*Accompanied by “It Takes Two” by Rob Bass & DJ EZ Rock*
In boxing, some of the best ways to take down your opponent is to be offensively versatile. Odds of causing damage are higher with a nice combination, such as a jab/hook, hook/uppercut, or uppercut/overhand right. Once you are able to attack either side of your opponent, and attack the head and body, you can successfully defeat your opponent or slow them down at the very least. Do you know how to lose a fight, or put yourself in the best position to lose? Throw the same damn punches. Over and over. Back to back jabs or double hooks which take all of your energy and bring nothing to the imagination.
Speaking of throwing the same punches, John Wall and Bradley Beal have solidified the Washington Wizards backcourt for the past few seasons; or for the time they’ve actually been healthy at the same time. An article was written on how John Wall said that he and Beal must be more connected on the court, saying that he and Beal were both alphas and that “they need each other”. I don’t think these quotes or the article was taking anything out of context nor was it used to cast a shadow on Wall and Beal (maybe so), but it got me thinking about how we as fans and outside media assume these NBA players are friends on and off the court. I feel it is naive of us to think these guys see eye to eye just because they are teammates, and they are young together, and they are getting contracts together. On the other hand, it can be easy for us to get swept up in the concept of “team” and the notion that everyone on the team works as a unit. Even if they don’t, we would still consider them to be friend.y to each.
We get lost in the sauce. We want to think sports are some entity that is unlike any other, so vastly different from our work environment. It has its similarities to us, but we continually concentrate on the how much money we think they have that we forget they are humans and act just as we act. They bicker, they hang out, they ghost, they argue, they are petty, they are jealous, they envy, they spread rumors just as we do. NBA players get tired of each other just as we get tired of our co-workers. We are put in work situations in which we are supposed to work together with a group of co-workers, and how does that go for the group? How many times do we break off into our cliques and treat the workplace like its High School? How many co-workers do we have meaningful relationships? How many do we dislike? How many do we argue with at work? Why would we feel this would be any different on an NBA team?
In almost every area of life, there is a hierarchy, a class, and/or caste system. In every work environment, there will always be someone who wants to be the best in a team situation. It’s the capitalist mantra, the competitionaholic drive that resides in all of us, but some wish to not take part. On every basketball team, it’s usually clear who is “the man” and who is second, third and so on. There are a few NBA teams that don’t have a clear star, (usually decided by the media) but the team knows who’s the best or is the least replaceable. Things usually get muddled for “king of the mountain” due to counting stats, PER states, wins and losses, availability, expectations, draft selection, who the coach thinks is the best fit, if you’re a two-way player, just a contributor, a hustle-guy, actual talent, hype, potential and one of the most looked at aspects, “a player’s contract and endorsements”. Most fans don’t look at all of the factors when determining who is the best player on a team, but they are able to just look and say, “yep, he’s the guy. Yep, he’s a complimentary player”. The thing is, not all the players on a team that is vying for that team star label thinks that he isn’t the go-to guy; And that’s where things get interesting for John Wall and Bradley Beal.
*Plays Nelly’s “Number 1”: “I am, number one/ cuz two is not a winner and 3 nobody remembers”
We all have egos, and the best thing about the NBA offseason is that most players aren’t in a camp yet, but they are doing interviews in which they feel much more comfortable with speaking as compared when the season rolls around. The best part about the Wall/Beal combination is that this has been going on for years, but it’s Washington, so we really don’t pay attention to them. During their separate interviews, it’s pretty clear how each other feels about themselves and about the other. John Wall knows he’s the guy, he knows he’s the go-guy at the end of the game and keeps everyone involved. He also states that Beal is his sidekick and now that Beal has been paid (More that Wall annually and worth) it’s time for Beal to become an all-star like him. Beal, on the other hand, considers he and Wall partners, equal partners in stature and skill. This reminds me of when I was at this job and my review came up for my raise. It was the first time I ever received a review. I thought I had done a pretty good job and was looking forward to it. Except for this time, my review was with my manager, and the boss of the manager. Being naive, I thought this was going to lead to a raise, thinking they had seen my worth and notice how hard I worked daily. Instead, it was a tongue-lashing about all the things I did wrong and how I wasn’t close to the level I thought I was. During that meeting, I sat, listened, and by the end, I was fired. John Wall is the boss and Bradley Beal is me.
Wall was the 1st pick in the 2010 draft and Beal was the 3rd pick in the 2012 draft, so both of these guys already have the notion of feeling entitled and labeled by the organization as the future of the Wizards. I can’t blame them for feeling that way, who wouldn’t. With Wall being the point guard and defacto leader of the team, he has done just that. His scoring has increased, his assists have increased and his defense has as well. His shooting is getting better but is still something that needs work if he wants to expand his game. Beal can shoot, but that’s about it when you talk about his go-to offensive game. So, if you have a point guard that passes, but can’t shoot, and you have a shooting guard that can shoot, but not pass and beat others consistently off the dribble, you would think they would match well. However, both want to expand their game, during the game. Beal wants that opportunity to run the pick and rolls as Wall does. Wall wants the opportunity to shoot the jumper and the 3pt shot, but the problem is neither guy is efficient in areas in which they are weak. Wall and Beal both want to be the guy, but on-court arguments and disagreements couple with the losing does not make things any better. Their coach was Randy Wittman and their veteran leaders were Nene and Marcin Gortat, two post players that would help in the locker room, but not help for their offensive development with their slow-down post play.
With the hiring of Scott Brooks, the Wizards fan can look forward to heavy iso basketball, pick and rolls, an athletic defense and 4th quarter possessions that make you scratch your head. It almost seems like the Wizards hired a coach that would enable this Wall/Beal feud. Brooks was able to use Westbrook and Durant and reach the Finals. Although they didn’t have much continuity during the playoffs, they found a way to move the ball and keep a consistent one-two punch during the regular season. Will Brooks be able to match his Thunder days with Wall and Beal? Of course they are different players than Durant and Westbrook, and Wall and Beal are pretty established as NBA players, but maybe Brooks’ offensive structure will be able to bring the best out of them. We learned that Durant and Westbrook maybe not have been the closest of friends on and off the court, but they were able to excel as players in an offensive style that benefited them, the fans, and lead to winning. For the Wizards, that’s all fans can ask for with them missing the playoffs last season.
The Warriors seem to have the west on lock, and any team Lebron is on is penciled in for the Eastern Conference Finals and the Finals. With that knowledge, the Wizards have time to build themselves as a contending team in the East. This offseason will give them time to mesh with a new coach, a new system, and Wall and Beal must figure out how to use their egos to their advantage. Both players are under contract, Beal is now making more than Wall and Wall has been quoted numerous times as being “surprised” at the deals other guys not on his level have been getting (must be a Kentucky thing). Will Beal possibly being one of those guys, expect a trade soon if Beal and Wall are not able to put the Wizards in the playoffs this year or the next.
We all feel some type of way when someone gets paid more than us, especially when we know that person(s) is not on our level. Usually the “best player” is the “most “paid”, these two usually go hand in hand. With the salary cap exploding this offseason, the rules are now different. Players like Beal will want more responsibility and feel they are the leader of the team based on their salary. Who can blame them? This is a capitalist society. How many people think they are above you because they make more money than you? How many people do we think are more important and better because they make more than us? There’s only one way to fix this; Win. Win 45 to 50 games and be exciting while doing it. The Wall and Beal feud will not end, ever. There will always be envy, arguments, and a feeling that either should be the man on this team. The only way to fix it is for both to garner personal success in this league. Wall is already there and improving, he knows that. Beal is trying to get there, but he already believes he’s there. Some call it Delusions of Grandeur; I call it basketball.