When the Wizards' 2016-17 regular season opens on Thursday [6:30 p.m. on CSN], exactly six months will have passed since Scott Brooks was introduced as their new head coach. In that time span he has hired a staff of assistants, gone to summer league in Las Vegas, held a training camp and coached the Wizards in seven exhibition games.
He has been in the building for half of a calendar year, yet still feels there is plenty to learn about his team.
"That's the most difficult part of the job, trying to really understand the team and all of their strengths and trying to find their weaknesses so you can shore them up," Brooks said.
"But you don't have a lot of time and I've always been a no excuse coach. We coach our team for no excuses. We have to figure it out quickly. I thought our guys have done a really good job of understanding what we do and how we do it. I thought during these last three or four weeks we have improved as a team. But we have to keep improving."
Like Brooks, Dwane Casey of the Raptors is in his second stint as an NBA head coach. After spending two seasons with the Timberwolves in 2005-07, he took over in Toronto before the 2011-12 campaign.
Casey has seen the Raptors develop into a perennial power with three straight division titles. But it didn't click for him overnight and he knows what it's like to be in Brooks' shoes at the moment.
"The big thing is understanding personnel. Basketball is basketball. You're going to have your own philosophy as a head coach," Casey said. "Just getting to know your players is the most important thing. What they can do and what they can't do in certain situations. That's what's great about exhibition and summer time.
"You're able to see what they can do [in terms of] what side of the floor are they best on, who can execute under pressure at the end of the game. Those things you kind of learn in exhibition, but you have to watch a lot of last year's film and rely on the people who were here last year to find out what they can do and can't do. That's the biggest issue, I think."
From a player's perspective, it is more about learning the new coach's system and what is asked of them on both ends of the floor. That can vary by the player and their role.
For star point guard John Wall, he feels him and Brooks are already on the same page. Brooks has put an emphasis on communicating with each player about their roles and Wall, for one, believes he's up to speed, even after working his way back from offseason surgery.
"To be honest, it's been kind of easy. Right after my surgery he came down and spent two days with me in Cleveland. We started talking basketball there and were picking each other's brains about the game of basketball. He just wants me to be a leader and be the second coach out there," Wall said.
"It's basically what I've been doing, do the same exact thing. I've played with most of these guys and most of these guys know how I play. Our starting five, we have a great chemistry. We already built that in the past. It's just about getting the other guys who have come in to play with us."
It may take time for Brooks to reach a comfort level leading a roster full of players he's never coached before. But Thursday will provide a big step in that learning process.
"Now the games are for real," he said. "I need to put it all together collectively as a group… That's the tough part, but that's the part I really enjoy. I really enjoy the challenge of finding ways to make it work every night."
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