The Washington Wizards are betting that a backcourt pairing of Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal will do better than what would have been the retooled pairing of John Wall and Bradley Beal. Westbrook's accolades on the court certainly outpace Wall's, but the only thing that will matter is team success. Wall and Beal, when healthy, were one of the best backcourts in the league, we do know that. The supporting cast around those previous Wizards teams is more to blame than Wall and Beal.
Westbrook and Beal face their most difficult obstacles early. They have less than three weeks before the regular season starts in Philadelphia on December 23. In a 72-game season, Washington can ill afford to get off to a slow start as they have been prone to do. Expectedly, both Beal and Westbrook are complimentary of each other's games before even getting on the court together.
"Who we’re bringing in, you see the caliber of player of Russ and what’s he’s able to do," Beal said Friday after the first day of camp before Westbrook arrived. "A former MVP, triple-double, walking triple-double. He’s going to bring a spark to our team and an energy to our city. That void won’t go unfilled."
"I'm super excited," Westbrook said Saturday after arriving at the facility. "Brad is superstar talent. He proved that and showed that last year. He's only going to get better. My job is to come in and continue to uplift him, try and push him to be better. That's all I'm here for, I'm happy to be his counterpart and try to make the game easier for him."
There is no denying that both players want the ball in their hands. In 2019-20, both had identical 34.4% usage ratings. Both of those numbers are going to have to come down for the team as a whole to succeed. Westbrook's history is made murky by past relationships and now being on his third team in 18 months.
"90%, 100% of it not even true because a lot of times, the things that are made up, people don’t actually know me to be able to say anything about me or what I’m about," Westbrook said in his defense.
Even before the former MVP said those words, Beal was more than willing to give Westbrook a fair shake. This was a crucial prerequisite before this pairing could even get off the ground.
"He’s one of the best point guards in the game, for me to sit here and say he can’t make things work with other guys, I can sit here and say I’m not other guys either. There games aren’t like my game. I’m very adaptable. I adjust to who’s with me. Who I’m playing with, new guys we add. My job is to make his job easier.," Beal explained. "I’m never going to judge a book by its cover until I dive into actually playing with him."
It has been a bittersweet time for many Wizards fans. I included was growing curious of a 2016-17 John Wall with a 2019-20 Bradley Beal in 2020-21. We will never know how that would have turned out, but Beal is now all eyes ahead and here to get you excited for the upcoming season with Westbrook.
"Everybody always has this mindset that Russ is super aggressive, but I love aggression, I love attack mentality, I love guys getting downhill, I love guys that incorporate their teammates," Beal said. "I feel like in conversations I’ve had with people, Russ is a great teammate, Russ is a great person. I think there’s a lot of false narratives that people have on him so I won’t put any stock into those things until I actually get some time with Russ on the floor. But I don’t think it will be anything where he comes in, he’s trying to run the show and just do everything by himself, he realizes it’s a group effort. I’m here, Rui’s here, TB’s here, we just re-signed Davis, so we have a great group of guys here that we can make things work. It’s a well put together team, we just got to hit the ball running from Day 1. I don’t think there will be any issues."