WASHINGTON -- The Wizards will be without star guard Bradley Beal when they visit the Orlando Magic on Saturday night as Beal takes time off to mourn the loss of his maternal grandmother.
Beal first heard the news of her passing on Tuesday when the Wizards landed in Cleveland. He played in their win over the Cavs the next night, but acknowledged afterward he considered sitting out. Teammate Montrezl Harrell was at the podium with him and offered his support if Beal chose to not play this weekend.
"He was not here at [practice] today," head coach Wes Unseld Jr. said Friday. "Obviously, we know the situation and understand where he is. Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family. I understand the gravity of the situation is very difficult to process."
Unseld Jr. added that the Wizards have been in this situation before, and they have. They beat the Indiana Pacers at home in the second game of the season while Beal nursed a hip contusion. The Wizards have proven to be a resilient team this season in part because of the depth they added over the summer. It has allowed them to overcome a variety of key players missing games.
Last season, the Wizards went 2-10 when Beal was out of the lineup. But they feel they can manage another game without him as he deals with something far more important.
"I think we’ve been there before. He’s our best player and it’s always tough when he’s out, but we have guys that can play and guys that can step up and make plays for us," Raul Neto said.
It's possible Neto will replace Beal in the starting lineup. Aaron Holiday got the bump on Oct. 22 against the Pacers, which was his former team.
Unseld Jr. says the key for the Wizards to win without Beal will be playing a team-oriented offense.
"I think the biggest thing is we rely on him to kind of bail us out at times. We have guys that can score the ball, but we have to get back to making sure we’re moving and sharing the ball. Get that body and ball movement," he explained.
"When you get the defense to shift to that second and third side, the game opens up for us, it becomes easier. When we get stagnant, we fall into those no-pass possessions and that’s when we become easier to guard."
Neto echoed that, saying "hard defense" and ball movement would be pivotal. The Wizards are playing a Magic team that is 14th out of 15 teams in the Eastern Conference standings at 3-9. They have lost three out of their last four games and are also banged up with key players like Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac out due to injury.