn’t have before.
This is the second season in a row you’ve been asked to take on more of a point guard type role after John Wall’s gone down with injury. What have you learned about playing in that role and how do you feel you’ve grown in that position?
It’s not easy. I will say that, I think that’s first and foremost. It’s probably one of the toughest things to do, especially learning last year and dealing with it. Dealing with double teams, dealing with traps, dealing with different matchups — guys taller, shorter, stronger — so it was a variety of different things, and it’s being able to have that experience under my belt really helped me out this year.
I think it’s definitely prepared me and enabled me to be able to handle that position the way I’ve been able to, but it’s still a work in progress. It’s not perfect, but I’m definitely a lot more confident in my handle and in my game now than it was a year ago and a couple years ago.
What’s the part of your game you’re most proud of as far as development from when you entered the league to now?
I think my playmaking. When I first came into the league I was just known as a shooter, a guy who can shoot and defend and is undersized at his position, and I think that was my label. I think I’ve developed into something totally different than that, and I think that’s what I wanted. Like I always say, it’s not perfect and it’s not anywhere close to where I want it, which is I think the great thing about it is I have a lot more room to grow and a lot more challenges to beat.
Off the court, how much have things changed from being a rookie to now?
I’m still the same me. I’m just getting older and have a son now. So everything in that aspect changes. I think that’s changed me for the good on the floor, from having my wife and having my son, being that backbone and that support that I need and giving me even more motivation for me to be a great man off the floor and a better player on the floor. So, it’s definitely one of the biggest reasons I’m successful this year, being a father and embracing that. I think that’s the biggest change in my life than in any other year. Any other year I’m the same, nothing’s really changed off the floor.
How much does that change the day-to-day mentality you have and keeping things in perspective now that you are a father off the court?
A lot, because everyday I wake up is a blessing, for one, and two, I’m a father, and that’s far more important than me playing basketball. I would drop basketball today just to take care of my son for the rest of my life if it came down to it. In that aspect, it puts everything in life in perspective for me, even basketball. Every time you step onto the floor could be your last, you never know, and every time I step onto the floor I have a fan out there, but even one notch up I have a son who watches everything I do.
Every movement and every step I take, and we live in this technological world where he’ll see games, highlights, the way I act, and the way I play and everything of that nature. So it’s a big magnifying glass, so to speak, but it’s a life we chose and the position I’m in and one I definitely embrace.
Off the court, fashion is a big thing now and you have the partnership with Tissot, how have you evolved in that realm and your personal style?
Style’s grown tremendously from the way guys dress to what they wear in the game, shoes, everything. Style is everything in today’s world and for me it’s building my brand and constantly growing. Tissot’s awesome, they’ve been amazing and an awesome partner for years. They’re the official watch of the NBA and partners with the Washington Wizards, which is even better for me, so it’s just constantly growing my brand and establishing relationships, and this is a brand that’s head over heels for the NBA and I feel like we have a great partnership with them.