BOSTON — It’s been a rough start for Washington Wizards rookie Bradley Beal. The 19-year-old shooting guard didn’t get the typical adjustment period of coming off the bench and going up against second-unit players. Coach Randy Wittman threw him into the starting lineup and hasn’t taken it easy on him for one minute.
But Wizards fans shouldn’t waste time trying to tell Beal how to handle it. Unlike players with a large entourage of advice-givers and hangers-on, Beal already has closed ranks.
“You always have people who think they know the answers,” Beal said. “I have too many people in my head, so I have to eliminate that. Just keep my circle small and focus in on what the team needs to do and what I need to do.”
Beal is the seventh-youngest player in NBA history to be an opening-day starter. The six players who were younger: LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Andrew Bynum, Darius Miles, Kevin Durant and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
Beal called it an honor, but he is troubled by his performance in his first two games. In the season opener at Cleveland and the home opener against Boston, Beal averaged 5.0 points and shot 15.4 percent, missing 11 of 13 shots. Still, he refuses to use his age or rookie status as excuses.
After watching game film with Wittman, Beal began to get a better idea of what he’s been doing wrong.
“I was out of place, out of position a few times,” Beal said. “It was just little, small things I have to start doing and stop worrying about my shot so much. I have to do things like rebounding and playing great defense. Film doesn’t lie.”
Beal is a part of an offensively challenged starting lineup, but Wittman isn’t using that as an excuse for Beal’s struggles.
“He’s a basketball player,” Wittman said. “Bradley’s playing with no rhythm to his game, and he’s got to do other things. He can’t go 21 minutes [against the Celtics on Saturday] and have one rebound. He’s one of our better perimeter rebounders.”
As tough as Wittman is on his rookie shooting guard, Beal is taking it in stride.
“Coach is on my butt all the time,” Beal said. “I don’t have a problem with it because he knows that I can be good, that I can be better and knows I can accept his criticisms. I just have to take that and run with it.”
Beal acknowledges being hard on himself but sounds as though he doesn’t plan to let up. With just a few NBA games under his belt, Beal says he’s already learned the importance of the mental aspect.
“It’s not as hard physically, but I have to change my approach mentally, and not letting little things bother me,” Beal said.
“I have to just keep playing my way through. It’s a 48-minute game. I just need to make sure I stay the course the whole game. I think I’m losing sight of what’s important, which is having fun.”
• Carla Peay can be reached at email@example.com.
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