It has been exactly 282 days since Bradley Beal last stepped onto a court for an NBA game. The last time Wizards fans were able to watch Beal go to work, he dropped 39 points, seven assists and three steals against a hapless New York Knicks squad at Capital One Arena on Mar. 10 in a 122-115 win.
From there, the coronavirus pandemic suspended the 2019-20 NBA season for several months before the league resumed in a postseason bubble at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, FL, Beal did not travel with the team due to a shoulder injury. With the NBA season suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, coupled with the shoulder ailment, just seeing Beal’s name listed in the starting lineup was cause for celebration.
During Thursday’s 97-86 preseason loss against the Detroit Pistons, Beal logged 16 minutes — all of which came in the first half — and finished with a stat line of 10 points, one assist and one block on 4-of-11 shooting from the field. Despite going 1-of-5 from three and 1-of-3 from the free-throw line, the statistics from Beal’s first preseason game — rather, first game in over nine months — is more about the Wizards’ star player getting back on the court than it is his efficiency.
“It did feel good to just be back out on the floor, just to be able to be out there,” Beal told reporters via Zoom following the game. “[It felt good to] be in our arena, feel my team. That all felt great. It definitely felt weird not having any fans. It was an adjustment for me for sure but, you know, this is how the rest of the year is gonna go, so I think I’ll get used to it pretty quick.”
While Beal tasted NBA action for the first time this season against the Pistons, Both Davis Bertans and Russell Westbrook did not dress for the game. With only one remaining game before the Wizards’ opening tipoff next Wednesday against the Philadelphia 76ers, Beal was hopeful that he and his teammates would be afforded the opportunity to play together in Saturday’s preseason finale.
“Everybody is just trying to implement new guys that they acquired to the best of their abilities,” Beal said. “And we’re trying to do the same. Hopefully, we can get more guys out next game. Hopefully, Russ gets out and plays and [Davis] as well. We are looking forward to continue doing what we’ve been doing over the past year. We know our offense; we know our sets. It’s the first [my teammates] played with me in a long time. It was an adjustment for everybody once the bright lights came on, but I think we’ll be okay.”
Not only is Beal getting used to stretching his legs again, but Head Coach Scott Brooks also has used the preseason to rest several big-name players — Beal (against Brooklyn), Bertans and Westbrook — and evaluate the myriad of young talent on the roster. With COVID-19 protocols, safety checks and fans having to wait until the opener to see Brooks’ preferred starting five, the entire 2020-21 season is going to be different, for everyone.
“I haven’t played since March, so I haven’t seen a lot of live basketball besides my teammates for a long time,” Beal said. “It was definitely an adjustment for me, but I’m ready to go. I’m definitely excited, my body feels great. My shoulder feels even better, so I’m just ready to hit this thing swinging come Saturday. And then after that, the real lights come on.”