NBA

Bradley Beal discusses Wizards’ future, playing for Team USA and being called ‘thick’ by Gregg Popovich

Washington Wizards star guard Bradley Beal won’t get much of a break from basketball this offseason. Just a few weeks after his Wizards were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, Beal had to report to Las Vegas for training camp with Team USA ahead of the Olympics in Tokyo. The Olympics run through early August, and at that point, Beal will have just a few more weeks before training camp for the 2020-21 NBA season gets underway. That’s not much down time, but luckily Beal loves to ball. 

Despite his busy offseason schedule, the three-time All-Star found a few minutes to speak with CBS Sports about what it means to play for Team USA, what the Wizards need to do to take a step forward next season and several other topics … including his new protein shake. Check out the full interview below. 

CBS Sports: I wanted to start off by asking you about your partnership with Rockin’ Protein. How did that come about and why did you feel like it was a good fit for you personally? 

Bradley Beal: My team at Priority Sports brought the opportunity to me. Rockin’ Protein has been a fabulous company to work with athletes. I’m always big on researching the brands and making sure that they’re the right fit, because there’s so many of them out there that, you know, it’s very hard to choose from. I was very thrilled that they were interested in me. And it was a genuine partnership. And more than anything, their product — they stand behind it, and I do, too. They don’t just make up words. It’s truly very tasteful, and it’s high quality protein. Plus, it’s made with real milk. Not a lot of products are made with real milk. So, I value that what we put into our bodies. As athletes, it’s important. I take my training seriously, and recovery is very important.

CBS: What’s your go-to flavor?

Beal: My go-to is the protein builder, vanilla flavor. They have vanilla, chocolate, and I think strawberry. I’m a big fan of it.

CBS: Sounds good, I’ll have to check it out. In the meantime, I want to switch over to the court for a few minutes. You’re in the middle of training camp in Las Vegas with Team USA. What has that experience been like for you so far? And what does it mean to you to represent the United States on the world stage? 

Beal: To represent the country, it’s a blessing. It’s an honor. It’s something that you don’t take for granted. Not a lot of guys in the league get this opportunity. We all know that. So, you embrace it. You understand that the U.S. wants you to win, and everyone else wants you to lose. We didn’t live up to what we wanted to a few years ago [in the 2019 FIBA World Cup], and so now we have an opportunity to get back what’s rightfully ours. 

For me, when the opportunity came and presented itself, and Jerry Colangelo called me, I was thrilled. I was shocked in a lot of ways. I was just happy. I got the blessing for my family to go ahead and go and represent everybody, so it’s amazing to be here in Vegas, [and] get acclimated with the guys. The training has been crazy intense, every single day. So, it’s been real. The reason why we are going as hard as we are, man, we’re trying to get that gold [medal]. 

CBS: Was it an easy decision for you when the time came to play in the Olympics, or was it something you had to think about a bit? Other players had some understandable reservations with the short offseason and the condensed season. After all, your season with the Wizards just ended a few weeks ago.

Beal: Yes and no. Like I said earlier, I’m very meticulous about my training. It’s always been the same the past few offseasons. I usually take like a month, or two, off and really rest my body because I’m playing a lot of minutes during the year. So that did weigh into the decision, but, ultimately, this has always been my dream. 

I’ve always been a part of USA basketball, and I didn’t get to go to the World Cup in 2019 because of the birth of my son. And then now this decision wasn’t easy either because I actually missed one of my older brother’s weddings. So, I actually had to make sure I got his blessing or permission to make sure it was cool, because I wouldn’t have gone if he said no. So, I’m happy about my sister-in-law and him really blessing me. My wife and my kids, also, because they can’t go. So, for everybody to kind of sign off on it was the ultimate icing on the cake. In the back of my head I always knew that this was what I wanted to do.

CBS: Luka Doncic recently said that winning a gold medal for Slovenia would mean more to him than winning an NBA title. Do you feel similarly about that?

Beal: In his shoes, 100 percent. This is Slovenia’s first time in the Olympics, right? So, that’s huge. He’s representing his whole country. Dallas is a city. People are fans of the city, but he’s repping his whole country. He’s putting them on his back. At the same time, hell, I’m gonna feel the same way because I haven’t won anything. So for me, this is big … This is the big boys. This is the big brother. So I embrace this stage and our goal is to win a gold medal. So, I want to have some hardware to say I’m proud of, too. 

CBS: Let’s shift over to the NBA. From a player’s perspective, how nice is it going to be to go into a relatively normal season with a full training camp and fans after two straight seasons that were anything but normal?  

Beal: I think it will be great. It’ll be really good. We’ll get back onto our regular track with scheduling and the season. Hopefully we still have fans in the arenas like we did at the end of the year. So, I’m definitely excited about it. We have a few moves we have to make in the offseason before we get to that point, but I’m excited about the year, man. Guys will be back healthy. Around the league everybody’s going to come back ready to go, because I’m sure everybody wasn’t satisfied with how their seasons ended. Everybody probably didn’t expect Phoenix to do what they did and look at them. So, that’s amazing in itself. So everybody’s going to come back hungry next season.

CBS: The Wizards were hit hard with injury and COVID issues early in the season, and as a result the team got off to a slow start. But, you were able to turn it around and make it to the postseason. Looking back on the season, is it disappointing because you weren’t able to advance further, or is it a situation where you can be proud of all that you overcame as a team?

Beal: It’s tough because I’m a harsh critic. I like to look at it from the point of view of we could have been better, and we should have been way better than we were. And we know that. Everybody knows that. So it’s like, yeah we can be proud of what we did, but we know we kind of dug ourselves a hole at the beginning of the year, granted COVID hit our team very hard. But at the same time we still could have been better than what we were. 

Then something clicked for us and we figured it out at the end of the year and we showed our hunger. We showed that we can compete. We showed that we were a playoff team. But we only won one game [in the playoffs], so we have to be better. We still got a lot of room to grow and improve and be better. Understanding that it’s hard to win in this league, and once you get to the playoffs it’s even that much tougher. So, it’s just motivational, obviously, to come back better and stronger. 

CBS: Speaking of that, what do you think you guys need to do moving forward to take that next step that you just alluded to? Obviously you need to name a new head coach. Other than that, is it just a matter of health? 

Beal: Obviously we need a coach, we have to find the right guy for the job and go from there. Build the team up through the draft, free agency, everything moving forward. We need better shooting. I have to shoot better. I think we got the size. We acquired Daniel Gafford at the trade deadline and he’s been a tremendous help for us. We get Thomas Bryant back next season, Rui [Hachimura] is going to continue to improve. Deni [Avdija]’s rehab has been going great, and he’ll continue to get better and improve his game, too. So the pieces are there. Obviously we still need to plug in some defensive guys, some athletic wings, guys who can shoot the 3, and I think we’ll be better. I think we’ll be better. 

CBS: You guys lost to the top-seeded 76ers in the first round of the playoffs. After playing against them, were you surprised to see how they struggled and ultimately lost to the Hawks, or did you sense that maybe they were vulnerable?

Beal: Obviously when Joel [Embiid] got hurt, that was the game that we ended up winning. And we felt like we should have won the next game, but they just wanted it a little bit more than we did. And Joel didn’t even play that game. But at the same time we kind of exposed the move of fouling Ben [Simmons], putting him on the line a few times. Granted, I think in our series he actually made a few. So, we had to go away from that instead of just giving away free points. But they were two totally different series, two totally different teams. Ben was more or less aggressive in our series, the first couple games, and then it kind of died down and trickled down from there. Atlanta was a good team, too. They played hard. They have a lot of young pieces over there who are really versatile. They’re not just a one-dimensional team. It was very tough. Joel had to do a lot. 

CBS: We saved the most important question for last. What did it feel like to get called “thick” by Gregg Popovich?

Beal: [Laughs] Oh, man. The world has been whopping my ass about that. It’s cool, though, I understand what he meant by it. I didn’t take it the wrong way. It was a funny moment for sure. 



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