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Bradley Beal questionable vs. Thunder but history suggests he'll play


Bradley Beal questionable vs. Thunder but history suggests he'll play

Bradley Beal's status hasn't changed from questionable for the Wizards for tonight's game vs. the Oklahoma City Thunder even though he practiced some, but it's hard to imagine that he won't play considering the caliber of opponent and his history of playing through pain.

"You know my motto, if it ain't broke I ain't sitting down," Beal said when pushed for an answer about the left shoulder he bruised in a game Saturday. "At the same time I want to be smart and not have an injury linger on further than what I need it to."

Beal fell and took a knee to the left shoulder that forced him to leave a game at the Atlanta Hawks. Tests, including an MRI, came back negative. He didn't practice Monday. He was taking shots early Tuesday.

"I'm able to move it a little bit more. Still sore," Beal said when first asked about his non-shooting arm. "I'm still unsure about tonight. I'm not sure if the status is going to change or not."

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Using Beal's history as a guide, he has repeatedly played through worse injuries. As a rookie, he sprained both ankles. A high one on his right leg led to the first of three stress reactions in each of his first three seasons. In a playoff game with the Hawks last season, Beal rolled his ankle so badly that he left the floor in tears. He didn't miss a game. If Beal wants to play, coach Randy Wittman isn't going to stop him.

An elite opponent like the Thunder (4-3), with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, makes it more likely that he'll try to gut out any discomfort. The last time they were here, Westbrook made the game-winning shot with one second left in overtime and it came against Beal. 

"I remember I slacked off and Westbrook got a layup at the end," Beal said. "That much I do remember."

A team that has had 50 turnovers in the last two games, both losses, the Wizards (3-3) tend to play better against elite opponents. They beat the San Antonio Spurs last week on Beal's buzzer-beating three-pointer 102-99 when they only had 10 turnovers.

"That's kind of natural for any team. Whenever you have All-Stars and a great team like OKC, coming in tonight you always get pumped for that game," Beal said. "That's just naturally going to happen. Our focus today is the best it has been in terms of attention to detail. We're getting back to what we need to do. Changing our offense a little bit in terms of our spacing and making sure we're not having as many turnovers as we had in the first couple of games."

If Beal doesn't play, Gary Neal likely would start unless Wittman wants more defense on the floor. In that case, it would be Garrett Temple who started for Beal last season after he broke his left wrist. 

But even Beal admitted as he walked away, if this were a low profile team instead of Oklahoma City, he might be more inclined to sit this one out. The opponent matters and that will factor into his decision.

"It always does," he said.

MORE WIZARDS: Kevin Durant's fond memories of journey from D.C. to NBA

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: Jaxson Hayes

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: Jaxson Hayes

The Washington Wizards will have the ninth overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects who could fall around where the Wizards will select...

2019 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: Jaxson Hayes

School: Texas
Position: Center
Age: 19
Height: 7-0
Weight: 219
Wingspan: 7-4
Max vertical: 34.5 in.

2018/19 stats: 10.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 0.3 apg, 0.6 spg, 2.2 bpg, 72.8 FG% (3.8/5.3), 00.0 3PT% (0.0/0.0), 74.0 FT%

Player comparison: Jarrett Allen, John Henson

Projections: NBC Sports Washington 10th, NBADraft.net 9th, Bleacher Report 10th, Sports Illustrated 9th, Ringer 10th

5 things to know:

*Hayes is considered the best center prospect in this year's class. He is athletic, plays with energy and measured in at the combine at about 7-feet in shoes with a 7-foot-4 wingspan. He can run the floor and play above the rim.

*The skill that stands out most for Hayes is rim protection. He averaged 2.2 blocks in only 23.3 minutes per game. That extrapulates to 5.7 blocks over 100 possessions. He has long arms and appears to have good instincts tracking the ball in the lane. He is following in the footsteps of fellow Texas shot-blockers before him like Myles Turner and Jarrett Allen. The latter may be the best player comparison for Hayes in today's NBA.

*Hayes is not considered a very good rebounder. He averaged 5.0 per game and only once reached double figures. It could be that he just needs to add some weight, an issue that is correctable but would hurt him even more at the NBA level initially. The worst-case concern is that he is soft and won't do the necessary dirty work.

*At this point, Hayes offers nothing in the way of an outside shot. He didn't attempt a single three-pointer in college and didn't do much on offense outside of dunks and putbacks. In order to justify being taken with a high draft pick, he will either need to develop a post game, an outside shot or be extremely good on defense. His lack of an all-round game will certainly give some teams pause in evaluating him.

*Hayes comes from a family of impressive athletes. His father played 12 seasons in the NFL and recently served as the tight ends coach for the Cincinnati Bengals. His mother played basketball at Drake University and later coached in college, including a stint as an assistant at Oklahoma. Hayes followed his father's footsteps by playing wide receiver in high school before a growth spurt made it clear basketball was the path to go.

Fit with Wizards: Hayes is one of the best fits for the Wizards among the players who could be available with the ninth pick. He does what they arguably lack the most, which is play defense and more specifically protect the rim.

The Wizards allowed the most field goals within five feet of any team this past season and the third-highest field goal percentage in that range. They desperately need someone who can block and alter shots.

Hayes would likely be the Wizards' best shot-blocker Day 1. But whether he can help them in other ways is a question at this point.

Hayes would represent a bit of a project for the Wizards and may not have All-Star potential because of his offensive limitations. Still, he remains one of their best options in the first round. Long-term, he could transform their defense and form a strong pick-and-roll partner for John Wall.

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: Nassir Little

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: Nassir Little

The Washington Wizards will have the ninth overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects who could fall around where the Wizards will select...

2019 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: Nassir Little

School: North Carolina
Position: Forward
Age: 19
Height: 6-6
Weight: 220
Wingspan: 7-1
Max vertical: 38.5 in.

2018/19 stats: 9.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 0.7 apg, 0.5 spg, 0.5 bpg, 47.8 FG% (3.6/7.6), 26.9 3PT% (0.4/1.4), 77.0 FT%

Player comparison: Jae Crowder, Justise Winslow

Projections: NBC Sports Washington 11th, NBADraft.net 11th, Bleacher Report 16th, Sports Illustrated 11th, Ringer 14th

5 things to know:

*Little came to UNC as their top-ranked recruit and the sixth-ranked player in his class, but didn't live up to those expectations in his one year in Chapel Hill. There is a debate about whether he will be better suited for the NBA, given his athleticism and playing style. The team who drafts him could come away with a steal if the latter proves true.

*He is more known for his defense at this point. Little is an aggressive and physical perimeter defender who could develop into a Marcus Smart-like pest. Though he didn't force a ton of turnovers in college, Little clearly gave opposing teams problems with his energy and length. 

*There are questions about whether Little will ever be more than a dunker on the offensive end. He is excellent in transition and cutting to the rim, but he didn't do much creating off the dribble in college and needs to work on his outside shooting. He shot just 26.9 percent from three at UNC.

*Little had a strong combine with a 7-foot-1 wingspan and a 38.5-inch vertical leap. Those numbers helped his reputation as one of the most athletic wings in this year's class.

*Both of Little's parents were in the U.S. military. He had a 4.2 GPA in high school and was named Academic All-ACC.

Fit with Wizards: Little fits with the Wizards given he is a small forward and they currently have an opening there. He would also give them something they need in terms of style as a physical wing defender. Little is the type of player who could help them improve their horrid three-point defense.

But Little's raw skillset suggests he may take some time to develop offensively and it brings into question how high his ceiling will ultimately prove to be. The Wizards may be able to find someone with the ninth pick who can both contribute sooner than Little and offer a clearer road to potential stardom.

That said, if Little's game is indeed more designed for the NBA than in college, he could impress in pre-draft workouts and end up rising up the board.

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