- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 2, 2012

For one brief moment, there was a collective gasp on the first day of Wizards training camp. Bradley Beal, the No. 3 overall pick in the draft, was down. 

But not for long. After the morning session ended, Beal stood on a sideline of the basketball court at George Mason University and talked to a crowd of reporters, his knees wrapped in ice.

“I tripped over the line,” Beal joked. “As soon as you guys walked in, I guess I got nervous. I get a coupon this time, but it won’t happen again.”

All eyes will be on Beal when the Wizards begin the regular season Oct. 30 at Cleveland. Beal plans to hit the ground running — he just hoped he would have John Wall running alongside him in the backcourt. Those plans are on hold now that Wall has been sidelined for at least eight weeks with a stress injury to his left patella.

Beal already has taken the news in stride.

“We still have other point guards here, and we just have to keep moving forward,” Beal said. “They’re pretty different than John, but that’s something you’ve got to adjust to. Injuries happen, so you just have to keep moving forward.”

Beal is expected to back up Jordan Crawford at shooting guard, but the injuries to Nene and Wall and the uncertainty at the point guard spot puts the lineup in a state of flux. Crawford could spend more time at point guard, and Beal says he’s comfortable handling the ball if needed.

As for his first day of NBA training camp, Beal, 19, was more than ready.

“You have to be mentally prepared,” Beal said. “Working out is more physical than anything, but now it’s mental. You have to learn plays, learn reads and different things like that, just learn concepts in the game.”

Although Beal possesses a calm demeanor and a quiet confidence, there’s a big learning curve from college to the NBA, and even the most confident players can have a few deer-in-the-headlights moments on their first day.

Bradley Beal and the younger guys’ eyes are kind of flashing, and 5 o’clock is going to come fast,” said Wizards coach Randy Wittman. “He’s going to be out here again. So having veterans who can help guys through that obviously is big.”

Although Wittman likes Beal’s maturity as well as his skill set, he has no plans to put more pressure on the rookie — or any of his other players — to compensate for the loss of Wall or Nene.

“Nobody needs to be anything more than they are,” Wittman said. “This team wasn’t built solely based on one player to carry us. We’ve just got to worry about Bradley being Bradley. Being a rookie coming into this situation, we have to see how much he can handle and how much he can’t handle before we decide to thrust somebody further along than we need to.”

Beal isn’t afraid to ask questions of his veteran teammates and is glad for their guidance and camaraderie. Even the rookie hazing rituals have been minor, at least so far. He’s had to carry Martell Webster’s iPad, says he’s on the lookout for Nene and expects Emeka Okafor to sneak up on him.

“It’s just a learning process for me,” Beal said. “There are things I have to learn, and I’m always willing to learn. I’m willing to listen and to be able to get better.”

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