John Wall and Bradley Beal are not the best of buds. You know how we know this? They admitted as much publicly. Wall stated over the summer that the two occasionally dislike each other. Whether that referred to their relationship on the court or off it (or both) is kind of irrelevant. One bleeds into the other. And there are reasons for the disconnect.
One main reason is the contract Washington just gave the second-banana Beal that pays him like the team’s alpha dog. He is not this even if he wants to be. Wall knows he is the better and more valuable player, yet his contract no longer reflects that because of the changing tides of the NBA salary cap. Less egotistical men than NBA stars would understand the logistics of the league’s market and not hold it against the team or the player for such a development. Wall is apparently no such man.
Besides the money, Wall and Beal have reportedly never been friends or hung out outside of work. That isn’t a requirement by any means, but it would help to have a franchise’s top two players be buddy-buddy. Instead, it’s strictly business, which leads to Wall’s complaints about the way the business is going, mentioned above.
The two also have struggled to find consistency together on the court, which seems odd for two players who should complement each other’s games. Beal was quoted as saying, “it’s tough because we’re both alphas,” which speaks volumes of the situation since it’s a false statement. Beal is not an alpha, nor should he be. This is Wall’s team.
Former head coach Randy Wittman was never able to figure out how to smooth out that relationship. It is one of the reasons he is gone and Scott Brooks is now the Wizards head coach. Brooks has some recent experience coaching two mercurial talents who didn’t seem to mesh on the court. During his time in Oklahoma City, Brooks was in charge of massaging the on-court relationship between Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. By all accounts those two were actually friends outside of basketball, so it wasn’t the same situation, but they were also a poorer basketball fit than Wall and Beal.
“You have to check your ego at the front door … not only with your best players, but every player on the team.” — Scott Brooks
That should give Brooks a leg up in trying to figure out this dilemma. He made it work with Durant and Westbrook even though both players wanted/needed/demanded the ball. They were truly two alphas yet that team was one of the best offensive machines in the entire NBA for years. With Wall and Beal, it should be easier to make the offense flow.
Brooks also has the resume of being a player-first coach. He trusts his guys, believes in them and that, in turn, gives them confidence. His strength is his ability to relate to his players. After all, he was a former NBA guard himself with the mindset that came with that.
The young players on Washington may also benefit from Brooks’ coaching style. He helped build the dynastic young core on the Thunder and could do similar positives for guys like Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre. Their development would then aid the star guards, taking pressure off of Wall to literally do everything and off of Beal to somehow live up to this new gigantic contract. A better all-around roster would have to help the relationship, and Brooks can build that.
In the end, the head coach can only do so much for a pair of strong personalities who are on different wavelengths. “I want him to be right there with me. He’s my sidekick. I’m A. He’s A-1.” Tell us how you really feel, John.