Valentine’s Day is pretty much the Thanksgiving of fidelity. Both days are mellifluous occasions to express gratitude to your family or partner. Although for some folks, it is just a stupid mess. Likewise, when homegrown NBA All-Stars change teams and make anticipated returns to their former cities, it presents a night of gratitude or grotesque tension. All metaphors aside, when John Wall plays his first game against Bradley Beal and the Washington Wizards tonight, he will be welcomed and cheered for his decade-long commitment to his team and the community.
These kinds of nights are emotionally-triggering for a fanbase. Therefore, All-Star returns are polarizing in their intensity. Wall is believed to have demanded a trade, which led to the Wizards’ exchange with the Houston Rockets for Russell Westbrook. In many instances, a public divorce in the sports lexicon spells ‘betrayal’ and is met with vitriol. LeBron James was nearly stoned in his first game against the Cleveland Cavaliers after joining the Miami Heat.
That was a deplorable scene with a racially-charged sentiment. Frankly, the angry mob is a pathetic coping mechanism for a recovering sports community. James should have been revered for his contributions in lifting the Cavaliers into unprecedented contention. Luckily for all our sanities, that will not be the case tonight. The Wall trade was a matter of timing.
After not playing for two seasons, Wall running-mate, Beal, emerged as a formidable number-one option. Unfortunately, the high-scoring two-guard would never spiritually ascend to becoming the face of a franchise with Wall still in a Wizards uniform. Tommy Sheppard and Ted Leonsis chose Beal. The writing was on the wall if you will.
It was clunky from a management perspective. At the end of the day, Wall became the Wizards’ first draftee to be named an All-Star since Juwan Howard in 1996. For a franchise starved for success since the Jimmy Carter administration, that meant the world. In addition to his charitable donations, Wall is loved in the DMV for good reason. He earned it.
Welcome home, John.
Beal Officially Poised For an All-Star Return
Finally, some good news for Washington! Last Thursday, the NBA released the second round of All-Star voting counts. Beal (2.5 million votes) leads all Eastern Conference guards by a significant margin. He remains ahead of the Brooklyn Nets backcourt of Kyrie Irving (2.1 million) and James Harden (1.8 million) in second and third place respectively.
Beal appears to be All-Star bound after missing the Eastern Conference team last year. This was a subject of controversy across the NBA, as well as a sore subject for his family. His exclusion was mostly due to the Wizards’ losing record. Typically, players on playoff-bound clubs are more likely candidates for an All-Star selection. Of the 24 players initially chosen to represent the East and West last year, only two (Brandon Ingram and Trae Young) were not on a playoff roster.
During the 2019-2020 season, Beal led an underwhelming roster of unproven and replacement-level players to ninth place in the standings at the time of the March shutdown. Over the course of his 57 games last year, Beal played with 18 different starting lineups. That’s almost a different starting-five every three games! His scoring efforts (30.5) kept those underwhelming lineups afloat. Gracefully handling that kind of adversity merits an All-Star selection, in my humble opinion.
Alas, his karma appears to be the rewarded a year later. All-Star voting concludes this coming Tuesday.
Conspiracy Theory: Is it Curious to Rest Beal?
Bradley Beal on leading Eastern Conference guards in All-Star voting: “That’s a huge honor to be able to gain that recognition from fans around the world…But I’m also kinda confused, too. I think we both know why. It’s like, what was so different from this year and last year?” pic.twitter.com/sKDsCnUOQf— Fred Katz (@FredKatz) February 7, 2021
The Wizards announced last week that Bradley Beal would miss Friday’s game against the New York Knicks due to ‘rest’ concerns. Beal is the NBA’s leading scorer at 32.8 points per game. Meanwhile, the Wizards are a woeful 7-16 this season.
The decision to rest Beal for tonight’s game is curious.
On paper, it makes sense. The Wizards are set to play eight games in 13 days in order to catch up with health and safety postponements from January. This includes a four-game road trip where Washington plays both Los Angeles teams, Portland, before wrapping up their travels with Denver. Things may fly off the rails in a harrowing fashion.
Washington has lost both games without Beal this season. First they narrowly fell to the Miami Heat 124-128 in January. Then the Wizards were pummelled by New York on Friday 91-109.
Something about ‘rest’ feels strange. The following is purely speculative. Perhaps there is an organizational dictation to maintain Beal’s appeal by sitting him out. After all, two of his lowest scoring outputs of the season have occurred in the past four games. If those All-Star ballots are an indication, his stock in league circles has likely never been as high as it stands today.
This kind of thing has a precedent. I cannot help but think back to when the New Orleans Pelicans rested Anthony Davis to maintain his trade value.
Perhaps the guy just needs a breather. Again, who knows?
Nonetheless, it will be fascinating to see if this sparks a trend moving forward. Whether that means load management or more rumors and leaks than before, something juicy might be afoot.