NEW ORLEANS -- Usually when the Wizards are going off the rail, they'll all say the proper things about what it takes to get back on track. But this exercise is clearly not setting well with Bradley Beal, who doesn’t have the same disposition as he has had in the past.
In his fourth season, and a contact year as he will become a restricted free agent next summer, he has been in a rut for weeks and there are no signs that he’s getting out of it anytime soon.
Complicating matters is what happened Wednesday, when Beal had seven turnovers in a 109-103 loss to the Houston Rockets and shot 5 of 15 from the field. He was indecisive and not accepting the double-teams as well as he should. Tonight, they're facing the New Orleans Pelicans (CSN, CSNmidatlantic.com and NBC Sports Live Extra, 7:30 ET).
"He played not aggressive. Too soft," coach Randy Wittman said. "That's what happens. You get seven turnovers."
Except for a 34-point outburst he had last week in a win against the Phoenix Suns, Beal hasn't been the same since returning Nov. 21 from the left shoulder contusion that kept him out two weeks He's shooting 22-for-58 in his last three games, or 38%. That includes 6-for-17 on three-pointers for 35%. He has totaled just nine assists, 14 rebounds and 11 turnovers.
His overall field-goal accuracy in 11 games since the injury is 40.8% (74 of 181).
"What they're doing now with is they're trapping pick-and-rolls," said Jared Dudley, on what he has observed about Beal in his first season in Washington. "The conversation with Brad is, 'You're going to have to be a playmaker early on to set up for you to be able to get these one-on-ones because right now they're taking the ball out of your hands."
Beal's answers have gotten shorter and more curt, and his non-verbal communication makes it obvious that not happy at the moment (or with the questions). Is that he's not pleased with constructive criticism of his performances -- "He's right," Beal concedes about Wittman's "soft" comments about the team -- or just down on himself is not clear. He remains as pleasant as can be expected under the circumstances, brushing over certain topics probably because he’s tired of doing it week after week, month after month and now year after year after year.
"Can't put our finger on anything. It keeps happening, man," Beal said of what has gone wrong with the Wizards. "It's a curse we have to break. It's a really bad habit we have.
"We'll change it around. It's still early for us. Hopefully we can get our mind right."
If this is what Beal's season is going to look like, regardless of who or what is to blame for these lulls, the Wizards (9-11) are going to have trouble getting into the playoffs much less advancing.
As long as he stays healthy, it still won't negatively impact his value in the free-agent market too much if suitors believe it's simply a chemistry issue. Beal's ceiling is too high.
But what about his future with the Wizards? It's hard to imagine a scenario in which the front office decides to bust up its backcourt. Every option will be exhausted first to try to fix whatever is wrong because Beal is much better than this and still too valuable.
Sixty-two games are left, but at some point it'll be time to sound the fire alarm.
"We need to be a more physical team. We need to be tougher and we need to play harder," Beal said. "We score a lot of points. That's not our issue. It's just a matter of us defending."