Twenty-two points, four rebounds, two assists on fifty percent shooting--and a perfect eight for eight from the stripe.
That sounds like the exact performance the Wizards and their fans have expected Bradley Beal to have every night on the floor. Based on his confidence and aggressiveness last night, there's no reason to think he won't be able to produce like that every night.
Well, maybe not tonight, since that aggressiveness also happened to manifest itself in a hard last-minute foul on Monta Ellis that could result in Beal missing tonight's tilt against the Pacers with a suspension. No word from the league at the time of this posting, but we'll be sure to update later if we hear anything.
If you haven't heard by now, with just under 30 seconds to go in the game last night, Monta Ellis headed for an easy fast break layup. Beal--who probably did not want to give up an easy basket--fouled Ellis hard (Beal claims he was going for the ball). Ellis hit the deck, and as Beal went to help him up, Brandon Jennings shoved Beal in the back. A tussle ensued (though no bodies left the bench), and officials ejected both Beal and Jennings for with Flagrant-2 fouls.
Beal's foul on Ellis overshadowed a breakout performance by the rookie, who finally took John Wall and coach Randy Wittman's advice and stayed aggressive every second he was on the floor. Despite "feel[ing] like a ball hog" by shooting multiple possessions in a row, Beal has started to train himself to attack and stay aggressive. "It's just that mentality that I have to have, staying aggressive. I don't always have to shoot the ball," Beal said after the game. "I had a few turnovers too, and I have to limit my turnovers. But it's just being more aggressive and stronger with the ball."
Beal showed an uncanny ability during both summer league and preseason to get himself to the free throw line. For a player to have that skill this early in his career is invaluable, and it's equally invaluable to have a player like that on team that hasn't had someone like that for years (HIBACHI!). Hitting all eight of his attempts from the line last night (he also happens to be have made every single FT attempt so far this season, 13-13) showed that defenses will pay, too, if they let him get into the lane. Beal credits Wall with encouraging him to get to the basket: "There's plenty of times where I can attack the basket. [Wall's] perspective from the bench is great, because there's a lot of things he sees that I don't see. He's telling me, whenever I get the ball in transition and there's a big man backpeddaling, attack him. Chances are, you're going to get a foul, and several times I got a foul."
"He's growing, getting more confident. He's attacking more. Still, he's got areas where he can do it even more," Wittman said. "On offensive rebounds kicked out to him... in scramble situations, you've got to stay in attack mode. But he was better. Anytime he can get to the line eight times like he did I think shows he's being aggressive."
As much improvement as he showed last night, he struggled a bit with turnovers (3) and three-pointers (0-4). Both of those come with the territory of transitioning from the college to the pro game, but with how quickly he seems to be gaining his confidence, I wouldn't be surprised if he those areas improved sooner rather than later.
As important as it is to be aggressive, Beal will need to be careful about appropriately channeling that aggression. This will come with experience, for sure, but here are a few quick pointers:
The difference between the two is simple, but important. Good aggression is controlled chaos. The simultaneous use of intelligence, skill, experience, and adrenaline. We've all experienced that in some way, shape, or form. But there's a perfect balance to those pieces that needs to be maintained. With the fast break dunk, Beal showed intelligence to run the floor and get an easy basket, his skill got him in the air to make a high percentage shot, camp and college gave him the experience to know that when you have a transition opportunity you take it, and adrenaline got him fired up enough to slam it home.
Bad aggression is when the pieces are out of line. If any of those four pieces are outweighing the others, then there's a problem. With the foul, I don't think intelligence or skill were the issue, nor was adrenaline a problem. With more experience, Beal will know that you don't knock a guy out of the air like that--whether or not you're going for the ball. Jennings said after the game that in situations like that, especially at the end of the game, wrapping a guy up is the better play. Beal will know that in time, and luckily last night, Ellis wasn't injured because of Beal's inexperience.
There's still no word from the league on whether Beal will play tonight or not. The team could certainly use his scoring. If he doesn't play, you'll have to chalk it up to a rookie mistake.
UPDATE: Per Michael Lee, Beal is not suspended for his hit on Ellis.
#wizards will have Bradley Beal when they take on IND. League determined hard foul on Monta Ellis didn't warrant suspension— Michael Lee (@MrMichaelLee) November 10, 2012