WASHINGTON -- There are desperate times that call for desperate measures and then there is the situation the Washington Wizards, and many NBA teams, are experiencing at the moment. Due to a rampant outbreak of the coronavirus across the league, teams are signing droves of replacement players, while many of the regulars still remaining are assuming new roles and responsibilities.
The Wizards are missing all three of their regular point guards due to health and safety protocols: Spencer Dinwiddie, Raul Neto and Aaron Holiday. They signed Brad Wanamaker to a 10-day hardship exemption contract and he started at point in his debut with the team, only to enter protocols the very next day.
The Wizards then signed point guard Tremont Waters to a 10-day contract, but instead of throwing another fresh face into the starting lineup, head coach Wes Unseld Jr. decided to ask star shooting guard Bradley Beal to put a little bit more on his already crowded plate.
Beal started at point guard for the first time in his NBA career, and though he was technically out of position, he performed brilliantly, albeit in a loss. Beal came through with 27 points and a career-high 17 assists in 43 minutes.
"With Brad going down it was like, man, it's a tough break for him because he had a great game. It was only one game and he's in COVID protocols, so it's tough," Beal said.
"I knew what tonight was going to be. It was I had to run the show and had to understand I was going to have to get guys shots. It was kind of that balance between figuring out when to be aggressive and when to get guys shots."
Beal led a Wizards offense which scored 119 points in regulation and shot 52.9%. He did so while committing only two turnovers. His 17th assist of the night was a pitch to Kyle Kuzma, who hit a go-ahead three with 3.3 seconds left. The Bulls then won on a DeMar DeRozan buzzer-beater three.
Beal's scoring has been up lately. After averaging 21.9 points and shooting 42.8% in his first 21 games this season, he's scored 27.6 points while shooting 52.4% over his last nine. Saturday was his fifth straight game scoring 26 points or more.
As Beal mentioned, however, playing point guard requires different priorities. Though he had run the offense during stretches of games before, this was the first time he basically played exclusively at that spot.
After the game, Beal outlined the nuanced differences between the roles.
"When you're playing the point, you've gotta run a team. You have to get guys into the offense, you have to get guys into position, you've gotta get guys shots, you've gotta talk, you've gotta be engaged, you've gotta encourage," Beal said. "You're the head of the snake at all times. It was fun, it was fun. I enjoyed it. There was definitely a lot I can learn from that. If it happens again, I'll be ready."
Beal also mentioned he has treated the fastbreak differently when he's playing point guard. Instead of receiving a pass on the run and attacking the rim, he has to decide when and how to push the ball with a kick-ahead pass of his own.
Eventually, the Wizards will get their point guards back, including usual starter Spencer Dinwiddie. Beal will go back to playing his traditional role at the two, as more of a scorer than a distributor.
But maybe there was something Beal and the Wizards can glean from Saturday's game, given the decision to put Beal at point guard went so well.