WASHINGTON — Bradley Beal and the Wizards are back in the playoffs after a one-year absence, marking the third time in four years that they’ve extended their season.
A rough offseason featuring whiffs on several big free agents, a coaching change and supposed controversy between Beal and backcourt mate John Wall gave way to a 2-8 start, and things looked as if they could be going sour in a hurry. Instead, the Wizards bounced back with one of the most impressive turnarounds in NBA history to win 49 games and earn the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference.
After Beal and Co. took the first game of the opening round against the Atlanta Hawks, the star guard joined Chad Dukes on Monday afternoon to discuss the state of the team, among other matters.
Here are some of the highlights, and the full call is available below:
On the team’s momentum:
“I think we got our swag back, so to speak. The last couple of games before the regular season we were too up-and-down. I think we got our focus back and it was good to be able to just get out there with a lot of energy, at [our] home court and be able to take care of business. So we feel good about being up 1-0, but we still got three more to get.”
On crowd support:
“It’s important to us. We need that support, we need that energy. Of course, you’re always gonna have fans from other cities who are going to come in and travel with the team, people [whose] favorite player plays on the opposite team. It is what it is. But I think this year was definitely a great year for us. We feed off that energy. They’ve been great all year from when we weren’t so good to the point where we are now here in the playoffs. So we definitely feed off that. Heck, we’ve won 30-plus games at home this regular season. That’s a statement itself and we definitely owe it to the fans, for sure.”
On relationships and team chemistry:
“We’ve got a great group of guys and we mesh well. We’re all almost around the same age group, so that kind of helps a little bit. We bond well, we hang out off the floor, and then on the floor we love to compete. We’re all about winning, we’re all unselfish, so it kinda just clicks naturally. All of that stuff in the offseason, we kinda just kept it in house. We know that things can get misconstrued, and things can be misunderstood. We knew what it was, we knew the relationships that we had on our team were great, and firm. We kept it going, and we didn’t allow it to phase us off the court, either.
On Caron Butler’s Instagram post:
Dukes: “I get the sentiment, but I’m a lifelong Wizards fan, I want people to get involved. I want people to watch how exciting you guys are to play, and to come out and become fans. Do you understand kind of both sides of that argument?”
Beal: “We accept it, man. We owe it to the city. We love the fans here, they’ve been great for us all year. But I definitely understand both sides of it.”
On former coach Randy Wittman vs. current coach Scott Brooks:
“It’s a little bit different. I don’t know if it’s because I’m a little bit more experienced now, but I feel more relaxed, I’m not as tense, a little bit. It’s kind of a weird feeling. It’s kind of difficult to compare the two because they’re totally different coaches. Witt’s definitely like an old school, film, by the book, practice, like he’s everything straight line and clear. Coach Brooks, he’s more of a mental guy. We get in, get shots, break down film where we need to get better. He lets us relax, and he lets us use our strengths and do whatever it takes to win. He trusts us as a team, and that’s kinda the difference between the two.”