Bradley Beal's star rising at midseason for Wizards

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Sports,NBA,Wizards,Craig Stouffer

Weekend in Houston is a learning experience

Bradley Beal took part in NBA All-Star weekend like a veteran -- or at least a veteran attendee.

Two nights after scoring 12 points in the Rising Stars Challenge, throwing down a two-handed dunk off a no-look pass that Ricky Rubio bounced between his own legs, the Wizards rookie strolled in casually late to watch the All-Star Game itself, in which the West prevailed 143-138.

"I went to the third and fourth quarter," Beal said. "Nobody really watches the first half. Just like our game, there's no defense, and then it doesn't get competitive until the end, which it did."

Up next
Raptors at Wizards
When » Tuesday, 7 p.m.
Where » Verizon Center
TV » CSN

Beal knows better than ever what it will take to play in that game, and he's likely to be back to playing significant first-half minutes as the Wizards (15-36) hope to start where they left off before the break, having won four of their final five games.

"I think it's always good when you have a guy that participates in the activities of the weekend to give you a taste, give you something to shoot for, that ultimate prize of one day being named an All-Star," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said.

Beal played with the starters at the end of Washington's first practice back at Verizon Center on Monday. Beal came off the bench in the final three games before the break after missing the five previous contests with a sprained right wrist. He said he wasn't star-struck in Houston but welcomed the compliments from those who have noticed him and the improved Wizards.

"Everybody's been saying, 'You guys are coming along,'?" Beal said. "So everybody is starting to recognize what we're capable of doing and what kind of team we are. It's up to us. We dictate our future now, and we just have to keep battling and keep competing in the end."

The Wizards play 10 of their next 14 games at home, starting against the Raptors (21-32), before finishing up the season with 11 of their final 17 games on the road.

Beal and the starters were beaten soundly 11-4 to end Monday's practice, with Trevor Ariza knocking down a 3-pointer after Jordan Crawford used his speed on the fast break. Crawford, who hasn't played any minutes in Washington's last three games, sent out an inauspicious tweet Sunday: "12/1/12 - 12/31/12 20 6 5," a nod to the 19.1 points, 6.1 assists and 5.1 rebounds he averaged in December when he held down the starting point guard role for injured John Wall.

Wittman said practice will be crucial to his evaluation of players such as Crawford, Jan Vesely and Trevor Booker, who have all had their roles reduced in the current rotation.

"You've got to show me that you're fighting, that you're working, that you're not giving into the fact, not feeling sorry for yourself," Wittman said. "That's what I need to see in guys like that. We all know every opportunity is going to present itself for each of those guys, and are you going to be ready, or -- because of how you handled it -- are you not?"

cstouffer@washingtonexaminer.com

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