- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 16, 2019

Kemba Walker not only respects Bradley Beal, but the Charlotte Hornets star said he was a “huge fan” of the Washington Wizards guard. Sitting at his locker after the Hornets‘ 116-110 win Friday, Walker praised Beal’s passion and energy. 

But beyond Walker’s admiration, the two can also relate to each other.

Throughout this season, Walker and Beal have been tasked with trying to will their teams into the playoffs. Both the Hornets and the Wizards sit under .500, and it’s often up to each star to keep their team in the playoff race — despite the lack of talent around them.

On Friday, Walker and the Hornets got the win — overcoming perhaps Beal’s best game of the season. The Wizards star scored 40 points in 45 minutes, helping Washington dig out of a game it trailed by as many as 21.

Walker and Beal each understand the responsibility that comes along with being a star.

“We’re in this position for a reason,” said Walker, who scored 28 points. “Myself, I’ve grown to put myself in this position, as well as Brad. … Everyone knows he can score with the best of them, so now it’s just all about leading.

“That’s how it’s been for me, to try my best and help encourage my teammates when things are going bad to try and keep guys up.”

Beal, who didn’t speak to reporters afterward, has often been that for the Wizards this season. On Friday, he was also their primary source of offense. He shed off defenders with stepbacks and effectively used screens to get open. The 25-year-old was efficient scoring the ball— shooting 15-of-29 from the field.

Despite Beal’s performance, Washington suffered a costly defeat, given Charlotte was ahead of them in the standings and Miami, the eighth seed, lost to the Milwaukee Bucks.

Washington’s loss also gave the Hornets the tiebreaker in the season series, a relief for Charlotte. 

“I’m tired of seeing Washington,” Hornets coach James Borrego said. “I’m tired of seeing Washington and Beal. So good luck to the rest of the NBA. Good luck trying to figure him out. … He was trying to will that team. Give him a lot of credit. Their team a lot of credit. But I think our guys stuck with it.”

Walker carried the Hornets on Friday — as has been the case all season. Over eight seasons, Walker has blossomed into one of the sport’s best guards. This season, he’s averaging a career-high 25.1 points and 5.8 assists per game.

Down the stretch against the Wizards, Walked helped prevent a Washington comeback by finding others. He drew the most attention from Washington’s defense, which allowed his teammates to make plays.

Walker, having been the focal point of the offense for years, has experience in being forced to adapt — similar to Beal

“Teams are going to be locked on you all the time,” Walker said. “It’s all about learning how to play the game, getting guys involved, whenever you draw two defenders getting rid of the basketball and trusting your teammates.” 

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