Wizards star Bradley Beal has become a more vocal leader over the years as he has graduated from one of the youngest players on the team to a veteran franchise pillar. But there has been a noticeable difference in Beal's leadership style as Wizards players have convened in Washington for 2021 training camp, according to general manager Tommy Sheppard.
Sheppard has known Beal since he was a teenager, having scouted him as an amateur and having been with the organization when they drafted him third overall in 2012. Sheppard sees a different Beal now and he thinks Beal's former teammate Russell Westbrook is a big reason why.
"I see more and more of him pulling guys aside quietly and giving them points. He's never going to be this loud, rah-rah screaming guy. But when he does speak up, everybody listens for sure. I just see that continued growth in him. I attribute most of it to he sees what's needed and he takes care of it," Sheppard said.
"Russell was a very vocal guy. Russell's not here anymore, so I think Bradley adjusted a little to the room and said 'hey, I need to speak up a little bit more often than I did.' He's done that. That's something he figured out on his own and he's done on his own. It's just something I noticed,"
Westbrook played only one season with the Wizards, but it was a memorable one. They made the playoffs for the first time in three years, as he and Beal teamed up to form one of the better backcourts in the league.
Now Westbrook is gone, having been traded to the Lakers. There are other veterans on the team, but Beal is among the oldest, has the most NBA service time (nine years) and is by far the most accomplished individually. He is set up to have even more leadership responsibility than before, as the clear face of the franchise.
Sheppard said he's also seen Beal become more active in connecting with teammates off the court. But ultimately Beal's leadership style, Sheppard believes, will be rooted in the same approach he's always had: showing and not telling.
"Bradley, so much of his leadership style has always been by example. That's kind of how I operate as well. It's more about actions, not words. But I think now, as he's become a father, as he's become an elite AAU coach in the summer with his grassroots team; I think there's a heck of a lot more empathy for what coaches go through. I think Bradley as a parent and as a coach, you learn to be a lot more patient with younger players, a lot more patient as people are learning things," Sheppard said.
Beal is gearing up for his 10th NBA season. A three-time All-Star, he's got the credibility to speak up when he needs to and Westbrook may have helped show him how.