Bradley Beal and the Thunder, again
January, 8, 2013
By Henry Abbott
Two things stand out about Wizard Bradley Beal's game-winner against the Thunder, which gave the worst team in the NBA a victory over the best.
- How nice and slowly Beal's mind was working in the crucible of crunch time. Despite a double-team and a clock crisis, this rookie was entirely patient in finding an open look.
- Which team it was, exactly, that Beal beat.
Beal and the Thunder have a little history, you may recall.
The Thunder are very picky about who to allow onto their roster. They seek certain kinds of players, with certain kinds of skills and certain kinds of character.
If you remember back to June, indications are that Beal -- whose mom taught him how to shoot like that, by the way -- fits the bill.
Before the draft, ESPN's Andy Katz reported:
Beal told ESPN.com Wednesday that Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti told him during an interview in Chicago that he was interested in trying to move up to draft him. The Thunder's first-round pick isn't until No. 28.
"He told me he was going to decide what they're going to do and considered getting up there," Beal said.
The same day Beal talked Thunder with me:
"I've heard it a lot. ... It's really interesting. I would love to play with Kevin Durant, [Russell] Westbrook -- great point guard. Just the whole team. It's young. I would love to play with a young team. They play fast. I'd love to get up and down, shoot the ball. ... That's what it's all about: being a team and being a family. I would love to go into a situation like that and just be a part of it. Get to know everybody. Just get up and close with them and get to know them, get a feel for them."
At that time, any such trade would have required moving James Harden, who needed a new contract that would be tough for the Thunder to swallow under the new CBA, with its stiff penalties for high salary rosters. To trade Harden, the league's reigning sixth man, mere days after the Finals, for an unproven rookie no less, was too much for most Thunder fans to swallow. And for whatever reason, like most NBA trade ideas, this one didn't happen. The Wizards drafted Beal third overall. Harden's contract situation dragged on through the summer, and eventually Harden became a Rocket in a deal that netted the Thunder other key assets -- Kevin Martin, draft picks and prospects.
Looking back, though, it's clearer now what Presti may have been thinking -- a young score-now guard like Beal, on a rookie scale contract and improving by the month, would have done wonders for the Thunder's long-term cap situation.
In all likelihood that ship has sailed, and Beal is likely a Wizards keeper.
But no doubt, however much the Thunder may have liked Beal and his game on draft day, surely they respect it even more today.