Storyline: Wall-Beal Dynamic

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About halfway through the interview, Leonsis spoke about Bradley Beal and John Wall—breaking down how the Wizards’ brass convinced Beal decided to sign a two-year extension with the team. “Brad and John are way closer than the media portrays,” Leonsis said. “They are also deeply immersed in the culture of the NBA and history of the NBA. Having a great backcourt is priority one and why would you want to, if you’re a great player, be a sidekick, if you will. And is that leading to happiness? I mean that’s the amazing thing that you see. You’ve never seen as many unhappy people as you’re seeing in the NBA.”

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Bradley Beal in his birthday toast to John Wall: “Everybody count us out, doubting us every year. That’s my brother man. I appreciate you all welcoming me.” John Wall: “Love brother.” (via 5deepjak/IG)

A lot speculation is centered around Brad’s future and the organization has been committed to you. If something changed and for some reason, he was moved, would you be comfortable with a rebuild? John Wall: At the end of the day, nobody feels comfortable with a rebuild. I don’t like to lose. I went through that my first couple of years. Me and Brad are brothers. I tell everybody, you’ve got two young guys that’s so talented. Who ain’t going to bump heads at some time? We both want to be great. We both want to take the last shot. But we built that type of bond. Brad is so mature for his age, you wouldn’t expect for him to be the age he is, but give a lot of credit to his parents and his brothers that raised him. I feel like we need one more shot. We need one more run at it. But we’ve got to add some pieces around us, some dogs that can go to war with us. I mean, me and him together, we can go against anybody.

John Wall and Bradley Beal called out their teammates for having their “own agendas” after a 116-112 loss to the Sacramento Kings on Friday night. Washington dropped to 1-4 to start the season, with the pair of All-Star guards blasting the Wizards’ effort on the defensive end of the floor, where Washington is giving up 122.8 points a game, second-worst in the league. “Sometimes we have our own agendas on the floor, whether it’s complaining about shots, complaining about playing time, complaining about whatever it may be,” Beal said. “We’re worried about the wrong (expletive) and that’s not where our focus needs to be and it’s just going to continue to hurt us.”

John Wall had to be the bold one, too. In 2010, a month before Wall was drafted first overall by the Wizards, he was in Los Angeles to watch the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League and to check out a high school shooter from St. Louis. After the game, Wall made a beeline through the gymnasium packed with fans trying to see him and approached Bradley Beal, saying he was a fan of his game. Two years later, Wall petitioned the Wizards’ front office to draft the quiet kid who could shoot like Ray Allen. Over time, Wizards teammates took to calling him “Baby Ray.” “I viewed [Wall] as a big brother,” Beal said.

Even now, Beal must carefully dodge potential land mines when discussing his relationship with Wall. He knows there always will be someone dissecting every word or interpreting anything he shares about the duo’s growing pains as signs of irreconcilable rancor. No, they’re not BFFs, but they like each other just fine — though Wall hasn’t come over to Beal’s McLean, Va., mansion, Beal has taken his five dogs over to Wall’s property in Potomac, Md. Beal believes they can both lead the Wizards. In doing so, healthy disagreement should be expected. “We’re not always going to be on the same page. There are times when we will get into it, we will argue. He’ll chew me out, and I’ll chew him out, but at the same time, there’s a respect factor that we have,” Beal said, before concluding, “Brothers do that.”

Though Wall was going for laughs — several Washington Wizards teammates recognized the impression — there was a sincerity to his acknowledgment of Beal’s hot streak. “He’s already a lethal scorer,” Wall said before the Wizards faced the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday, “but he’s finding ways to do it in so many other ways, getting downhill and getting to the basket and a guy like that that can score in various ways and get into a rhythm, the basket’s big.”

“It’s the same thing I went through,” Wall told The Vertical of Beal’s steady climb. “A lot of people get success later on, and a lot of us get it late. Both of us are getting it late in our career, but that doesn’t define what you did early in our career, because we still showed glimpses. We just never were healthy and never had a great team. He put in the work and is deserving of everything he’s got. All you can do is keep going up. And all we can do is keep getting better and better as a tandem.”

Bradley Beal: Maturing has had a big impact on how John Wall and I play together, too. We’ve both grown—in our mental approach to the game, our intellectual approach to the game, and how we relate to each other. We both understand that the team won’t be successful unless we’re on the same page, and that’s where we are now. With time, we’ve gotten better and better, and as a backcourt, we feel like we’re second to none. We know where each other’s spots are on the floor. I know where he’s going to be in the flow of the offense. He knows where I’m going to be. Everything just naturally flows, and on top of it, we’re both having career years. We’re constantly getting better, and challenging each other to be the best we can be.

Before accepting the job, Brooks had heard of a possible rift between his two best players, Wall and Beal. The relationship dominated headlines over the summer after Wall told Chris Miller of CSN Mid-Atlantic that they had a tendency to “dislike each other” on the court. But Brooks’ concerns about how the young backcourt would mesh were alleviated before the start of training camp. “I met both of them and it confused me a little bit, because both were great guys. And I know when players can get along and I know when this is not going to work. I never felt that, from meeting both of them individually over the summer, ‘How are we going to make this work? I’m going to have to bring in some guys way above my thinking.’ But I never felt that,” Brooks told The Vertical.

Talking to both of them, I think we can get there. John has the ability to impact the game without scoring, by just defending and passing.” Will he remain happy doing that? “I can’t answer that with 100 percent certainty,” Brooks admits. “If Kyrie Irving is going for 40 and he’s having a bad shooting game, is he going to worry about the game or…? We’ll see. If you’re going to be a leader, it’s about doing the things to lead your team and moving on to the next game.”

“People always assumed why we weren’t connecting,” Wall says now. “People asked, ‘Well, are you mad?’ No, I’m not mad. I can’t control the CBA. It’s good timing for him. All I’m saying is let him earn it. I didn’t deserve it until I went out and made the All-Star Game and then they said, ‘All right, he earned it.’ Let him earn it. I had to earn mine.” Big Panda agrees that he has to join Wall in testing his physical limits, and he addressed the issue prior to sitting out the Wizards’ recent loss to the Cavaliers, the first of three games he missed with the strained hamstring. “No matter how our bodies might feel, no matter what we did the night before, there are no nights off,” Beal says.

On Friday afternoon, Brooks shared his thoughts for the first time since John Wall and Bradley Beal spoke of on-court chemistry issues in separate CSN interviews. Brooks has read their admissions — and he doesn’t plan on holding emergency counseling sessions before the 2016-17 season begins. “There’s a lot of things I’m worried about going into camp, and every coach in this league is worried about, that is not one of them,” Brooks said about Wall and Beal’s possible rift. “I haven’t even talked to our assistant coaches about it. Will I meet with each player individually? Yes. Will I meet with the team? Yes. Will I meet with the positions together? Yes. But I don’t see our team having a problem with chemistry.”

John Wall recently said he and Bradley Beal “have a tendency to dislike each other,” which is a strange thing to publicly admit. The Wizards’ chemistry issues are apparent, and it’s not like Wall said they actually hate each other, but an inclination to get agitated is not out of his character. Wall is known to keep a close eye on what other players are making, and the paper tossed around this summer has reportedly irked him. One league source familiar with Wall’s state of mind simply put it this way: “Wall’s got jealousy issues. He’s always upset with someone who makes more money than him.” A lot of players will make more money than Wall this year. He signed a five-year, $84.8 million deal in 2013, which looks like chump change now.

Wall admitted he and Beal “have a tendency to dislike each other on the court.” Beal acknowledged he and his back-court mate “lose sight of the fact that we need each other.” With these confessions, suddenly fans’ hopes of the duo matching the dynamic of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson gave way to the fear of an unraveling more akin to Jason Kidd and Jim Jackson, Larry Johnson and Alonzo Mourning, Chris Paul and everyone. “They got to figure it out,” said Clippers assistant coach Sam Cassell, who was a Wizards assistant from 2009 to 2014. “I’m not going to [say] who’s wrong or who’s right, but they got to figure it out.”

“I think a lot of times we have a tendency to dislike each other on the court. … We got to be able to put that to the side. If you miss somebody on one play or don’t have something go right … as long as you come to each other and talk. If I starting arguing with somebody I’m cool. I’m just playing basketball,” Wall said in a sitdown interview with CSN’s Chris Miller that airs tonight, Wizards Central: Offseason Grind, at 7:30 p.m. ET. “Now that you have your money you got to go out there and improve your game. I want you to be an All-Star just as much as I’m an All-Star. If we were playing well as a tandem like the other two superstars that play together as a backcourt, play as a tandem, one night it’s going to be his night, one night it’s going to be mine, some nights it might be both of us. Those are nights it’s going to be tough to beat us.”

“It’s tough because we’re both alphas. It’s always tough when you have two guys who firmly believe in themselves, who will bet on themselves against anybody else, who want to be that guy. We both can be that guy,” Beal said. “Sometimes I think we both lose sight of the fact that we need each other. I wouldn’t be in the situation I’m in without John. John wouldn’t be in the situation he’s in without me, without the rest of the team. It goes hand-in-hand so it’s kind of a pride thing. We got to (hash) out our pride, fiigure out what our goals are individually, help each other achieve those goals, figure out what our team goal is, where do we see ourselves five years from now, 10 years from now and go from there.”
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