- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 4, 2019

Bradley Beal not only leads the NBA in playing time, his 2,957 minutes this season put the Wizards’ ironman 185 minutes ahead of Houston’s James Harden, who’s in second. That’s almost four additional games, which is coincidentally, the number of games Harden has missed this season.

But now with the season nearly over, the Wizards are finally limiting Beal’s minutes.

During Wednesday’s 115-114 loss to the Chicago Bulls, Beal played only 22 minutes — sitting the second and the fourth quarter. Coach Scott Brooks said he wanted to see other players on the floor. Though it’s obvious this gives Beal a chance to rest.

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“It kind of surprised me,” Beal said. “That was (Brooks‘) decision. I thought I was going to play longer minutes, but he said he wanted to cut me back and give the young guys more opportunities to finish out end of games, get them in those situations. I told him it was 100 percent cool.”

At practice Thursday, Brooks said Beal’s playing time “might be a little more” compared to Chicago, but he also said he still wants to give other players opportunities. The Wizards have only three games left.

Resting Beal outright, however, won’t be an option.

Beal said “I’ve made my decision” and wants to play in all 82 games, a mark he accomplished for the first time last season. Appearing in every game holds significant meaning to Beal — given over the first four years of his career, the two-time All-Star was labeled “injury-prone.”

From 2012-16, Beal missed a total of 81 games, dealing with a variety of injuries. He played a career-low 55 games in 2015-16, and many wondered if he could stay healthy moving forward.

Beal, though, has done that. He appeared in 77 games in 2016-17 and played all 82 last year.

“I’ve been around many players and Brad is as tough as they come,” Brooks said. “He plays, practices every day. … There’s times where Brad, there’s bump and bruises, he could have probably taken him out of some practices, but he never, never did. He always wanted to get out there.

“With Brad, I respect that,” he added. “I think it’s very honorable he wants to play all 82.”

Brooks has received criticism for riding Beal, especially when it was apparent the Wizards weren’t going to make the playoffs. Washington was officially eliminated from the postseason last week, and Beal still logged 38 and 36 minutes against the Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets after that.

The Wizards coach has defended his approach, saying they limit Beal’s activity in practice and manage his minutes “off the court.” An NBA veteran himself, Brooks comes from an era in which the top stars regularly logged heavy minutes.

Brooks last played in the league during the 1997-98 season — a year in which Dallas’ Michael Finley led with 41.4 minutes per game. For context, Beal leads the league at 37.7 minutes per game. Further, in 1998, there were 28 players who averaged at least 37 minutes. This year, there are two.

“There’s a lot other hard things in the world to get through other than playing 40 minutes of basketball,” Brooks said last month.

Some might take issue with Brooks‘ conventional thinking, pointing to the advancements in health science over the last 20 years.

Despite the debate, Beal never complained publicly about playing too many minutes.

If he plays, Beal said won’t give half effort.

“I still pride myself in my craft and respecting the game the right way,” Beal said. “It’s not going to be a 50 percent Brad, no. I’m going to play hard and play to win on both ends of the floor until coach sits me down.”

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