At some point in the next few weeks, Bradley Beal will return to game action. The second-year player has been out since late November after some aggravation was discovered in a different part of the same leg he injured last March. The now-cautious Wizards looked at the schedule, saw the dearth of opponents in early December and decided this was the optimal time to let him sit.
But there should be some changes once he comes back to prevent this issue from cropping up again. As you all know by now, Beal was playing over 40 minutes a game while running nearly three miles a contest, according to SportVU data. That's after the injury he suffered in March that held him out until August and prevented him from going full contact at Team USA's minicamp later that month. An injury, it's worth noting, that Beal described as follows during a media session yesterday.
Via Michael Lee of the Washington Post:
In April, Beal said he stubbornly played through the pain in his lower leg, and by the time he had it checked out, "I had a crack in my bone."
Seeing the image of his stress fracture on an MRI eight months ago gave Beal some pause, especially after University of Louisville guard Kevin Ware's right leg snapped during the Midwest Region final of the NCAA tournament when he played on an undetected stress fracture.
"I was on the verge of that," Beal said of Ware's gruesome compound fracture. "That's what's kind of scary. The fact that I was still playing. I was in so much pain and. . . my leg could've ended up looking like Kev's leg. It happened again this year, and it wasn't an actual fracture, so that was a big plus. To be able to catch it early and prevent it from happening, we're trying to make sure it doesn't happen again."
A stress fracture -- one that was publicly deemed a mere "stress injury" by the Wizards themselves throughout that process -- is a scary injury. That it was "on the verge" of a compound fracture, which is one of the most devastating injuries one can have, is even scarier. The Wizards and Beal absolutely must proceed with care -- much more care than they did in November -- as he gets healthy again.
The question to consider, then, is just how much Beal should play in the short, medium and long term. Some important considerations:
- Remember that game minutes are just one way a body is physically exerted during the season. There's also practice time, separate workouts and the grueling travel a team must undertake. And, of course, there's balancing proper nutrition and getting enough sleep. All of these things go into a body's fatigue, but only game minutes are easily measured and dissected.
- One reason Beal played so much is that he was getting thrown out there with the second unit to prevent it from collapsing. The Wizards also want Beal to develop some playmaking skills for the long term, and playing him with the second unit gave him experience with the ball in his hands.
- Glen Rice Jr. made the most of his opportunity on Monday, and if he keeps that up, he could serve as Beal's backup.
- In addition to suggesting minutes, I'd also recommend specific rotation patterns.
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