For Bradley Beal, It’s All About Focus. Just Ask Doc Rivers.
Bradley Beal on his stuggles after the Wizards home opener against the Celtics:
Since he was officially announced as a member of the Washington Wizards, Bradley Beal has been compared to Ray Allen, James Harden, Dwyane Wade, and, as of last Saturday, Jeff Malone. He was not brought in as a savior, but as a complement to John Wall and Nene, and maybe even an upgrade over Jordan Crawford and the dearly departed Nick Young. And when Beal was announced as the starting shooting guard in the Wizards’ season debut last week, he was the second-youngest shooting guard to ever hold that distinction (Kevin Durant did it first).
Unfortunately for Beal, his performances in the first two games of the season haven’t reminded anyone of Ray Allen, The Beard, D-Wade, Jeff Malone, or even Quinton Ross for that matter. Beal has shot 2-for-13 and scored just 10 points over two contests. In crunch time against the Celtics on Saturday, Coach Randy Wittman felt more comfortable with A.J. Price and Jannero Pargo in the back court. Price commented that it seemed like Beal was the “first guy [other teams] talk about in the scouting report.” Based on Doc Rivers’ comments in the pre-game presser, that is 100 percent correct:
“Beal’s good, a solid, fundamental basketball player, and a great shooter. He reminds of a Jeff Malone, a thin Jeff Malone, except he can put the ball on the floor a little more, but he’s a terrific rebounder for his size.”
Beal has gotten words of encouragement from Trevor Ariza, who told him “it may not be your year this year, but you have to stay the course,” from Emeka Okafor, who told him to keep an “even keel,” and from Randy Wittman, who asked him to focus on other facets of his game like defense and rebounding. But Beal may also want to seek solace from two more unlikely sources: Jared Sullinger and Doc Rivers.
Sullinger had a much more decorated college career at Ohio State than Beal did at Florida, but he plummeted in the draft because he was undersized and there were questions about his knees. Once the Celtics drafted him with the 21st pick, Sullinger was projected to be a contributor off the bench, who would learn the ways of playing the post from Kevin Garnett. But last Saturday against the Wizards, Doc Rivers unexpectedly inserted Sullinger into the starting lineup for Brandon Bass, and it provided mixed results. He grabbed seven rebounds in 30 minutes, but he scored just four points and picked up four fouls. After the game, Kevin Garnett was asked why Sullinger was worthy of a starting spot:
“IQ. No offense against Jeff [Green] or [Brandon] Bass, but we have different mixes of people, and he brings a different component, more importantly rebounding. He knows how play without the ball. He’s a great passer. He blends well with the starting group.”
After his start, Sullinger—even more so than Beal—seemed to understand that his rookie season is about learning lessons and doing the dirty work:
“I’m just unselfish, and I understand I’ve got to pay my dues early. Kevin, Jason [Terry], Jeff [Green], and Paul [Pierce] are pretty much our base scorers, so when they are in the game, you’ve got to understand that you’re trying to get them open. You play off of them, and that’s where I just try to rebound.”
But the most important words of wisdom for Sullinger, Beal and any rookie not named Anthony Davis, Dion Waiters or Damion Lillard, came during Doc Rivers’ post-game speech. Doc not only has a son (Austin), who is a fighting to make a mark as a rookie with the New Orleans Hornets, but he has coached a number of rookies during his Celtics tenure — Tony Allen, Rajon Rondo, Delonte West, Leon Powe, Avery Bradley, and Lester Hudson. Here’s what Rivers said about Sullinger and NBA rookies learning how to focus for entire games:
Now a cynic (a k a, a Wizards fan) would make the observation that Sullinger can learn from Rivers, Garnett, Pierce and Rondo, who have won an NBA championship, while Beal has Wittman, Okafor, Ariza and Wall, who have won nothing. (Ariza won a title with the Lakers, but come on … Kobe was there.)
Rivers is good friends with Coach Wittman, so it is safe to assume that they’ve discussed how to get young players to focus numerous times, which means a Beal breakout game is not far off.
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