Q&A: Bradley Beal on new ‘opportunity’ in Phoenix, playing alongside Kevin Durant

Bradley Beal has helped the Suns rise in the Western Conference standings since his return to the lineup on Dec. 27.

• Download the NBA App >

In so many ways, Bradley Beal is in a good place, and, from a contending standpoint, definitely better than the place he left last summer.

Basketball life in Phoenix holds much more promise than the one he had in Washington, at least the last few seasons of his otherwise productive 11-year stint with the Wizards. The Suns are fueled with firepower as a so-called super team, and it’s championship or bust.

Beal is embracing that designation. Playing next to Kevin Durant and Devin Booker, a pair of certified scorers and All-Stars, Beal is anxious to see what the immediate future holds for the three of them.

And that future could be robust, even in the very competitive Western Conference. Beal missed essentially the first two months of the season before returning shortly after Christmas. Since his first game back on Dec. 27, the Suns are 19-7 — the fourth-best mark in the NBA over that span and No. 2 in the Western Conference behind only the LA Clippers (18-5).

Overall, Beal and the Suns (33-22) are trending in the right direction and could be a top-four team in the West standings by season’s end.

Their fate will ultimately be determined by what happens in the playoffs. That’s a place Beal, 30, has experienced only once in the past five years as the rebuilding plan in Washington fizzled.

He’s a three-time All-Star with a career scoring average of 22 points per game, helped by an ability to get buckets at all three levels. He’s looking to prove as much come spring and, if all goes well, in June.

The following 1-on-1 conversation has been condensed and edited.

NBA.com: What did you miss most about playing in Washington, if anything?

Bradley Beal: It’s a lot. I miss the gym. A fun arena to be in. One of the best crowds in the NBA. Just the feel, the bond you have with people in D.C. It’s a special place. It’s where I was drafted, been there 11 years. That made it harder to leave. I was blessed. Had an impact both on and off the floor. I gave some love and got a lot of love back. No complaints.

The Wizards had some solid years with you and John Wall. Then the injuries hit, mainly to Wall. Then the losing started, followed by rebuilding. How did you deal with that?

Obviously, that was tough. I did what I could. I embrace what I did in D.C. I don’t like to pat myself on the back. I embrace the grind, the challenge no matter what the circumstances are, good or bad. I just did what I could, controlled things I could control.

When the Wizards approached you about a trade last summer, what was your immediate reaction?

Well, it was strange because it signaled the end. Again, I had only known one city, one team. It was tough. Then I saw it as an opportunity and actually a challenge. A new chapter.

Kevin Durant is from Maryland, grew up not far from D.C. When he was a free agent in 2016, there was the impression — faulty, as it turned out — that he might come back home and team with you and Wall. He went to the Warriors instead. But now you two are finally teammates. What’s that been like?

Unreal. Surreal. Every day I’m seeing one of the best to touch a ball go about his business. His work ethic, his attention to detail, always looking to make his teammates better. It’s fantastic.

Seems like you’re a KD fan. What’s his most understated quality?

He’s encouraging to his teammates. An unbelievable leader. I think that was a misleading thing about him. He’s been amazing from start to finish as far as that’s concerned.

With you, KD and Devin Booker, that’s a lot of options with the ball. How do you navigate that?

Obviously, I got to pick my spots to be aggressive but also understand we have a lot of guys who can contribute. Got to get them going and get them the ball. As we go throughout the season I think we’re doing a good job of taking something from everyone, finding shots for everyone. That goes for everyone, not just me, Book and KD.

Yes, you’re playing more point guard in Phoenix, correct?

In that situation I’ve got to make sure everyone gets a share of the ball. I got to get the big fella (Jusuf Nurkic) some touches. We got a really versatile group. The biggest thing is everyone is involved. There’s no selfish play. And that’s because of KD and Book, they’re tremendously unselfish. As we go throughout the season I think we’re doing a good job of finding shots for everyone.

I didn’t come here with a big ego. I just wanted to fit in. I mean, we have Book and KD. So you just want to be a good compliment. And they both told me to be myself. That helped. That showed what kind of people they are.

You had to deal with injuries not long after arriving, and then you were hard on yourself upon return. Was that just you challenging yourself?

It starts with me. My play has to be better. I take a lot of accountability. I’ve got to contribute better on defense. I just needed to get a little bit of rhythm. I think I got it now. So I’m excited for what’s to come.

The Suns were 19-18 at one point. How important are the next few months?

We haven’t played that many games together healthy. So we got a big second half ahead of us. We’ve got to bear down here in the stretch because after the break and before you know it, we’re in the playoffs. I know I have to play better. I can play better in order for this team to get to where we think we can be — my play, my change of pace, not turning the ball over.

What would it be like to win a championship?

Crazy. I think it can happen. It’s good to know that you have a chance. That keeps you motivated. Obviously, it would be a dream.

* * *

Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on X.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Warner Bros. Discovery.

First appeared on www.nba.com

Leave a Comment