Bradley Beal said he got the news soon after the Wizards' team plane landed in Cleveland on Tuesday. His maternal grandmother had passed away and he had the rest of the night to ponder his options with a game against the Cavaliers set for the following day. He would have to begin the grieving process away from his home and his family.
"I've never lost anybody close to me. I don't know what to do, I don't know how to feel, I don't know who to go to," Beal said.
Beal considered flying back to D.C. and not playing, but instead decided to move forward as planned. He told only a few members of the organization including head coach Wes Unseld Jr., general manager Tommy Sheppard and other front office executives. He didn't tell his teammates.
Throughout the game, however, they could sense something was wrong.
"Eventually, guys were seeing it on my face. I was wearing it all night. I couldn't hide it," Beal said. "Because when I played basketball, she watched me. She watches me. She came to my games, she was physically there. Now that can't happen anymore. That's tough."
Beal didn't reveal the news because he didn't want it to become a distraction. His grandmother, who was so close to him she was like his "Mom 2.0," would have wanted him to play, he believes. She was always encouraging him to prioritize the team above all else, regardless of individual stats.
She wanted him to be a team player in every sense. In this unfamiliar situation, he felt it was the right thing to hide his emotions and go to work.
"As hard as it was tonight, that's what she wanted. So, hopefully she's proud," Beal said.
The Wizards ended up beating the Cavaliers in a thrilling comeback by the final score of 97-94. They won in large part because Kyle Kuzma hit six threes, including a go-ahead triple with 11.4 seconds left.
Beal threw the pass to Kuzma on that play. He looped around a screen at the 3-point line, drove into the lane and found Kuzma for an open look.
"When I passed the ball to Kuz in the corner, I knew she was in the play. I just said 'touch this play, just let me know you're here, let me know you're watching.' I just knew that she was," Beal said.
Beal made a series of winning plays to help the Wizards win. He had seven rebounds, seven assists and took a timely charge. That helped him make up for a rough shooting night of 4-for-19 from the field. Though he ended up with 13 points, he missed his first 10 shots and didn't make his first field goal until there was 4:22 remaining in the third quarter.
It wasn't Beal's best game, admittedly, and he credited his teammates with securing the victory.
"They won this game. I wasn't in it mentally, physically, emotionally. My teammates won this game in every shape and fashion," Beal said.
They lifted Beal in other ways, too. Once his Wizards teammates figured out he was in mourning, they gave him their support.
Montrezl Harrell lost his grandmother last year, so he can relate more than most.
"All we could do was be there for him. That's what I kept telling him every time we came up the floor, I said 'I'm with you,'" Harrell said.
Beal and Harrell did their postgame press conference together, which they have done many times this season after becoming fast friends once Harrell joined the Wizards in the offseason. After Beal said he thought about not playing to grieve, Harrell gave him his blessing.
"We understand, we understand as people. If you need to take a night off, we understand and we support you," he said.