Amidst trade rumor chatter, Bradley Beal will sit on Friday for the Wizards with Julius Randle and the Knicks in the nation’s capital.

The New York Knicks (11-15, 9th in Eastern Conference) are traveling to the nation’s capital to face the Washington Wizards (6-16, 14th in the Eastern Conference). The Knicks enter the game on a two-game losing streak after losing a home-and-home series with the Miami Heat, while the Wizards lost their last game and are coming off of three losses in their last four. This is the first game between the two teams this season. 

Even with two straight losses, the vibes surrounding the Knicks are positive. The acquisition of Derrick Rose has been so far, so good, as Rose jumped right into the second unit and offered passing and creation without harming Immanuel Quickley’s minutes. They even unloaded on Miami, shooting 42 threes in the first game(!). The concerns are still the concerns, but the Knicks are still in the thick of the playoff race, so all is well. 

Maybe it’s me, but I continue to get Knicks opponents with pending trade targets. Last time it was Zach LaVine, this time it was Bradley Beal. Beal, currently averaging a league-leading 32.8 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 4.8 assists with 58.2 True Shooting percentage, has come up in ongoing trade rumors. This time, the Knicks are involved, which means, expect some talk about that on the broadcast as he carries their offense. 

Except … Bradley Beal is officially out of the game with “personal rest.” Sounds like someone is shopping for a new home in Tarrytown. 

The Wizards are, in short, a mess. The Russell Westbrook–John Wall swap has hurt the Wizards, with Westbrook (19.7 points, 9.0 rebounds, 8.9 assists) struggling to help the Wizards in the wins category, while Davis Bertans (10.3 points, 33.1 3P%) is struggling in year one of his new five-year deal. They’re 21st in offensive efficiency, 29th in defensive efficiency, and a large group of meh. 

Washington has several interesting young players (Rui Hachimura, Deni Avdjia) but they feel like a team in the midst of transition. The Beal trade, even if he doesn’t want it, feels like the best for both parties, while the Westbrook trade is an effective wash. Hachimura is largely what he’s supposed to be—a scoring four with questionable defensive tactics—while the same goes for the rookie Avdjia—an all-around forward who has surprised as a shooter—but neither feel like stars. 

What to Watch 

Pace race: Another battle between a fast team and a slow team. The Knicks are officially 30th in the league in pace, while the Wizards are first. Westbrook struggle aside, he’s great at getting the ball and turning in quick possessions. Ish Smith and Raul Neto, Washington’s backup guards, also do well in operating the offense at a fast pace. Dictating the pace will be key for this game. 

The second unit backcourt: The combination of Rose and Quickley worked before and could work again, this time against a decent backcourt in Washington. Rose operated more like the natural point guard—shuffling through the court and whizzing passes to different players, highlighted by a few nice passes to Obi Toppin. Quickley was a nice off-ball candidate—shooting and defending. I would like to see that relationship blossom. 

Rotation watch: Rose’s minutes: I was curious to see how Rose plays in his first run for New York and he played well. Now, as Rose gets a bit more adjusted to playing with the team, I’m curious to see how Tom Thibodeau settles in on Rose’s minutes. It is important to note that as the Knicks settled for their final possession in the second Miami game, Rose wasn’t out there while Quickley was. 

This should be a fun game. Even without Beal, the Wizards should push the ball with Westbrook and create shots. New York has the players to maintain with a fast-paced team like Washington, but Thibodeau will get the ball into the hands of Barrett and Randle and slow the game down with the starters, and use Rose and the second unit as a changeup. 

The Knicks should win this game, but the pace and shooting difference could result in a closer-than-usual game. 

Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. ET.

 

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