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Bradley Beal and the Wizards have to be smarter about playing time moving forward

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Bradley Beal is set to return from his stress injury, but he and the coaching staff aren't in the clear just yet.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

If everything goes as planned, Bradley Beal should be making his return tonight against the Milwaukee Bucks after sitting out the past 11 games due to a fourth stress reaction in his right leg on Wednesday. As expected, Beal expects to be on a minutes limit, but what he said after is the more telling part of his situation:

A minutes limit capped at thirty-five is hardly a minutes limit at all, but in this case, it seems like a direct order from the doctors. With the exception of his first stress reaction in his rookie season which occurred after playing through a high ankle sprain, the past three stress injuries have come as a result of a heavy workload:

November 26, 2013: Beal plays in a four games in five nights stretch, logging 40-plus minutes in three of those contests and 38 minutes in the other. The Wizards swore they had caught it in the early stages but Beal also claims that "It's been lingering for about a week" and that  "I thought it was calf soreness for a while." He ends up missing the next nine games.

February 5, 2015: Beal has to leave the game against the Charlotte Hornets with what the Wizards called an "inflamed right toe" but after subsequent examinations, we learn that he's developed a stress reaction in his lower right fibula. Beal had played over 38 minutes in the past 5 games, including 45 minutes in their overtime victory against the Toronto Raptors. He sits out the next 8 games.

December 9, 2015: Beal averages an absurd 38 minutes per game over a seven-game slate -- including a pair of 40+ minute nights on a back to back -- leading to the beginnings of another stress reaction in his lower right fibula.

It's impossible to gauge the extent to which his workload has contributed to his chronic leg issues. He's long been among the league leaders in distance traveled per NBA.com's SportsVU data and the coaching staff has always elected to go with him, not John Wall, to spearhead their often shaky second-units over the years. That should change upon his return, the Wizards are better equipped than in year's past to absorb any hit to Beal's playing time, and will be even deeper if Alan Anderson can ever make it back.

But this wouldn't be the first time we've heard of a minutes limit for Beal only to see it disappear in the matter of two weeks. It's embarrassing enough that the coaching staff has fallen into the same trap three separate times, let's hope they've learned their lesson now.