The NBA is on hold for the foreseeable future. To help fill the void, we’re looking back at the defining moments of the 65-ish games of the 2019-20 season so far.
The through line of the Washington Wizards is dissatisfaction. With coach Scott Brooks, in the front office, among players, on the court, and with the media. Resentment overfloweth. Sometimes you’re the target, sometimes you’re the one yelling “I’m sick of this shit!” in practice. (Eat your heart out, Jimmy Butler.) The 2019-20 season was calm by recent comparison, blemished by the mildest of trade rumors, rotations reeking of desperation, and many losses. A couple of reports surfaced claiming Bradley Beal was unhappy, but that’s a familiar theme. With everyone. In every D.C. franchise.
The most public Wizards grievance this season was, in fact, in support of Beal after he was left off the All-Star roster. His snub led to a speech by Kamiah Adams, Beal’s fiancée and a Love & Hip Hop: Hollywood personality, that was so thorough and condemnatory it will be taught to budding agents tasked with defending their clients for years to come. Adams’s voter takedown and defense for Beal was unquestionably one of the greatest performances of the season.
Beal was having what seemed like an All-Star season, at least according to the numbers. He was sixth in scoring and third in the East (we—meaning Adams—will get to his specific averages later). The guards chosen in the Eastern Conference were Kemba Walker, Trae Young, Ben Simmons, and Kyle Lowry, alongside “wild card” selections Khris Middleton and Jayson Tatum. Snubs—at least the pretense of snubs—are unavoidable among NBA guards. It’s a bloated position. There are more deserving recipients than honors to give them. The 2020 All-Star Game wasn’t Beal’s first painful omission. “I’m a little pissed off about it,” Beal said back in January after the rosters dropped. “I was kind of expecting it, honestly. It’s disrespectful.”
Teammates Isaiah Thomas and John Wall spoke up for Beal. Brooks called it “disappointing.” Beal’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, gave a statement to the media accusing voters of holding Beal’s loyalty against him. “Coaches have held it against him,” Bartelstein told The Washington Post’s Candace Buckner, “that he decided to stay the course with the team instead of jumping ship and joining someone’s bandwagon.” All of them were commendable, yet they paled in comparison to Adams’s declaration for justice.
On January 30, Adams joined Wizards radio analyst Glenn Consor on the team’s postgame show. I never saw video of the interview then, and I can’t find it now. Sometimes, life disappoints. The transcription, via The Athletic’s Fred Katz, does not. (I’d like to think someone paid for the video to be scrubbed.)
Adams opened her case for Beal’s All-Star bid with the numbers: “Stats don’t lie—28.6 points per game, 6.3 assists per game, 4.4 rebounds per game,” Adams said. “Didn’t make an All-Star though? Sixth in scoring overall in the NBA, third overall in the Eastern Conference.” To know a player’s stats down to the decimal 39 games into a season is a step above allegiance. Those numbers fluctuate nearly every night. Is he also on her fantasy team? Does she have NBA.com/stats bookmarked? I don’t even bother to memorize phone numbers anymore, even for people I care deeply about. Those stats were correct, by the way, absent of factoring in the game that had just ended.
She continued: “My thing is, OK, he’s on a team that has 15, 16 wins. Not the best team in the NBA. We came into it this season knowing it was going to be a trial year for us. But I feel like that’s a joke to me.”
“Trae Young was voted in,” asked Consor, “right?”
“It’s a joke to me. Not taking away from his game. I’ve been watching him since he was AAU when Brad’s AAU team used to play against him, but he’s playing cherry-picking basketball.”
Adams redacted her comments about Young the next day on Twitter à la Notes app, apologizing and calling him an “amazing player.” She then doubled down with a multiscreenshot statement, reminding the masses of Beal’s in-season accomplishments and utilizing the CAPS FUNCTION to her ADVANTAGE. All-Star voting, Adams reasoned to Consor during the postgame, is a popularity contest centered on who gets likes. She implored anyone to “name five people that were selected for reserves on either the East or the West who are outplaying Bradley right now.”
“I’m not biased because who I’m with,” Adams said. “Because, hell, he was voted second amongst his colleagues.” The point is inarguable: Beal finished second in player voting among guards in the East, which would’ve made him a starter according to their ballots alone. In her brief on-air interview, Adams provided numbers, player comparison, implied team comparison (Young’s Hawks had 13 wins at the time; the Wizards had 16), removed herself from the argument, and put out a call to action by asking the public to name five players more deserving than her fiancé, while simultaneously insisting that their relationship has nothing to do with this. Reason—in this case, per-game stats—beats love.
Beal wasn’t the only perceived snub before All-Star Weekend. Sixers rookie Matisse Thybulle felt that he was unfairly left out of the Rising Stars game, which his agent, Eric Goodwin, protested on Twitter. “Shame on the league’s ASSistant coaches,” read his Notes app announcement. Pelicans first-year center Jaxson Hayes also missed out on the game, and decided to defend his own honor and do his own bidding. “It is what it is,” Hayes said in a since-deleted video. “The NBA is a bunch of bullshit. The NBA can really suck my dick for all I care. I hope y’all see this video, by the way. Fine me. Yeah, man, shit just crazy to me, bro. I work in a fucking political league that’s all about politics, and it is what it is.” Hayes, who averaged 7.5 points this season, later apologized. I wish he hadn’t.
Despite the other attempts, none touched the poise, points, delivery, follow-up, or persistent rationale shown by Adams. “All in all,” she wrote in her Notes app debrief, “there just needs to be SOME type of stability.” It was damning. People reacted at the time with their own expectations: If you’re not going to stand up for me like this, the internet insisted collectively, we can’t be together. It’s a romantic sentiment, but I’m not sure everyone wants the world to know their stats.