Scott Brooks was not hired to lure Kevin Durant to D.C., though that was the immediate response by many when he was brought in two months ago by the Wizards.
John Wall offered his opinion in a conversation with Michael Lee of The Vertical this week, and CSNmidatlantic.com can add more context behind the hiring as to why the Wizards chose him in particular as their leader for the next five years.
As noted here, Randy Wittman had lost the respect of his locker room that became indifferent in a 41-41 season.
Durant or no Durant, an unrestricted free agent who was coached by Brooks for eight years with the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Wizards needed a voice to restore order, communication and gain respect among the troops.
Brooks had experience and succeeded with the sometimes volatile Russell Westbrook and Durant, leading them to a 2012 NBA Finals appearance. Brooks was an assistant coach with the then-Seattle SuperSonics before they relocated. After two years in that role in which Durant was a rookie in 2007 he was elevated to the top job that he held until being fired after 2014-15 ended.
Managing talent, and Oklahoma City had plenty along with Serge Ibaka and James Harden, isn't easy. Brooks, whatever his shortcomings that led to his firing which remains unclear, succeded.
He's not expected to err in ways that Wittman did. When the Wizards went to pace-and-space, for instance, by starting Kris Humphries over Nene to begin the 2015-16 season, at no point did Wittman make it clear to his players that was the direction he definitely was heading despite speculation of such a move.
According to multiple players talked to by CSN before and since Wittman’s firing, he didn’t have personal relationships with many of them, including his best players in Wall and Bradley Beal, and not even veterans such as Nene or Ramon Sessions who were perceived to be his favorites.
While it made sense for Nene, 33, to have his minutes dialed back and come off the bench as a reserve center rather than a starting power forward, a sit down conversation to pre-empt it might’ve helped. Initiating a sitdown with Marcin Gortat, who ignored Wittman all season after he was called out as a “supposed big man” in November, might’ve helped. Not ignoring Jared Dudley's message about adjustments after an April loss to the Indiana Pacers might've helped. Trusting more in rookie Kelly Oubre, who everyone said in exit interviews should've played more because he is that good, might've helped.
Unless the Wizards ended up in the NBA Finals, there was no way Wittman would've stayed employed anyway with his contract only partially guaranteed at $500,000 for 2016-17.
But it could've been smoother and his resume looked a lot better when he hit the job market. A screamer, Wittman was known for badgering Kevin Seraphin, who left as a free agent for less playing time and money with the N.Y. Knicks before last season rather than being his chew toy. Seraphin didn't like the treatment but had thick skin and accepted it. He didn't sulk. He was always the first one in the huddle to put his hand on top of Wittman's. There was no Seraphin to take that brunt this past season when the train went off the track.
This won't be Brooks' style. His people skills as well as his defensive acumen are why he’s in D.C. If he ends up helping Durant come -- and that seems like a major reach -- it just would be the icing on the cake.
Brooks is here to win, which he did 62% of the time with the Thunder, whether or not one of the 15 players on his roster has "Durant" on his jersey.
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