Rookie guard battles to make up for lost time

The Wizards cut practice short Thursday with coach Randy Wittman out sick, but Bradley Beal had work to do.

After missing the last five games with a sprained right wrist, the rookie shooting guard was running full-court by himself. Starting with a layup, Beal then chased balls tossed by an assistant coach, took one dribble and knocked down a jump shot. After a few makes, it was off to the other end of the court for the same exercise.

"I've been doing all types of running -- running I've never even done since high school," said Beal, still less than two years removed from Chaminade Prep in St. Louis. "It's really hard getting back into shape because not doing anything for three or four days, you lose your wind that quick. These guys are doing a great job of helping me get it back."

Up next
Nets at Wizards
When » Friday, 7 p.m.
Where » Verizon Center

Beal thinks he'll return to action when the Wizards (13-35) go for their third straight win, all at home facing teams in playoff position, against the Brooklyn Nets (29-20). He's plenty motivated to get back into the rotation for a resurgent squad that has beaten division leaders at home five times this season. With three games to go before the All-Star break, he also needs to gauge whether he'll be capable of participating in the Rising Stars challenge game with the NBA's best rookies and sophomores.

"I was thinking about that," Beal said. "Depending on how my wrist feels, honestly, who knows? Depending on how well it goes will determine whether I play. Hopefully I'll be able to have that opportunity. It's a once-in-a-lifetime type thing."

Beal's absence initially appeared to have the same kind of effect as John Wall's earlier in the year as the Wizards lost three games in a row, all on the road. They regained their footing at the Verizon Center, where Garrett Temple -- Beal's replacement in the starting lineup -- played well in Monday's win over the Los Angeles Clippers. Wittman also has cut off Jordan Crawford at under six minutes on the court in consecutive games and hasn't played him after halftime in three straight contests.

"He's in a funk or whatever," Wittman said after the Clippers game. "He's got to stay with it. He's got to continue to work hard. He's got to continue to come out and play hard, and that's it."

Beal, meanwhile, has been impressed by what he's witnessed from the sideline, so much so that he joked that maybe he'd just sit out against the Nets.

"[At the beginning of the season] we were all in our own zone and not in unison," Beal said. "Now, everybody is doing the same thing, everybody is talking and communicating, and it's a lot more leadership, too. Guys are speaking up, guys are starting to talk more. ... Honestly, our record doesn't show it, but the way we've been playing, I think we're one of the best teams in the league right now."