The NBA refers to this time of year as the All-Star Break, but for the league’s biggest stars, there isn’t much downtime during the chaotic weekend. Each All-Star has a packed schedule that includes corporate meetings, autograph signings, media commitments and more – not to mention the practices and actual All-Star Game.
If anyone could use a break, it’s Bradley Beal. The Washington Wizards are asking a lot of their star shooting guard these days, especially since John Wall went down for the season. Beal leads the NBA in minutes played (2,158) and distance covered per game (running an average of 2.81 miles per contest), while also ranking second in loose-balls recovered (103), third in field goals (535) and sixth in points (1,458).
This season, the 25-year-old is averaging 25.1 points, 5.4 assists, 5.1 rebounds and 1.4 steals – all of which are career-highs.
While in Charlotte, Beal kept busy by meeting with fans, attempting to recruit fellow stars to Washington and making appearances for various brands. One such stop was with Tissot, the official watch of the NBA and All-Star Weekend. HoopsHype caught up with Beal in the Tissot Style Lounge to discuss his productive season, Washington’s recent acquisitions, his development, what it was like hearing his name in trade rumors and more.
In high school, you were rated a five-star prospect by every recruiting service including Scout, Rivals and ESPN. You were the 2011 Gatorade National Player of the Year and just about every major program recruited you. Most people don’t realize the sacrifices that are made in order to get to that level. Can you share what you sacrificed in order to turn your hoop dreams into reality?
Bradley Beal: Not hanging out with my friends, not going to the movies, not going to dances [or parties]. Basically, not going to a lot of stuff and instead just being a basketball junkie. I was always in the gym, always wanting to get better. Even after games, I’d go right back to the gym and focus on getting better – whether I was working with my trainer, Drew Hanlen, or my mom. They would both [put me through workouts].
It’s definitely different, but I don’t think I’d be where I am today if I didn’t have that kind of mentality and approach to the game of basketball. But I can definitely say that sacrifices must be made in order for you to be successful.
Early on, it seemed pretty clear that you’d play college basketball, but at what point did you realize the NBA was a realistic possibility for you?
BB: I think that started when I was a sophomore and I scored 52 points in a high-school game. I think I knew then, “Okay, I have a really good chance of [playing in] college.” And then once I just continued to grow in AAU and high-school basketball during my junior and senior year, I knew I had the potential to get drafted.
I mean, they had mock drafts for the high-school guys, which is crazy. But I would look at the mock drafts and they’d be like, “Oh, he’s going to be a one-and-done guy and enter [the NBA] in a year.” I’m like, “Huh? I’m not even thinking that far in advance. I’m not even thinking I’m [definitely] going to make the NBA!” To be able to get a full ride at Florida and be there for, hell, less than six months, it was crazy. It was a whirlwind, but it was fun. It was a lot of fun.
You mentioned your trainer Drew, who you have worked with since you were a kid. I recently talked with Drew and he told me to ask if you have any fond memories of “The Bury” at Shrewsbury City Center, where you, Jayson Tatum and others put in work as teenagers.
BB: Oh man! It’s the hottest gym in America! It’s the hottest gym, with the coldest water (laughs). That’s how it was every day. There was no air conditioning, no windows, no doors, nothing. It was just a pure sweatbox. But we came in every morning at 6 a.m. and got our work in!
In recent years, you focused a lot on improving your footwork, becoming shiftier and creating your own shot because you felt that’s what your game was missing. Since developing those facets of your game, you’ve become a two-time All-Star. How important were those improvements?
BB: I work on every part of my game because nothing is perfect. Nothing is ever perfect, even my jump-shot. I constantly try to get better – night in and night out, day by day. I always keep a humble-and-hungry mentality. In order to make that [All-Star leap], I had to work on my game and add new things to my game that I didn’t have before and that shiftiness was definitely one of those things.
As cliché as it sounds, [improving is about] hard work and dedication. I always have the mentality that I need to get better. You have to be humble with your success and be hungry for more. That’s the motto I live by: humble and hungry. I’m going to continue pushing myself so I can be the best player I can be.
The Wizards have made some midseason acquisitions, adding Trevor Ariza, Bobby Portis and Jabari Parker. What do those players bring to the team and what’s been your initial impression of those guys?
BB: Oh man, they’re probably the craziest athletes that I’ve ever seen! Just based off the first couple games that we’ve had, I’m impressed. When guys are traded, like how we traded Otto [Porter Jr.], you never wish a guy will get traded and it’s unfortunate to see. But when you see what you’re getting back and the guys you get back in return [are this good], it’s like, “Wow, this is crazy. Why weren’t they getting time over there [in Chicago]?” That’s been my mindset after seeing them play. I think all three of those guys – [Ariza, Portis and Parker] – are going to help us tremendously moving forward. They’re all at least 6-foot-8 or 6-foot-9, and Bobby may even be 6-foot-10 or 6-foot-11. They’re all long. They’re all really athletic. It’s just unbelievable. I wish I had some of their bounce… But I don’t.
You were mentioned in trade rumors quite a bit earlier this season. How did you react to that?
BB: I wasn’t bothered, honestly. In a way, it’s kind of [confirmation] teams want me. It’s kind of [flattering]. In a way, it’s like, “Dang, this is pretty cool.” But, at the same time, I hate change. You never want to have up and move, you don’t want to have to leave [for a new team and city].
Also, in a way, I think it pushed us to produce better. You want to be more productive when you’re on the block. When people see their name in trade talks, they’re like, “Oh man, I have something to prove. I have to play hard.” It’s kind of a two-fold thing. On one hand, you’re kind of excited about it. On the other hand, you’re kind of bummed by it.
Last year was your first All-Star selection. How does it feel to go through this a second time?
BB: I feel more here. I feel more like I belong, in a way. I’m just pretty much embracing it. It’s not as busy as it was last year, but it’s definitely something that I’m having fun with and embracing. I’m just enjoying every single moment… [My main goal] is to get a lot of rest, honestly.
You’re now a two-time All-Star and in your seventh NBA season, but you’re still just 25 years old. Do you ever think back on your journey to this point and what it means to you?
BB: I was actually thinking about it with my brothers yesterday; I had a conversation with them and I was just saying, “It’s so surreal just being here – being in the NBA, let alone being an All-Star.” None of us would have dreamed of this happening, and it happening this fast. I grew up in St. Louis and went to high school, just hoping to get to college. My parents just wanted us all to get D-I scholarships. Sure enough, I made it to the NBA as a third [overall] pick, and here I am: a two-time All Star. I never would have imagined that. My journey is awesome in my eyes. It’s amazing, and I still have a long way to go.
Which Eastern Conference teams have the best shot at taking down the Golden State Warriors?
BB: I would say, at this moment, Toronto looks really good and Milwaukee looks really good. I feel like they’re both long and athletic and they can both shoot the three-ball really well. I think those are the things you’re going to need in order to compete with that team out [in Golden State]. But even looking out West, Golden State will have their hands full because there’s a lot of hungry teams out there too. But they’re the champs so until they’re dethroned, the expectation is that [they’re the best team]. I think the East is making a lot of noise, though. Teams are making a lot of moves to get better and it’s pretty much a big arms race that will come down to the wire at the end of the year.
The NBA may be the most diverse (and progressive) league in the world. What are your thoughts on that and how do you think the league will continue to progress?
BB: I think, for sure, it’s the best league and the most diverse league. It’s the perfect league, in my opinion. It’s more of a players league; we have more of a voice and more say-so than guys in other leagues. We don’t get punished as much as guys in other leagues. We have more freedom of speech, freedom of action, freedom to wear whatever we want to wear. It’s more free and open for the players.
And I think five years from now, it’ll be international. I think there will be teams overseas that we’ll eventually start playing against, like in London [for example]. We make a trip there every year and I think there will eventually be a team there since it’s only a six-hour flight. That’s like going to Cali from DC. In the future, I think there will be teams overseas that are called NBA ‘global teams’ and eventually, one way or another, they’ll mesh together.
Is there a celebrity or athlete who made you feel starstruck when you got the chance to meet them?
BB: I don’t really get starstruck; I’m not really someone who’s in awe [when I meet someone]. But yesterday, for the first time, I had a full conversation with Ray Allen, who’s my idol. That may have been the first time that I was, like, “Wow.”
Some quotes from Beal’s press conference at All-Star Media Day are included.