Visits to Atlanta have spelled disaster for the Washington Wizards’ backcourt. At least, that’s the way it has seemed ever since the Wizards squared off with the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference semifinals last season.
Point guard John Wall broke his left hand and wrist in five places in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals in May and missed the next three games of a series the Wizards would lose, 4-2.
On Saturday, it was Bradley Beal who found himself ailing when he injured his left shoulder in the closing minutes of a 114-99 loss to the Hawks. Beal said staying healthy this season was his top priority, and it only took six games before he got hurt.
Beal didn’t participate in Monday’s practice, but Beal and coach Randy Wittman each said x-rays and an MRI examination on the shoulder showed no damage. His availability for Tuesday’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder is in question.
“Obviously good news,” Wittman said. “No breakage. It’s just a contusion.”
Beal went to take a handoff from center Marcin Gortat when the exchange went awry, and as Beal dove after a loose ball, Hawks guard Jeff Teague’s knee collided with the back of Beal’s shoulder.
The shooting guard remained on the ground for some time before getting up and signaling to the sideline that he wanted to keep playing.
“I stayed in the game,” Beal said. “I should’ve come out.”
The injury was exacerbated two minutes later when Beal swatted at the ball, which was in the possession of Hawks guard Thabo Sefolosha. Beal immediately grabbed at the front of his left shoulder, near his collarbone, because of the pain.
“I tried to reach my arm out on defense,” Beal said. “As soon as I extended my arm, I felt like my whole shoulder collapsed.”
Beal’s list of maladies doesn’t end there. Earlier in the quarter, the 22-year-old fell on his left wrist — the same wrist he fractured last season, causing him to miss extended time. Beal described his wrist as “stiff” on Monday but was in significantly more discomfort from the shoulder injury.
“It hurts like heck,” Beal said. “I’ve just got to trust my trainers, trust my body and see what I can do.”
The Wizards are undoubtedly relieved that the injury doesn’t appear to be significant enough to derail Beal’s early-season breakout. Through six games, he is shooting 47.1 percent from behind the 3-point line. His 22.7 points per game are ninth-best in the NBA. If he can stay on the court, the fourth-year pro could earn his first selection to the All-Star Game.
Beal’s desire to stay healthy comes from having been hurt often during his career. He played 56 games his rookie year and a career-high 73 games the next, but played only 63 games last season.
A restricted free agent at the end of the season, Beal turned down a contract offer from the Wizards before training camp, leaving him gambling on his production and health.
As to whether he’ll face the Thunder on Tuesday, he was cautiously optimistic.
“It feels a little bit better,” Beal said. “I’m going to try to shoot for [Tuesday] but there’s no guarantees.”