WASHINGTON (AP) With only one ball John Wall and Bradley Beal know they have to share it.
The dynamic backcourt duo is standing squarely in the limelight and need to coexist successfully for the Washington Wizards to get back to the playoffs. Wall is healthy again after having surgery on each knee, and Beal is fresh off signing a $128 million, five-year contract that ranked among the richest in the NBA this offseason.
Wall conceded during the summer that he and Beal have a ''tendency to dislike each other on the court.'' It's a point of tension but one they say won't create cracks in the Wizards' franchise foundation.
''We're just two competitive people,'' Wall said recently. ''Whenever you have your two best players and they both want the game-winning shot and want those type of plays, you're going to have disagreements on the court. But other than that, we're fine.''
Wall and Beal are coming off career highs in points and a low in team success as Washington finished .500 and missed the playoffs after two consecutive postseason appearances. New coach Scott Brooks is in the midst of installing a defense-first mentality and is counting on Wall and Beal to set the tone there.
To be leaders defensively, Wall and Beal have to be on the same page. They say they are, even if sometimes they argue like brothers.
''We both realize that that's what's important here: us winning games, us being leaders of a team and us growing as a backcourt together,'' Beal said. ''I'm going to be here another five years; he's going to be here for hopefully the rest of his career, as well. We have a great system, a great team, our chemistry's great. Me and John are fine, and we're going to be in the rankings of the best backcourts.''
The Wizards don't usually make those rankings, and being overlooked is something that motivates Wall and Beal. Brooks, who doesn't mind healthy disagreements and believes they are a sign of a strong team, wants his top players to be fueled by slights but not distracted by them.
''You still want to play with a chip on your shoulder,'' Brooks said Tuesday. ''Every team has talent and every team has a lot of skilled players, but when you have a guy like Brad and John, you want that. You want that in them. That's what gets them going.''
Wall and Beal push each other as much as anything, even if that can cause friction. Wall just wants to downplay the effect that friction has on the Wizards' success.
''With Brad, people want to put words in your mouth and make it seem like it's worse than what it was,'' he said. ''Nah. We all knew Brad was going to get paid a certain contract and he deserves it. All I said is the same thing I did - when I got paid, everybody said oh I didn't deserve it. We just got to go and prove it.
''I think when he's healthy, he's proven that he can play in this league. He can be an all-star, he can be one of the best two-way players.''
Wall will get eased into another prove-it season and expects to play around 32 minutes in the Wizards opener Thursday at the Atlanta Hawks. With Brooks wanting to keep Wall's minutes in the low-30 range, he'd also like the 23-year-old Beal to take over some more of the ball-distribution responsibilities and create for teammates as much as he looks for his own shot.
''We have a lot of players that can make plays,'' Brooks said. ''I think Brad has really improved in that area. That's one of the things I've challenged him when I first took over the job in May is to be a better playmaker. I think he can be one of the best two-way off guards in the league. That growth has to happen.''