- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal didn’t campaign to be an All-Star. The 24-year-old is in the middle of his sixth season and had never been selected to the event. But in each of those seasons, Beal took a step forward — becoming a franchise cornerstone in the process.

On Tuesday, Beal was named to All-Star Game for the first time, voted in by Eastern Conference head coaches, marking another step for the Wizards star.
This year’s All-Star Game takes place Feb. 18 in Los Angeles at Staples Center. Beal will also participate in the league’s 3-point contest on Feb. 17.

Beal’s backcourt partner — Wizards star John Wall — was also selected to the game.

According to ESPN Stats and Info, Beal and Wall are the first pair of Wizards teammates to be named to the All-Star Game since Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison in 2007-2008.

Beal has arguably had his best season to date. While he is shooting only 45.9 percent, the Wizards guard is averaging a career-high 23.6 points per game. More importantly, Beal played a major role in keeping the Wizards afloat when Wall missed nine games because of a knee injury.

That included erupting for a career-high 51 points in a Dec. 5 win in Portland. Against the Trail Blazers, Beal commanded the Wizards’ offense, making 21 of his 37 shots.

Beal has progressed throughout his career and has played all 47 games this season. Durability was was a major question earlier in Beal’s career, where he missed a total of 81 games over his first four seasons.

But Beal has lived up to the high expectations put upon him ever since the Wizards took him with the No.3 overall pick in the 2012 draft out of Florida.

In last year’s playoffs, Beal stepped up in a major way — averaging 24.8 points per game. Beal had 38 points and shot 54.5 percent in Washington’s Game 7 loss to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

It was the type of performance the Wizards expected when they re-signed Beal to a five-year, $126 million max contract extension in the summer of 2016.

Beal and Wall join five other reserves from the Eastern Conference who were named to the All-Star Game: the Toronto Raptors’ Kyle Lowry, New York Knicks’ Kristaps Porzingis, Indiana Pacers’ Victor Oladipo, Cleveland Cavaliers’ Kevin Love and Boston Celtics’ Al Horford. The Boston Celtics’ Kyrie Irving, Toronto Raptors’ DeMar DeRozan, Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James, Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo and Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid were previously announced as starters from the East.

The reserves from the Western Conference that were named on Tuesday are: Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook, San Antonio’s LaMarcus Aldridge, Golden State’s Draymond Green and Klay Thompson, Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns and Jimmy Butler and Portland’s Damian Lillard. Golden State’s Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant, Houston’s James Harden, and New Orleans’ Anthony Davis and Demarcus Cousins were previously announced as starters from the West.

Because the NBA tweaked its All-Star format this year, players from each conference were split up on different teams with “captains” drafting each player instead of the typical “East-West” matchup.

Wall’s selection, meanwhile, comes as a minor surprise, though still deserved. Wall has missed a total of 11 games this season and is shooting only 41.7 percent from the field, his lowest mark since his rookie season (2010-11). But he’s played well enough and one of the league’s most talented players. This will be Wall’s fifth straight All-Star appearance.

The news comes at a time where the Wizards are going through a rough patch in their season. After a 98-75 loss to the Dallas Mavericks, the Wizards fell to 26-21 — far off the 50-plus win pace many expected before the season.

There are also questions surrounding the team’s chemistry, with Mavericks guard J.J. Barea telling reporters that Wall’s teammates don’t like him. ESPN talking head Stephen A. Smith added fuel to the fire by saying he “heard” teammates talk trash behind Wall and Beal’s back.

But that’s the drama that can come with a long 82-game season. There is still plenty of time for the Wizards to work through their flaws, even if there are fundamental problems with the structure of the team.

Regardless, NBA coaches have recognized — and rewarded — the job Beal and Wall have done this season.

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