WASHINGTON • Bradley Beal respects the Toronto Raptors' backcourt, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, for their All-Star resumes but also for their roles as doting dads. Also, John Wall visits DeRozan's off-season home and considers him to be a true friend.
Anyone expecting the Washington Wizards guards to preview their first-round tilt against the Raptors by proclaiming themselves as "the best backcourt in the NBA" will be disappointed. This is not 2014, when Beal made the bold declaration.
Although they remain confident, the Wizards are not creating headlines with their words. Instead, after years of playing against each other - and for Wall, teaming up with Lowry and DeRozan as Eastern Conference All-Stars several times over the years - Washington's duo hold their northern rivals in high esteem.
"They're really great guys off the floor," Beal said ahead of this morning's (Singapore time) Game 1 clash. "I'm a huge fan of DeMar and his work. He's a great guy. Kyle the same thing. They're just overall great people, great fathers. Two guys I respect."
The competition between the Wizards and Raptors' duelling All-Star backcourts marks the most intriguing match-up in the Eastern Conference play-offs.
Although Toronto (59-23) have the most depth in the East, with a high-scoring bench (41.4 points per game) that can win games, rotations are usually trimmed in the play-offs. Coaches place the fate of the team in the hands of the stars, and both teams have their own.
This season, while Beal has led the Wizards with a 22.6 scoring average, DeRozan expanded his game to the three-point arc and averaged 23.6 points. Although Wall missed half the season because of injuries, he still posted a team-best average of 9.6 assists to go with 19.4 points. Lowry, the Raptors' lead composer, averages 6.9 assists and 16.2 points.
"There are a lot of great teams in the play-offs, and a lot of All-Stars are on those great teams," Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. "All-Stars have to perform, there's no question... They're special players. Only 12 in each conference."
Even though they are the underdogs, the Wizards (43-39) view a match-up with the top seeds much more favourably than some of the other teams. They split the regular-season series with Washington, and five-time All-Star Wall did not even play a second in those four games.
West, 1st rd: New Orleans v Portland Singtel TV Ch110, 10.30am