As the Wizards embark on a new season, their All-Star shooting guard has a brand new challenge -- his first child at home. How Bradley Beal and his teammates balance kids with their NBA careers.
WASHINGTON — Bradley Beal packed the hospital bag a month before. Paperwork was in order. Insurance information was right. He even arranged the seat in the back of his truck. Now, he waited on word from girlfriend Kamiah Adams. The couple’s first child was set to arrive in the coming weeks.
The alert came. Beal grabbed the pre-packed bag, put Adams in the backseat of their truck and knew he was just 15 minutes from Inova Fairfax Hospital in Annandale. The list of things he did not know was long: How would he handle viewing the birth? Would he be as nervous and panicked as he assumed? Was he prepared to be part of the delivery, as they planned?
Those questions gave way to another, more pressing one: Is this happening in the car?
“Oh, man,” Beal told The Sports Capitol. “I almost thought I had to pull over a few times because she was screaming in the back of the car. So, that part made me like, ‘Oh, that’s really happening.’ Once I got to the hospital, we were cool. She was good. Got in the bed and I actually delivered the baby. The doc let me deliver the baby.”
That’s right. Beal turned out to be calm enough to deliver his son, Bradley Emmanuel Beal, II, after the doctor assured the umbilical cord was not around the baby’s neck. Beal stepped in, secured the baby’s head, pulled and rotated him. He placed his son on Adams’ chest. Shortly after, he cut the umbilical cord.
“So the whole process, I was good,” Beal said. “I was pre-med in college. Blood and babies and seeing birth doesn’t bother me.”
Beal is thankful and filled with joy as a new father. Now, he has a situation. The 82-game NBA season awaits. Baby Beal is two months old. He sleeps when he wants, demands what he needs and has his first-time parents scrambling, even out of season.
And, Beal is not alone. Austin Rivers’ first son, K.J., arrived in July. They have turned to Markieff Morris, Jason Smith, Ian Mahinmi, and coach Scott Brooks for advice about to handle the season and a newborn.
The in-season plan as it stands for Beal right now: “I have no idea,” Beal said. “No idea.”
Beal, 25, has some routine, at the moment. He arrives at the Entertainment and Sports Arena in southeast around 9:30 a.m. Breakfast, treatment and individual works follows. Practice is next. Beal leaves around 3 or 4 p.m. That means a good hour’s drive home.
“I have a true 9-5 it feels like,” Beal said. “My girl is like, ‘Damn when are you going to be home?’”
She is tired from handling the baby throughout the day. He’s tired from work, but knows once he arrives home, he will be tagged in. This is lesson one. It happens in training camp and will happen during the regular season.
“Just be prepared,” Smith warns. “It’s not like when you get back, ‘Oh, we just got off a four-game road trip and I want to sleep.’ Nope. You’re daddy daycare. It’s daddy time. Got to get some daddy time with the little ones. It’s going to be a hard thing to balance.”
The road is a detriment and savior. Smith tries to make sure everyone involved — he has a four-year-old daughter and one-year-old son now — is in the best possible place before departing. Once airborne, he relies on FaceTime and any other recording device. He watched his daughter’s first steps on his phone.
Once gone, the load at home shifts and the chance for sleep skyrockets. Rivers, 26, was bleary-eyed at Wizards Media Day following four hours of sleep the night before. Despite being in a formal press conference, he began to just “talk out loud” when asked about how it was going with the newborn.
“I still am adjusting with the sleep,” Rivers said. “We’re going to have to figure that out….I’m not doing this four hours of sleep at night. Me speaking out loud right now. I can’t do this. This s**t is tough. I’m going to have to ask Brad for some advice because he just went through it. But my timing is bad. Right during training camp. Yup…”
Enter Morris, who has a one-year-old daughter, and Smith. The key here is road rest, they say. The days of NBA nightlife are over. Even if you want them to continue.
“You use the road to sleep,” Morris said. “That’s what you got to do.”
“That’s the time you can get some good sleep in hotels,” Smith said. “Quiet hotel room? It’s magnificent. Something made of magic.”
Baby Beal has gained seven pounds in two months.
“Kills 6-7 ounces every time,” Beal said. “Just knocking them back. All breast milk. Damn, dude.”
There is another lesson in there: Things move fast and you’re going to miss some. Cognitive progression, growth rate, mannerisms, habits. All of it will be cranking along while the team charter goes from Denver to Los Angeles to Utah and back. A four-game road trip is a millennium in the house.
“My wife would be like, ‘They’ve been doing that the whole time,’” Smith said. “I was like, ‘I haven’t been here for a week. I didn’t know they could feed themselves or could grab like hold onto stuff pretty strong.’ I’m like, when did they start doing that? Things happen really quickly. When you’re around them for a week, you don’t really notice it. But if you’re gone for a week, then you see them doing something and you come back and they’re doing something completely different, you’re like, ‘Whoa.’”
“Every time he leaves to go on a road trip, when he comes back, something’s going to be different,” Morris said of Beal. “He’s going to miss a lot of time. He’s got to get used to it, not being around as much. And no sleep when you get back home.”
Strangely, Morris smiled after mentioning the lack of sleep again, like someone who tells you to jump into the deep end when knowing it is full of sharks.
Beal is at least beginning to experience the leveling off of paranoia. Last season, Morris mentioned being woken up by every little noise his daughter made. She’d coo, he would peek into the bassinet. Smith said his daughter was not a quiet sleeper, which, in turn, made him basically a non-sleeper.
“So any and every sound she made, if it’s rolling over or whatnot, you might be in the deepest of deep sleeps, your eyes just go, BING,” Smith said. “And you’re ready to rock. What does she need? Does she need her diaper changed? Does she need a bottle? What’s going on? And they’ll roll over (sighs). And you’re like, Oh, no. I’m wide awake. Yup. Wide awake.”
“The first couple weeks, every time he made a noise, I was up checking on him,” Beal said. “Is he OK? Trying to make sure there’s no complications, there’s nothing wrong with him. Especially as a new parent. You have no idea what you’re doing. You have no idea what the baby’s going through. It’s calmed down a lot more.”
The Wizards’ season opens Oct. 18. Two home games are followed by a five-game West Coast road trip. They will board the plane Oct. 21 and return around 3 a.m. Oct. 31. This is Beal’s first in-season test as a new dad. Rivers’, too.
Beal is a planner. That’s why the bag was ready and car loaded before he needed to drive to the hospital. Among the current priorities is for Baby Beal to be in the bassinet as often as possible. Adams prefers him in the bed, at times. Big news came Wednesday: He napped in his nursery. Beal hopes to build a routine from there.
But his plan and schedule for the regular season is TBD. His gameday routines will not be the same. After shootaround, Beal will be back home with Adams, little Brad and, fortunately for them, a hired hand. Then it’s back to the arena for a game. Then back home or onto the plane. He has advice on how to handle it. Just not the personal experience.
“We’re still trying to figure it out,” Beal said. “It’s kind of messed up because I asked my parents how is it with the first born? It’s kind of like trial and error. You got to try stuff out and see if it works. If it doesn’t work, you got to try something else out. You just got to keep moving the needle. For the most part, it’s an adaptation. It’s a sacrifice. It opened my eyes in a lot of different ways.
“He motivates me to come out and do what I do. For the most part, I’m just going to try to do the best that I can and try not to miss too much.”
Todd Dybas is the managing editor and co-founder of The Sports Capitol. He has spent 17 years in the sports editorial industry, working as a writer and layout editor, winning multiple awards in both positions. He has been an NFL beat writer, has worked as a member of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America for seven years, and is a member of the Pro Basketball Writers Association.
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