SPORTS

Wall and Beal come together for Wizards success

Decrease Increase Text size

On paper, one year and two draft picks separate John Wall and Bradley Beal. But the characteristics they share bring them together in ways even the most proven general manager may not have imagined, as Wall explained in a recent interview.

"We're real close," Wall said. "Basically he's like my little brother. But he's kind of big, so I call him my big little brother."

But even little brothers grow up -- Beal perhaps a little faster than most.

A prolific shooter at the University of Florida, Beal constantly drew comparisons from the scouting world to Ray Allen, the man who perfected the three. All this before Beal even donned a Wizards uniform.

Nonetheless, we live in a world that's quick to appoint the "next star" and even quicker to dethrone them in 140 characters or less, which is precisely what happened after Beal's rocky rookie start (he shot just 34-percent from the field in his first 13 games). It didn't help that the Wizards also recorded their worst start in franchise history.

During this plight, Beal's big brother Wall inadvertently gave him a gift--the first of many. Wall's absence, although far from desirable, forced Beal to shoulder a considerable amount of the team's offensive work load. He led all rookies in the Eastern Conference in scoring and assists last December, and followed that up with a consecutive Rookie of the Month nod in January.

Fast forward to present day, and Beal is showing no signs of a sophomore slump (that ailment may be found in Ashburn). And praise isn't just coming from the league, but from arguably the league's biggest mouthpiece, Charles Barkley. After the Wizards overtime loss to Warriors, Barkley unabashedly dished out the praise to the rising star.

"If I need one shot to be made, it's {Thompson} or Bradley Beal going to be my guys," Barkley said. He later added, "Bradley Beal and Klay Thompson, them boys are both going to be all stars in the next couple of years."

In the short-term, Barkley's words turned into near prophecy when Beal dropped a career high 38 points against Oklahoma City. While the Wizards' late fourth quarter success is still late to the party, the pundit's adoration of Beal continues to be in full abundance and with good reason.

"It's something I embrace," Beal said. "It's definitely humbling when people recognize you're doing well in the season. I still think I have a lot to improve on, and we have a lot to improve on as a team. It's great that teams know who we are and what we're doing. That's a sign of respect."

The true sign of respect may not be in words, but rather in action. With Beal averaging 20 points per game, his opponents are now keying in on him heavily.

"I've noticed a difference," Beal said. "They're a lot more aggressive with me, trying to push me to get my mind out of the game more than anything. It's just something I have to continue to fight through."

For that learning lesson, life has a funny way of coming full circle. Beal has his predecessor, teammate, and "brother" to provide guidance. The Wizards point guard is a well known target for opponents to double-team, as was the case when Wall dropped 26 points and 5 three's in the home opener against Philadelphia. Since then, Wall has admitted to sometimes overcompensating at the expense of his own shots.

Wall doesn't have his own big brother on the roster to reciprocate the relationship he shares with Beal. But neither did Michael, Kobe, or Chris Paul.

Obviously, Wall isn't at that stage of his career yet, but that kind of destiny is what awaits a number one pick of Wall's caliber. For his part, Wittman isn't an 11-time world champion, but his presence is critical to the 23-year-old's development as it unfolds this season.

If Wall remains healthy -- he's currently dealing with back spasms -- his production could be unlike anything we've seen thus far in Washington. Wall already is one of the quickest players in the league driving to the basket, and his shot percentage has gone up every year.

Wall and Beal are "different," according to Wittman, and he approaches their respective games as such. But the key to Washington's success is Wall and Beal's unification. If these two young players continue to assist each other outside of basketball, it will show in team assists... and points.

More importantly, a healthy and communicative Wall and Beal will reflect in the Wizards win column.

Recommended For You