Once again, John Wall, Bradley Beal, Wizards look ahead after 2nd-round exit
WASHINGTON (AP) — For the third time in four seasons, John Wall and Bradley Beal exited the playoffs in the second round, extending the Washington Wizards’ nearly four-decade drought without a conference finals appearance.
“It feels a little different, but a little bit of the same. It’s kind of like I’m tired of being in this situation. I’m tired of losing in the second round. I’m kind of at that point now,” Beal said Tuesday, about 15 hours after Washington was eliminated with a Game 7 loss to the Boston Celtics.
“I felt like we were right there,” he added. “That’s the worst thing, especially about the day after.”
Still, it’s primarily because of backcourt mates Wall and Beal that the Wizards do have reason to look on the bright side after winning only a single playoff series.
“Obviously, having those two guys on the team, like Brad and John,” center Marcin Gortat said, “we’re always going to have expectations.”
This season began with a new coach - Scott Brooks replaced Randy Wittman, who was fired after missing the playoffs a year ago - and with questions about the chemistry between Wall and Beal. It also started with a 2-8 record.
But Washington turned things around, thriving at times under Brooks and finishing with 49 wins, and its guard tandem could smile Tuesday while discussing the perceived rift between them.
“It didn’t do anything but make our friendship and brotherhood become more tight,” Wall said.
As for where they need to improve, Wall sounded a note he’s hit after past postseason exits.
“I’m tired of saying the same thing,” the four-time All-Star said, “but we’ve got to do a better job of closing out games.”
Beal wants this season’s ultimate disappointment to fuel the Wizards for the future.
“For sure, I’m confident in our team. ... It’s on to getting better this offseason. And next season, it’ll be totally different,” Beal said. “We’ve got to remember that feeling that we have now and be better next year.”
Here are other things to know about the Wizards as they head into the offseason:
Gortat tends to speak his mind and did so again Tuesday, raising the possibility that he might wind up elsewhere despite still being under contract with the Wizards. “I’m just going to sit down in the summer and talk to my agent, talk to my people, my closest people,” he said, “and I’m going to analyze if this is the right fit.”
A couple of other nuggets from him:
- About his critics, “I know there’s a lot of freaking idiots looking directly at the column with the points, telling me that, `You scored only four or six points; team lost because of you.”’
- About his position’s place in today’s NBA, “Nobody respects centers anymore. Nobody looks at them as a valuable piece.”
- About the way the season ended, “Yeah, we could say `If, if, if, if.’ There’s a lot of `if.”’
One key question is whether restricted free agent Otto Porter Jr. will return to his only NBA team. He didn’t shed any light on the matter, saying, “I haven’t really thought about that yet.”
Brooks received glowing praise from players after Year 1 of his five-year, $35 million contract. “As a team, we respect him, we respect how he coaches, the way he does and how he is as a person, outside of coaching,” Beal said. “I loved him. He granted everybody confidence, freedom, on both ends of the floor.”
Reserve forward Kelly Oubre Jr. said that he had an MRI exam last week on his injured right knee but did not want to hear the results, so he doesn’t know if he will need offseason surgery. Backup center Ian Mahinmi, who missed a chunk of the regular season with a knee problem and the start of the playoffs because of a calf issue, said he is not sure whether he might need any sort of procedure now that the season is over.