PHOENIX – The era of the new big three has officially begun.
Bradley Beal was all smiles in his introductory press conference Thursday at Footprint Center. Sandwiched between general manager James Jones and coach Frank Vogel, the 11-year pro joked with reporters about enduring the Phoenix weather, seeking restaurant recommendations and going camping with Devin Booker.
All jokes aside, Beal reiterated what he’s most looking forward to is the opportunity to play high-level basketball every night.
“That’s one of the biggest decisions to impact me coming here,” Beal said, “to know that every single night I’m going to be in an important game. Every single night, I’m going to have a chance to be on television. Every single night, teams are going to give us their best. I’m looking forward to that challenge.”
Drafted out of the University of Florida at No. 3 overall by the Washington Wizards in 2012, the guard has been one of the NBA’s most loyal players, remaining with Washington for 11 seasons before being traded to the Suns.
The trade that brought Beal to Phoenix sent Chris Paul, Landry Shamet and six second-round picks to the Wizards. Jordan Goodwin, Isaiah Todd and four pick swaps were also featured in the deal.
Chris Paul has been the franchise’s de facto leader and veteran presence over the past three seasons, including the 2021 run to the NBA Finals where it lost in six games to the Milwaukee Bucks.
“As a whole, we’ve been encouraged to try to do bigger things,” Jones said. “When you do bigger things, it requires more work, more output and it requires more collaboration and cooperation from the entire team. I love where we are right now. We’re talking about forming the best team in the NBA, and if that’s not what you’re here for, if that’s not why you do it, then this is probably the wrong space for you.”
With career averages of 22.1 points, 4.3 assists and 4.1 rebounds, Beal joins Kevin Durant and Devin Booker to form one of the most dynamic scoring trios in the NBA. Last season, the three superstars combined for 80.1 points per game and promise to be a nearly unguardable three-pronged attack if they can all stay healthy.
Since tearing his Achilles tendon during the 2019 NBA Finals, Durant has missed at least 27 games in each of the next three seasons. Booker has missed 43 games over the last two seasons, and Beal has only played 45% of possible games over the last two seasons, missing 74 games due to a variety of injuries.
Beal said there is nothing structurally wrong with his body, and he’s fully healthy and ready to get to work.
“My body’s in a better position now,” he said. “This is the first time I’ve had in two, three years in which I’ve had a whole summer that I can work out … just understanding this is my temple, so if I’m not available, that’s not good.”
Throughout Beal’s career, he’s been perceived as one of if not the best player on his team. He’s a three-time All-Star and member of the 2020-21 All-NBA 3rd team, so playing within “BookNation,” as he called it, is going to be a brand new experience for him.
He mentioned unselfishness and elevating each others’ games as the main strategies for playing with Booker, Durant and Ayton for the foreseeable future and possibly winning a championship.
“I haven’t gotten over the hump of the second round,” Beal said, “so that’s going to be a new thing for me. I’m going to be leaning on the backs of a lot of guys who’ve been there, but also just leaning on my experience. I’ve been to the playoffs. I’ve played in big games. I embrace it all.”
Beal has proven he can elevate his game when it matters most, averaging 23.5 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.8 assists in 45 career playoff games, but he’s never had the supporting cast that’s managed to elevate him to the conference finals. John Wall received five All-Star nominations while Beal’s teammate, but the two were overlapping All-Stars only once.
Since Wall’s career was derailed by injury, it’s been the Bradley Beal show in Washington, and Beal has earned a respectable reputation around the league for his loyalty, professionalism and hard work.
“Champions behave like champions before they’re champions,” Vogel said. “I believe Bradley has carried himself that way and performed that way throughout his career, and hopefully now he’s got the pieces around him to help him achieve that goal.”