Beal feels for Lillard, Lavine after neither named All-Star starter originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
Bradley Beal knows exactly how Zach Lavine and Damian Lillard felt on Thursday night.
The NBA announced its All-Star starters on Thursday, and while Beal earned the first starting spot of his career, neither Lavine nor Lillard got the nod. That's a feeling Beal is all-too-familiar with - he was snubbed not just from the starting lineup but the entire game altogether last season despite averaging 30 points per game.
In a 1-on-1 interview with NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller on Thursday night, Beal shared his disappointment that neither Lillard nor Lavine was named an All-Star starter.
On Lillard, Beal pointed to the competitiveness of the West and how a lot of players in that conference play multiple positions as to why the Blazers star wasn't named a starter.
"I know it's tough for Dame, I can't speak for Dame because I know Dame is in the West and I've never been in the West. I know that's dog meet dog out there. There are so many guys who are forwards or guards," Beal said.
"It's tough. I get it. I do understand it because he'd been snubbed plenty of times. He shouldn't have been putting up crazy numbers even his first couple of years in the league, he should have been an All-Star and wasn't."
Beal is specifically referring to Lillard's fourth and fifth seasons in the league when the Portland standout averaged 25.1 and 27.0 points per game, respectively, yet didn't earn an All-Star nod in either season. Lillard has made the All-Star team in every season since then, with another appearance almost certainly coming when the NBA announces the rest of the All-Star rosters next week.
As for Lavine, though, Beal had little to no explanation as to why the Bulls standout wasn't named his starting backcourt mate in the East.
"Zach, I feel like Zach is damn near destroying the league right now," Beal said. "Like every night, he's giving it to you. Three-level scorer. And he's doing it efficiently. I think people are going to snub him like they did me. I hope they don't because he had my vote. It sucks."
Both Beal and Lavine are in similar roles as the clear top option on an underperforming team. Beal, who has often been double-teamed (and even triple-teamed) this season, knows exactly what Lavine has to go through on a nightly basis in order to put up the incredible numbers he does.
"Zach is a special talent, man, he's more than deserving of a spot," Beal said. "What he's able to go on the floor, you have to plan for him. 'Oh, we have the Chicago Bulls? We have Zach Lavine tonight.' That's the gameplan, you know the plan is to stop him. So, I respect that."
Beal, who finished first in fan, player, and media voting among East guards, feels Lavine is the only other guard playing at the same level as him right now in his conference.
"I feel like me and him are killing the East as guards," Beal said. "I will never say he's hooping better than me, but he's hooping."
Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving was named the other East starting guard. Lavine finished fourth in All-Star fan voting and was tied with Nets guard James Harden for third in player voting.
What Beal respects tremendously about Lillard and Lavine, though, is not their incredible ability to score the basketball. Rather, it's that neither one of them is ever afraid to back down from a challenge on either end of the floor.
"That's what I love about Zach, Dame, guys in that caliber, is that they'll take the challenge," Beal said. "Dame will guard me. He'll guard Russ [Westbrook}. Zach will guard me. He takes those challenges. That's something I love and embrace, too, like you can't just be tryna give me 60 but not tryna come get 60 put on you. Let's really compete. I love that about both of them."
Tune in to NBC Sports Washington at 9 p.m. Saturday for full coverage of the Wizards' next game against the Trail Blazers