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During his introductory news conference as the Suns’ big acquisition this summer, Beal was asked what it will be like to play alongside Devin Booker and Kevin Durant and not have to be the main focus of opposing defenses like he was for years in Washington.
“Good luck with that, right?” Beal interrupted when talking about the dilemma facing defenses against the Suns this season. “I get antsy just thinking about it because I haven’t had those opportunities and it’s the same with the other two guys and DA [Deandre Ayton].
“… I’m happy. You can go guard Devin and K tonight and I can chill a little bit and not face so many double-teams. A little bit more open shots. I can work on my catch-and-shoot a little bit more.”
Beal, 30, said it was bittersweet having to leave Washington, the only team he has ever played for and a city that he has forged “emotional” ties to. Beal had a no-trade clause so he could dictate where he would be traded and what package that could garner. That process was emotional for him before he opted to join the Suns, who traded Chris Paul, Landry Shamet, six second-round picks and four first-round pick swaps to the Wizards for Beal, Jordan Goodwin and Isaiah Todd.
Beal will be on a roster built to contend for a championship for the first time in his 11-year career, playing alongside two prolific All-Star scorers in Booker and Durant to go with former No. 1 overall pick Ayton.
Beal, who averaged 30.5 points and 31.3 points per game during the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons for the Wizards, isn’t worried about fitting in, finding shots or perhaps having to play some point guard in the Suns’ stacked offense. And he isn’t concerned about who will be the main guy although he did give a nod to Booker, who is entering his ninth season with the Suns.
“I don’t look at the NBA like, ‘Oh, it’s my team,’ ‘Oh, it’s your team,'” Beal explained. “It’s everybody. We all got to compete. We all got to do this thing together and make it happen.
“But understand that this is ‘Book Nation.’ I understand that this is his stomping grounds, this is his arena, and I’m excited for that. I’m excited to be able to play with two Hall of Famers. I’ve never done that. They’ll push me in ways I’ve never been pushed. Hopefully, I can do the same.”
The shooting guard said this is the first summer in recent memory that he will be able to work on his game and body after dealing with injuries. Beal hasn’t played more than 60 games in a season since 2018-19. He averaged 23.2 points in each of the past two seasons.
“The biggest thing is they were knickknacks,” Beal said of what he was dealing with. “There were a few of ’em that I was a little hardheaded coming back from injuries and reinjured them and prolonged my time out a little bit longer. But there’s nothing that was structurally wrong with my body or anything. It was nothing that damaged my body tremendously.
“… My body’s in a lot better position now. This is the first summer I’ve had in two, three years in which I have a whole summer. I can work out. In years past, I’ve been injured all the way through the year. Last year I was recovering from wrist surgery so I couldn’t do anything until October essentially. So this is the first time I have legitimately to work out and work on my body and I take that to the heart as best as I can.”
The Suns still have to find role players to surround their new big three and figure out not only who could join Booker, Beal, Durant and Ayton in the starting five but what to do at point guard.
New head coach Frank Vogel mentioned point guard Cam Payne multiple times during the news conference as someone who is in the mix for starting. But Vogel also said he is comfortable with one of his superstars handling the ball the majority of the time.
“I’m very comfortable with Beal and Booker as the starting backcourt,” Vogel said. “But we’re going to explore that fifth spot potentially being a Cam Payne or a point guard and we’re going to explore it being maybe a 3, 4-type of defender position. Those things will play out in camp.
“I love the idea of getting those guys down the floor with a point guard and advancing it up to him and letting them attack. But I know that they can handle it on their own as well. And we’ve seen that with through Book’s, career, through Bradley’s career. And again, the pace that we want to play with, I think most possessions are going to have different ball handlers each time down. It’s going to be a multiple ball handler attack.”
Beal is looking forward to the enormous title expectations facing the Suns after being unable to get past the second round in the Eastern Conference three times in Washington.
The last time Beal said he was pushed by another star to take his game up another level was when he played alongside Russell Westbrook during the 2020-21 season.
“I’ll be pushed,” Beal said. “Last time I was around that was Russ. Seeing Russ every single day, his work ethic, his mentality, that took my game to another level. And I think it’ll be the same thing here when around the championship coach [Vogel], around K has two [championships], Book, who’s played in the Finals? DA’s played in the Finals.
“Their mentality is going to be a lot different than what I’ve seen. I think it’ll propel my game, it’ll prepare my mentality and I’m excited for it.”