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.
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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.”
John Wall: Yessir !! RT @Bradley Beal: Good to have my dawg @johnwall back !! #DCFamily
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.”
“No matter if you’re there or not, there’s nothing you can do about it,” Wall said about defenders against Beal. “When a guy’s making shots like that, there’s nothing you can do.”
Beal eventually will come back down to earth. But Wall doesn’t want to be the reason behind this inevitable descent. “We got to find a way to still keep him in his rhythm when I come back,” Wall said, “Keep him the same zone that he’s in.”
“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.”
Marc J. Spears: “We understand how to find each other, at the same time play our game,” Wizards guard John Wall on backcourt mate Bradley Beal. “That’s where I excel a lot. I normally have the ball. I’m going to get my shot whenever I want to. But my job is to get him going. That’s where we are a better team.”
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.
“I never had a conversation with them where I had to say, ‘John, you’ve got to say nice things to Brad. Brad, can you say nice things to John? Let’s have a group hug right now.’ I’ve never done that. I don’t think I have to. I just like how they both acknowledge each other’s greatness on the floor. I think they’re one of the best backcourts in the league and could be for the next 10 years.”
In an appearance on ESPN Radio’s NBA Insiders, Beal was asked about how his relationship with Wall is after entering the season under the microscope. “I think it’s (going) well,” Beal said in the Sunday interview. “I think it’s (going) really well. It’s kind of getting old, people saying that we don’t agree and that we don’t click. We’re just going out and proving it on the floor.”
Chris Broussard: (Bradley Beal) and Wall are different people. They don’t get along. It’s not like they are going to have a fight, but they don’t like each other. I’ve just been told point-blank that they don’t like each other. Tomas Satoransky: I don’t play the point that much and it’s hard. Playing the three and the two, that’s not my game.
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.”
A rival Eastern Conference personnel scout wonders how much longer the Wizards can wait to find out if Wall and Beal are truly made for each other. “If they’re the building blocks, by now they should be turning the corner,” says the scout. “You look at their team, they should be pretty good. I don’t know that they blow it up, but you have to think about tinkering with it.”
“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.
“And I wouldn’t have begged him to come back,” Wall interjected. “I would’ve been, ‘Don’t come back because in two years, I ain’t coming back.’ We would’ve figured something out. … I think everybody blew it out of proportion for no reason. I mean, if you look at any two great teammates, and two young, great guys, that’s talented and want to be great, you’re going to have ups and downs. Everything is not going to be perfect.”
“My individual goal is to add [Beal] to the All-Star game with me. I feel like if he’s not there, then I didn’t do my job of leading the team,” Wall told The Vertical. “We’ve proved it. I ain’t an All-Star if he ain’t playing. Simple as that. We’ve had arguments in games. You’re going to do that. But if I can put that to the side, see him wide open and make that pass … and if I don’t make that pass and take that shot …”
Wizards head coach Scott Brooks talked about the John Wall-Bradley Beal relationship on SiriusXM NBA Radio: “I read what everybody else read. I have not talked to them about it because I don’t think it was important. I will say this… Teams that never have disagreements with one another are bad teams.”
John Wall: No bad blood this my Brother !! Let the good times roll now let’s Rock and Roll !! #WizSquad #WallWay
Andrew Sharp: Beal on his relationship with John Wall: “It’s great.” [grins] “How do you guys think it is?” #MediaDay #Wizzzzarrrrrrrrrds
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.”
“Two things I noticed about both of them, they’re very competitive and they care about their teammates. When you have those two qualities, you will never have problems with me as the coach and you’ll never have problems with your teammates,” Brooks said. “With that being said, they’re like brothers and you’re going to have arguments. If you don’t have an argument as an NBA team, that’s odd.”
“I just wanted to clear the air for all these people talking about how I’m watching other people’s pockets and I’m not worried about basketball and getting better,” Wall said directly to the camera. “Listen, that doesn’t matter to me. If I produce like I’m supposed to on the basketball court and take care of myself and image, I’m going to be fine with making money. That’s not why I play the game of basketball.”
“Me, talking about Bradley Beal [making] more money, I’m not mad. I’m happy. He’s my teammate,” Wall said Friday. “He came out at the right time when the contract money came up. I can’t control that.” Wall added that if he does what he’s “supposed to do and the Washington Wizards win,” he’ll get his own salary bump in the future.
Wall also addressed rumors that he was “rankled” over James Harden’s four-year, $118 million extension. “I don’t care,” Wall said of the Houston Rockets star’s deal. “I’m happy for him. That’s my guy. I’m not mad at him. … Please stop saying I’m watching money. I’m not.”
John Wall passed the ball to Bradley Beal 12.1 times and assisted him for a basket 1.1 times per game last season. Let’s take a look at the numbers of other great NBA tandems in 2015-16.
Jared Dudley: It’s all good Bruh!I rather see articles about what John Wall done for his community! DC and NC! Trust me it’s a lot
If Harden’s contract was irritating, just imagine how Wall felt when Beal signed for a five-year max contract worth $127.2 million, tied for the fourth-most-valuable contract in the NBA. An agent described it to me like this: “Whatever is public, multiply it by five and that’s how they really feel about each other. It’s probably a total disaster.”
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.
A front-office executive tells The Ringer that Wall was “rankled” after Harden signed a four-year, $118 million extension with the Rockets. If Harden’s contract was irritating, just imagine how Wall felt when Beal signed for a five-year max contract worth $127.2 million, tied for the fourth-most-valuable contract in the NBA. An agent described it to me like this: “Whatever is public, multiply it by five and that’s how they really feel about each other. It’s probably a total disaster.”
Wall and Beal have never clicked for the same reason the jocks and the geeks don’t sit at the same lunch table in high school. They’re fundamentally different, I’m told. Wall likes to party, but Beal doesn’t get out much. Beal spends tons of hours in the gym, but Wall doesn’t, and is still a significantly better player, a three-time All-Star. Beal is a complementary player, a zero-time All-Star, and will be getting paid $17.1 million more over the next three seasons.
John Wall: I have every reason to smile, It’s time to shine….. Bless and Thankful !! #5Deep #WallWay #BYB pic.twitter.com/ykJmqdMJVK
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.”
But for one person who understands the Wall-Beal pairing, the latest revelations are no cause for concern. “I think both were saying that they’re just leaders and very vocal leaders, so at times both of them want the stage,” said NBA trainer Drew Hanlen, Beal’s longtime shooting coach. “I don’t think there’s any beef between them because they are friends off the court.”
On Wednesday morning, Hanlen spoke from Los Angeles and when peppered with questions about Wall and Beal’s relationship, he plainly stated: “If it was a Kevin Durant-Russell Westbrook thing, I would have not commented.” “I don’t think there’s a [feuding] situation because I’m as close as anyone to Brad and he’s never said anything bad at John.”
The high temperatures outside the arena at Las Vegas summer league, where John Wall sat courtside to watch the Wizards play, were punishing. Bradley Beal walked in with his girlfriend, fresh off agreeing to $128 million max contract, and when he sat down there was a gulf of unfilled chairs between the two. The two self-described “cornerstones” of the Wizards couldn’t have been farther away from each other. It’s no secret that the Wizards’ future — and two best and highest-paid players — have work to do with builidng their relationship. It’s Wall’s seventh season and Beal’s fifth.
Since the backcourt has played together for four years, there’s a tendency to asume that they’re best friends. But they don’t spend much time together outside of Verizon Center and they have had to be separated on more than one occassion after blowups. Last season, Alan Anderson made peace after preseason game when Beal was upset. Two seasons ago it was Garrett Temple, Beal’s best friend on the team who now is with the Sacramento Kings, to restrain him. Both veterans are gone after free agency this summer.
“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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