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Wizards' John Wall, Bradley Beal must put aside 'tendency to dislike each other on the court'

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Wizards' John Wall, Bradley Beal must put aside 'tendency to dislike each other on the court'

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 building their relationship.

It's Wall's seventh season and Beal's fifth.

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"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."

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.

In piecemeal, Wall and Beal have spoken publicly about how they can disagree with passion.

In a 41-41 season that had the Wizards out of the playoffs, Wall concluded the overall bickering amongst teammates was as much of a problem as the injuries.

One of the early signs of the season going south came after an embarrassing 123-106 loss to the Indiana Pacers in which Wall remarked postgame he'd only gotten nine shots up in 31 minutes.

He didn't mention anyone by name, but it appeared to mean he likely was unhappy that Beal took 22 in comparison. The next night, in a road game vs. the Charlotte Hornets, Wall predictably had nine shots by the end of the first quarter in a 101-87 loss.

Beal's first injury last season was a shoulder contusion that came a few games prior to that episode, when he went down to the floor for a loose ball and took a knee against the Atlanta Hawks.

While teammates ran to his aid, Wall bypassed Beal and walked to the other end of the court during the dead ball. This sort of body language speaks more than any words.

A good sign for both was towards the end of last season they did hang out during a road trip in New York, but it will take more than that if they are going to be the backcourt they were in the 2015 playoffs when the Wizards were Wall's broken hand/wrist from advancing to the conference finals. 

The 2016-17 version of the Wizards won't have Nene, Jared Dudley, Temple, Anderson, Drew Gooden, Paul Pierce or Trevor Ariza to calm tense situations.

If Wall and Beal are truly going to be leaders, they have to be the voices of reason and not fan any flames with the likes of Trey Burke, Tomas Satoransky, Andrew Nicholson, Kelly Oubre and likely Jarell Eddie.

"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."

It's a rough patch that coach Randy Wittman never was able to smooth out.

This is where new coach Scott Brooks is expected to help in their development as the leaders witth the core veterans gutted from the roster, some of whom insisted that during games it can be difficult to get through to the backcourt when they're frustrated.

"Guys got to know their role. I think that’s the key. I think with coach Brooks coming in he’s going to hold everybody accountable starting with me," Wall said. "Just make sure everybody know what their role is. If everybody buys into their role, we’ll be fine."

Wall signed an $80 million deal for five years in 2013 for what was then a max deal under a $58.7 million salary cap. Beal signed his max for five years under a $94.1 million cap.

This was viewed as Wall's team since he was drafted No. 1 overall in 2010, became a three-time All-Star and second-team All-Defense. Beal, who played a career-low 55 games last season, has yet to achieve those sorts of honors. Wall has to be willing to share. 

“I want it all to be on me. At the same time I want him to be right there with me. He’s my sidekick. I’m A. He’s A-1. He’s right there," Wall said. "That’s something we got to do on the first day of training camp. We have to go in there and understand and get on the same page.

"If we’re not on the same page and we have our ups and downs we’ll keep dealing with the same problems. We have to get control of it. I think it’s hanging out off the court, doing those little things (helps)."

Wall called on his brief college experience when he spent one year at Kentucky. He had All-America teammates in DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe. Wall, of course, was everyone's favorite. Cousins is an All-Star and now has won a gold medal as an Olympian for USA Basketball. Bledsoe is a starting point guard for the Phoenix Suns.

"It kind of goes back to when I was in college," Wall said. "Me and DeMarcus, E-Bled, they all knew I was getting all the media attention but every time I win I brought those guys along with me. I didn’t leave them behind. That’s because we hung out so much. We built a bond together. When you build that bond it’s kind of hard to break."

Ideally, Wall and Beal will reach that comfort level but they can't force a friendship.

They can be, however, better professionals as both admitted in exit interviews. To grow into the leaders they claim to be for 2016-17 means they can't contribute to the chaos that produced players-only meetings (called by role players) in two of the last three seasons.

The way they vibed during the 3-1 start last season, with both taking turns leading the way to close fourth quarters, is what they have to be for most of 82 games. Not what they were for the other 78.

MORE WIZARDS: WALL'S PRIMARY KEY FOR WIZARDS SUCCESS IN 2016-17

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Plenty of reasons why Wizards believe Tim Frazier is better than options at No. 52

Plenty of reasons why Wizards believe Tim Frazier is better than options at No. 52

The type of move I've talked about the Wizards making in the offseason -- and having to do so out of necessity -- came to fruition less than 24 hours before the NBA Draft when they traded their 52nd pick and sent their $2.3 million trade exception to the New Orleans Pelicans for Tim Frazier.

Frazier, a 6-1 backup point guard who bounced around the NBA intially after he went undrafted in 2014, has solidified himself as a rotation player. He averaged 7.1 points and 5.2 assists in 65 games last season. He also proved to be a more than competent backup for Jrue Holiday when he was out for personal reasons.

Almost everyone took their eye off the ball hypothesizing about Paul George, a pie-in-the-sky scenario, when it was this kind of move that was the most likely all along. 

Why Frazier? 

He's proven and they needed that type of point guard immediately. Trey Burke wasn't the answer as he couldn't run the offense, that's not a problem for Frazier. Brandon Jennings played with better pace but had a tendency to be erratic and was a turnstile on defense. His contract also is salary-cap friendly for a team that doesn't have the room.

Why give up a pick (again)?

Two reasons: The Wizards won 49 games last season and was one win from the conference finals. Despite these issues, they didn't feel a need to perform a major upheavel. Also, they have enough players to develop in Tomas Satoransky, Sheldon Mac, Daniel Ochefu and Chris McCullough. They didn't need more to take up roster spots. A backup point guard, of all the positions, is the most crucial with John Wall logging so many minutes going into his eighth season. If the likes of Monte Morris or Tyler Dorsey were going to fall and come available at No. 52, maybe they'd reconsider their approach. But those guys will be gone so they had to take the sure thing here. A No. 52 pick will take 2-3 years to develop even if he sticks, and the learning curve could be longer if you're taking the team's quarterback of the offense. Even a fourth-year vet like Burke had issues and he was a No. 9 overall pick in 2013. It wasnt until Year 3 that Frazier, who went undrafted out of Penn State, panned out.

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How was the deal made?

The Wizards didn't just give up the second-round pick but they used a $2.3 million trade exception that they picked up from the Brooklyn Nets in the deal that sent Andrew Nicholson out of town and brought in Bojan Bogdanovic and McCullough. Frazier was due $2 million from New Orleans which means the Wizards have to send out a close match to that amount in outgoing salary to make the deal work. A second-round pick counts as $0 under salary cap rules because their contracts aren't guaranteed. How do the Wizards facilitate the match? Using the trade exception, a process they were able to implement a few years ago to bring in Jared Dudley in a deal with the Milwaukee Bucks. A trade exception allows a team to acquire a player without giving up anything. Yes, they gave up a pick that the odds say is unlikely to pan out. The Wizards gamble that Frazier will be better than whatever point guard they could've otherwise acquired even if that player sticks in the NBA. 

What about predraft workouts?

Every year, I lament about the overanalysis and hype about the process, or any suggestion that a gem was discovered. Teams have scouted players all season, and in some cases for multiple seasons. They've seen them in real-time situations. They already know. There are no epiphanies. Workouts are a getting-to-know-you session that usually includes a sitdown afterwards. If a player makes all 20 of his threes in a workout, he's not going to get drafted because of that. And conversely, if he goes 0-for-20, that wouldn't disqualify him, either. Little can be read into the actual workouts. A few years ago, a fringe player was defending a 3-on-2 fast break and chose to not stop the ball -- priority No. 1 in transition defense -- and instead went to defend his man. That left a lane wide open for a dunk by the ballhandler. It was a bad look and bad decision which spoke to the player's decision-making under pressure. It's those type of things that teams look for and not your college stats or awards or how well you shot the ball in a workout vs. non-NBA competition. It's a far more cerebral process. The Wizards were doing a final look to determine if anyone caught their eye enough to steal at No. 52. It's not that there weren't good players at Verizon Center but just that they believe those players will be long gone by then or can be snapped up for Las Vegas summer league and/or training camp. The evaluation process is never over. It's always ongoing.

Are they done?

Not necessarily. It doesn't mean they'll definitely do something but they're not standing pat. They can buy a pick and get back into the draft. They had the chance to do this last year but passed because they felt they could get the guys they wanted as free agents. They had Mac and Ochefu locked up immediately for Las Vegas summer league. Under the new CBA, teams get a bump from $3.6 million to $5.1 million for these purposes. They amounts of how much teams pay for picks varies. The Wizards don't have the cap room this year like they had a year ago. Only way a seismic move happens is via trade but Wall and Bradley Beal aren't going to be part of it. The sign-and-trade adjusted rules should take Otto Porter off the table, too, as he loses financially by agreeing to any such deal. It's also difficult to see Markieff Morris, who is on a deal that makes it almost impossible for the Wizards to get equity because of salary inflation, being a trade chip. The best players on the team, Wall and Beal, love him. The three were at Verizon Center today working out with some of the younger guys. This draft is much deeper than a year ago and the Wizards will remain active and will have to get higher than 52 to get someone viable. With Frazier in tow, they don't need another point guard with Satoransky already set. They have a good, young, athletic scorer in Mac who is poised to take the next step so they can use a shooter whether he's found in the draft, trade market or free agency that opens July 1.

MORE WIZARDS: FIVE THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT TIM FRAZIER

 

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5 things to know about new Wizards point guard Tim Frazier

5 things to know about new Wizards point guard Tim Frazier

Here are five things to know about new Wizards point guard Tim Frazier (6-1, 170), whom they acquired in a deal with the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday night that sent the Pelicans the 52nd overall pick in the second round of the 2017 NBA Draft...

*Frazier, 26, averaged 7.1 points, 5.2 assists, 2.7 rebounds, 0.9 steals and shot 40.3 percent from the field last season in 65 games for the Pelicans. He averaged 23.5 minutes per game and made 35 starts. 

*He is not a big three-point threat. Frazier is a career 31.6 percent three-point shooter and last season shot 31.3 percent on 2.0 attempts per game. 

*He has one year left on his contract and will make $2 million next season. That is one of the biggest selling points about him. He's cheap yet experienced and still pretty young.

*Frazier went undrafted out of Penn State University in 2014. He got his first chance as an undrafted free agent and training camp invite with the Boston Celtics. They cut him less than a month later. He then had short stints with the Sixers and Blazers before finally catching on with the Pelicans in March of 2016. New Orleans first signed him to a 10-day contract and then ultimately a two-year, $4 million deal last summer.

*He ruptured his left Achilles tendon as a senior at Penn State in the fourth game of the 2012-13 season. Frazier had surgery, but had to miss the rest of the year as a medical redshirt. It has been five years since he had the injury, but it's worth noting given the severity.

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