[original photo via nba.com/wizards - Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty Images]
“He don’t have no pressure, he’s not the savior. He’s a beast under pressure. But he don’t have no pressure. We want Bradley Beal to come in and be Bradley Beal. We’re not telling him to come on and lead us into the playoffs. We want him to come in and make some jump shots, play some solid defense… go from there.”
—Sam Cassell, July 2012 Summer League
Cassell’s statement diffuses expectations, but it’s true. Bradley Beal is just a piece. The Washington Wizards now have several nice pieces, but none of them are saviors. Not even John Wall.
Wall is the face of the franchise — every team needs a face — and maybe Beal’s face will shine next to Wall’s on the top billing one day. But the Wizards don’t have a star. Not a single All-Star on the roster. Not yet.
Although I chuckle/wince to imagine Ernie Grunfeld and Randy Wittman trying to assemble IKEA furniture, that’s exactly what the Wizards are: pieces in a box waiting to come together. Some pieces of the DOMBÅS are more significant than others, but miss a screw or skip a step and the end result could render a decent, affordable wardrobe into a particleboard contraption.
Some of us try to get older — grow up — without having a living space full of inconsistently constructed IKEA pieces that don’t exactly stand up to the wear-and-tear of life. The Wizards are trying to grow up, too, and are striving to find pieces that can be stars who will stand on their own. If Wall, Beal, and perhaps even Kevin Seraphin eventually become solid pieces of oak, forming a comfortable bed upon which the hopes of Wizards fans can comfortably rest, then it’s OK to have a couple IKEA nightstands next to the piece from Ethan Allen.
From Wizards mini-camp to the NBA Summer League to Tim Grgurich’s skills camp to the NBA Rookie Transition Programs — these are just the primary paint on Beal’s professional development.
Bradley Beal is not the savior. He’s not even a starter. He’s just a piece with a solid core, low to medium expectations, and a lot of potential. The Wizards aren’t asking to be saved, they just want to continue to build.