The Washington Wizards had a scare Friday as Bradley Beal limped off the court while assisted by teammates. His left knee tweak was diagnosed as only a "bruise," however, and the "questionable" Beal remained a starter Saturday versus Detroit as Washington demolished the hapless Pistons.
"It was up and down," said Beal postgame, regarding his playing status. "At first I was mad and nervous because I didn't know—whenever it's the knee, you always think the worst no matter how many times people tell you to think positively. You always think, 'What's the worst that could possibly happen to you?' But it wasn't really killing me like that. My knee wasn't really throbbing when I went to sleep so that was a good sign and I woke up and there was no pain at all. I was fortunate and happy after that."
Beal contributed 15 points and 4 assists in the 106-82 blowout, which helped hometown favorite Otto Porter, Jr. to some quality third to fourth quarter burn. The guard-forward put up every shot he could in the final 14 and a half minutes of regulation, and finished 2-for-8 from the field. With all due respect to Porter et al, the Wizards would be absolutely lost if Beal had to take a significant break from the court.
Washington is now 13-14 in the East, which is good enough for 5th place. Detroit is now 7th at 14-18. Even so, the Wizards are on uneven ground. Nene is playing limited minutes off the bench, which is working out quite well. If it stops working, however, Washington has no one to lean on. Advancing in the Playoffs will be near impossible without a healthy Marcin Gortat-Nene combo, bearing some sort of post All-Star break trade deal.
Case in point? Jan Vesely, who fouled out after just over 8 minutes of play Saturday. Could the third-year forward-center amount to more in the future? Sure. But with his 28.6% free throw percentage--yes, 28.6%--it's hard to imagine Washington picking up his contract when it expires at the end of the season. And as poor as Vesely has been playing since being drafted 6th overall in 2011, backup point guard Eric Maynor has struggled even more this season.
Bench production (and backup point) aside, John Wall is having an MVP kind of season, let alone an All-Star worthy season. Wall is only 3 three-pointers away from tying his season-best total, which he set in his rookie year. The fourth year pro is on pace to double his career-best from range at this rate, yet he is averaging a career-best 9.1 assists (#3 in league) as well. With Beal and Wall healthy, the Playoffs buzz should never die in Washington.
The Wizards will visit the Pistons Monday in their last game of 2013. A victory will set Washington at an even .500 to start the New Year, which would be quite the way to end the month.
MOMENT OF ZEN
It's been awhile, but for those who have read Washington Wizards Examiner over the years, it's time for another 'Moment of Zen.'
According to sources, Cleveland Cavaliers center Andrew Bynum--infamous for riding the coattails of Kobe Bryant en route to two, count 'em, two Championships--was quoted as saying "He doesn't want to play basketball anymore. He never liked it that much in first place." All this after the Cavs sacked Bynum indefinitely for "conduct detrimental to the team."
As John Schuhmann points out, Cleveland plays better without Bynum on the court, so it looks like the Cavs will just eat a little contract and try to get rid of the guy. But without the seven-footer it's unlikely Cleveland will elevate much, even in the dreadful Eastern Conference.