Jordan Goodwin becoming a popular teammate on the Wizards

Jordan Goodwin becoming a popular teammate originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

WASHINGTON -- After the Wizards' win over the Hornets on Monday night, there was a Facetime call to the visitors' locker room in Charlotte. It was Bradley Beal, away from the team after testing positive for the coronavirus, but with an important message for one of his teammates.

Beal was the last Wizards player to earn their new wrestling-style belt, given after wins to the team's defensive player of the game. It was Beal's turn to bestow the honor on somebody else. From afar, he gave it to Jordan Goodwin, who in addition to standing out defensively with two steals, also scored 17 points on a perfect 7-for-7 shooting night.

Beal and Goodwin happen to go way back, since Goodwin was in middle school. They are both from St. Louis and Beal knew Goodwin as he was rising through the AAU ranks.

"It means a lot. It felt good to get the belt," Goodwin said. "Hopefully, on Thursday we get the win so I can hand it off to someone else. It was a special moment."

Beal's gesture was on behalf of the entire team, as Goodwin is becoming a very well-liked figure in the Wizards' locker room. He's got an underdog story, as an undrafted player out of Saint Louis University who worked his way through the G-League to earn the team's second 2-way contract out of training camp. He also just plays really hard.

The way he scraps on the defensive end, fights for rebounds and goes out of his way to set others up on offense is appreciated by Wizards players and the coaching staff.

"I love him, he’s great. Every opportunity he was given, he took it," Kristaps Porzingis said. "He came in mentally sharp, he played well. This last game he showed that he’s at this level... If he keeps going this way, he will gain his respect and spot in this league."

The win in Charlotte was Goodwin's 3rd standout game so far this season and his second in a row. He made some plays on Oct. 30 in Boston that drew attention, with six points on 3-for-4 shooting, a block and a steal in only 18 minutes late in a blowout loss.

The night before the Wizards played the Hornets, he made an impact in the team's loss in Memphis. Against the Grizzlies, he had nine points, eight rebounds, five assists, two steals and a block. He was efficient, shooting 4-for-7 from the field.

Goodwin has taken a small opening in the Wizards' rotation created by Beal's absence and Delon Wright's hamstring injury and capitalized on it.

"He’s done a terrific job making the most of his minutes and he’s helped us win," head coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. "Give him a lot of credit. He’s got heart, he’s tough, he tries to play the right way and he’s got a little grit, so he’s not scared of the moment."

Unseld Jr. indicated Goodwin will continue getting chances, it will be up to him to keep making a case for minutes. Beal is set to miss his 3rd straight game on Thursday when the Wizards host the Mavericks.

However he produces, the Wizards can expect the same high effort level every time Goodwin takes the floor. He says that's a non-negotiable for him and it's how he has always played.

Goodwin said he was raised that way by his parents.

"I don’t know, it’s just built in me. I just want more. I just want more from the game," he said.

As for his unusual rebounding ability, Goodwin says he used to train when he was a kid without a rebounder and got used to running after the ball anytime he missed. It became instinctual.

Goodwin is now just trying to keep it going. He has taken a long road to get to this point and is perceptive about how he can get better in order to stick around.

During his 1st stint in the NBA last season, just two games on a hardship contract, he remembers a welcome-to-the-NBA moment that helped him improve going into this year.

"One possession Jimmy Butler pushed me to get open and I kind of lost my breath a little bit. It was like ‘alright, okay, I’ve gotta hit the weight room,'" he recalled.

Goodwin did just that, came back better after a productive offseason and is now making a name for himself on the Wizards.