How Stressed to Be Over Bradley Beal's Third Stress Injury (or 'Reaction') | Wizards Blog Truth About

How Stressed to Be Over Bradley Beal’s Third Stress Injury (or ‘Reaction’)

Updated: February 16, 2015

Beal's soul is gone, bruh. (photo via Sarah Kogod)

The Washington Wizards media relations department dropped an unexpected bombshell last Wednesday. The press release update on Bradley Beal’s sore right big toe started out innocently enough, but took an ominous turn with the revelation that “subsequent examinations revealed a mild stress reaction in his lower right fibula.” To make matters worse, no timetable was offered for Beal’s return other than the unsettling, “He will be re-evaluated following the All-Star break.”

So Beal went from day-to-day with a sore right big toe to out indefinitely with a stress reaction—all in the course of one sentence. This is Beal’s third stress-related injury to his right leg in his first three NBA seasons—the first two were called a stress “injury”; a “reaction” is supposedly milder. The first injury, in his rookie year, cost him the last eight games of the season followed by over three months of no basketball activity. The second cost Beal nine games last season. 

Understandably, Wizards fans are concerned. But how bad is it really? TAI’s Adam Rubin (@LedellsPlace) and Sean Fagan (@McCarrick) are here to debate.

The Sky is Not Falling

by Adam Rubin. 

I am in the minority (and possibly all alone) on this, but I think Washington will be fine without Beal—even for a multi-week stretch. Beal has already missed 22 percent of the season (12 games), mostly due to a fracture in his left (non-shooting) wrist. Washington is 9-3 in those games, including a hard-fought loss at Toronto on the eve of the All-Star break. That’s not a coincidence. The reasons are two-fold.

First, Randy Wittman’s offense—as bad as it is—is even worse when the team just watches Beal run round in circles and forces the ball to him in bad positions for jumpers. Too often, and especially when he is leading the second unit, Beal’s offensive sets result in low percentage midrange jumpers, often after receiving a handoff from a big 16-feet from the hoop. When Beal is inactive, Rasual Butler, Otto Porter, and Garrett Temple run the same routes, but John Wall is not as focused on getting them the ball. This opens up the offense for more pick-and-rolls, low post plays for Nene, and more improvising from Wall. The Wizards have pounded Toronto, Orlando, and Brooklyn in the paint over their last three games.

By the way, this is an indictment of Wittman, not Beal. If Beal was used properly and actually drove to the rim, run off screens to find space behind the 3-point line (not the elbows), and successfully completed pick-and-rolls (basically, if he did what he did in last year’s playoffs), he’d be invaluable. But the current incarnation of Beal is not in the same stratosphere of other top shooting guards.

Which brings me to my second and final point. Much has been made of Washington’s dynamic backcourt duo. But this is Wall’s team. Wall is the Wizard’s best and most consistent player by far. It’s not even close. Everyone else is a distant (and replaceable) second. This team can comfortably endure the loss of any one player (not named Wall) and continue on its merry way to an inevitable 4-5 playoff matchup. Beal is no exception.

The Sky Is Falling 

by Sean Fagan.

So there are two popular endings to the story of Chicken Little. The one that Adam would like to sell you is the clean one that will help you sleep at night—Chicken Little learns to stop using his fainting couch, understands the true meaning of bravery, and saves the entire animal kingdom.

However, the best known version of the story is that Chicken Little and all his friends get eaten by a fox.

That fox just ate the Wizards season.

The Wizards braved the early part of the season without Beal being on the court, but that was before the bottom dropped out of Garrett Temple (last seen jawing with Randy Wittman on the sidelines), and the Wizards were still getting offensive production out of players like Rasual Butler, who now looks every bit his NBA age and mileage. Beal wasn’t a necessity at the beginning of the season because everyone was still fresh-faced and bushy-tailed, yet unmarked by the grind. The schedule was also pound cake.

Beal’s return was by no means triumphant, but it at made opponents pause when deciding how to play the Wizards. Much of Beal’s “regression” can be explained by teams committing to shut him down as an offensive option through double-teams, placing the burden squarely on the back of John Wall. Arguably, it is easier to game plan to shut down Beal’s shooting than it is to stop John Wall from being fast. Much of Beal’s exasperation and “poor” body language (though we have seen “growth” in this area) can probably be pinned to the fact that opponents made him the first, second, and third primary offensive weapon to shut down from long range. That Beal lets this occasionally affect the rest of his game is not acceptable, but understandable considering that he came back from his injury and was immediately tasked with carrying Washington’s offensive load.

Beal’s absence could also impact the overall effectiveness of John Wall, who has now had his primary toy taken away from him. While Wall is the engine that makes the Wizards purr in the 1970s throwback offense, Beal represents the only option that fills all of Randy Wittman’s needs. Not only can he hit the trey (when Wittman designs to allow it to happen) but is the only player who can combine long range shooting with a prolific, if not particularly effective, midrange jumper. Unless Nene suddenly morphs into 2012 Kevin Love or Otto Porter learns to actually move with the ball his hands, Beal was the only swiss army knife in Walls’s toolkit. Instead, Wall has to make due with his slowly atrophying supporting cast, and it wouldn’t be surprising in the least to see his assist numbers slump in the second half if Wall’s only perimeter options are an erratic Otto Porter, a broken Martell Webster, and the rotting hulk of Rasual Butler.

The Wizards, as constructed and sold to the public, were not meant to be a 4-5 seed. They were a team that through the acquisition of several veterans (Humphries, Pierce, Blair) and the continued development of young assets (Porter, Rice) was meant to challenge for the Eastern Conference title, a step below the LeBron-led Cleveland Cavaliers and the Chicago Bulls. This was a season of ascendance, to gain notice on the national stage, and to be alluring to a certain young gentleman toiling in the confines of OKC. If the Wizards continue to spiral in the loss column post All-Star Break, it could mean a matchup against a top seed such as the Hawks or Cavaliers and the potential embarrassment of being swept out in the first round of the playoffs. If the Wizards manage to tread water and hang around at the 4-5 seed, they may find themselves laboring in the dark bowels of NBA TV during the playoffs, little loved and barely noticed.

This is all conjecture. Beal could be fit as a fiddle following the All-Star break, but another injury brings up uncomfortable questions about how the Wizards will value Beal in the future and whether his injury proneness makes him worth a max contract. The fear here (as it should be for all fellow Chicken Littles) is that Wizards may see Beal as not worth the investment and that any player could become 40 percent better after sharing the court with John Wall. At this point, one has to divorce Beal the “talent” from Beal “the player within Randy Wittman’s system” and understand that there is a key misstep in unlocking Beal’s potential.

After all, people only come to the National Zoo to see the pandas, and what are the Wizards without their own rare bear if not one sad cheetah and a group of aging lions?


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Adam Rubin
Reporter / Writer at TAI
Adam grew up in the D.C. area and has been a Washington Bullets fan for over 25 years. He will not refer to the franchise as anything other than the Bullets unless required to do so by Truth About It editorial standards. Adam spent many nights at the Capital Centre in the ‘90s where he witnessed such things as Michael Jordan’s “LaBradford Smith game,” the inexcusable under-usage of Gheorghe Muresan’s unstoppable post moves, and the basketball stylings of Ledell Eackles.