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Scott Brooks wants Wizards to embrace high expectations

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Scott Brooks wants Wizards to embrace high expectations

The Wizards put in their best season as a franchise since the Jimmy Carter administation in 2016-17 by winning 49 games, their division and reaching Game 7 of the second round of the NBA Playoffs all for the first time since 1979. Soon they will have the challenge of topping that.

With training camp just weeks away, the Wizards are close to being in a spot many of their players haven't been before, where a deep playoff run is not just hoped for but expected. If their performance on the court last season wasn't enough, now they will be on national TV 18 games this upcoming season, a clear indication this team is predicted to do big things.

That could present a new dynamic for some of the Wizards' youngest players, but head coach Scott Brooks is well-accustomed to hype preceding him. His Oklahoma City Thunder teams made the Western Conference Finals three times during his tenure and reached the NBA Finals in 2012. 

"I like expectations. I think we should have high expectations," Brooks said. "I think every team in this league should have expectations of winning the championship."

[RELATED: BROOKS KNOWS RE-SIGNING STARS ISN'T EASY]

The Wizards haven't reached the Eastern Conference Finals since that 1978-79 season, but they have been close. Twice before the made it to the second round of the playoffs with John Wall and Bradley Beal at the helm. 

In 2015, Washington fell in six games to the Atlanta Hawks. They then took a step back the following year by missing the playoffs and afterwards made a coaching change because of it.

Brooks hopes to make sure this team continues making progress.

"We’re trying to establish [a championship mentality] here. We want to have consistent and sustainable success. We don’t want to ride the rollercoaster ride of an NBA team going up and down, up and down each and every year. To prevent that from happening, we obviously have to have good players and we have that here," Brooks said.

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Injuries were a big reason why the Wizards faltered in that 2015-16 season. Beal missed 27 games and Wall required surgery on both knees once the season was over.

The Wizards made changes to their training and medical staff following that year in addition to the head coach position. Brooks thinks he and the new staff have a good process going to prevent injuries.

"We have to have the good fortune of staying healthy. My job, and I have a lot of confidence in our medical staff, is to continue to put our players in the position to stay healthy. That’s so important in this league is to have healthy players every night to have success," he said.

Wall said earlier this month he thinks the Wizards will be viewed differently by other teams, saying the national TV games and recent success will make it so "we're not going in as underdogs now." That could present a challenge, but in Brooks they have a guy who has been there before.

[RELATED: CAN WALL FOLLOW THROUGH ON KOBE'S CHALLENGE?]

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Wizards pick up Kelly Oubre, Jr.'s contract option with bright future ahead

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Wizards pick up Kelly Oubre, Jr.'s contract option with bright future ahead

The play of Kelly Oubre, Jr. over the past calendar year had made the Wizards picking up his contract option an increasingly easy decision. On Saturday, they opted to keep him for the fourth year of his rookie contract, the 2018-19 season, and did so with a week to spare before the deadline.

Oubre, 21, has emerged as a key contributor for a Wizards team with expectations of a deep playoff run. He is still finding his trule role in the NBA, but with his youth and potential, and the fact he's still on a rookie deal, Oubre has a unique place on their roster.

John Wall and Bradley Beal have already emerged as stars. Otto Porter still has room to get much better, but has already arrived and earned a max contract. Oubre, though already established in their rotation, has plenty of room to grow.

Oubre, the 15th overall pick in 2015, doubled his minutes last season to 20.3 per game under head coach Scott Brooks with averages of 6.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 0.7 steals per game. He earned Brooks' trust mainly on the defensive end with his versatility and high motor.

Consistency is where Oubre needs to improve, but through two games this season he appears to have taken another step. Oubre added two inches to his vertical leap over the summer despite rehabbing from platelet-rich plasma treatment on his right knee. He also gained some muscle, allowing him to make strides as a rebounder. Oubre has 15 rebounds through two games and said it's specific focus of his.

[RELATED: WALL TALKS LONZO AND LAVAR BALL]

The Wizards are a good enough offensive team currently to where Oubre can focus on defense and rebounding. But his growing confidence on offense has been evident so far this year and especially in the preseason. He has worked on dribbling with his right hand and the result is more aggression attacking the rim. Though still not a polished product, Oubre is taking small steps to emerge as a more dangerous scoring threat.

The Wizards will have another decision to make on Oubre this time next year. One day before the 2018-19 regular season begins, they will have to choose whether to hand Oubre a rookie scale contract extension. They weren't able to beat that deadline with Porter and the next summer he received a $106.5 million max deal after hitting the market as a restricted free agent. 

Oubre at this very moment wouldn't command that type of money in free agency, but the same was said about Porter at this point in his career. Porter was able to improve significantly in his fourth season.

Wizards majority owner Ted Leonsis said this summer that he would love to have Oubre force the issue with his performance on the court.

"He's going to come back and work really, really hard and challenge us to pay him a lot of money, too, which I'm glad to do," Leonsis said. 

It's early in the season, but Oubre may be on his way towards making the Wizards ponder his long-term future.

The Washington Post first reported Oubre's contract option getting picked up.

[RELATED: WALL EXPLAINS WOLF SEASON]

 

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John Wall doesn't hold LaVar Ball's talking against Lonzo, but knows 'he'll be targeted'

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John Wall doesn't hold LaVar Ball's talking against Lonzo, but knows 'he'll be targeted'

Clippers guard Patrick Beverley made a point to embarrass Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball in the latter's NBA debut. After dominating him on the court, Beverley said he had to "set the tone." 

On Wednesday, Wizards point guard John Wall will get a crack at Ball when Washington plays the Lakers at the Staples Center. Wall knows why Beverley went after Ball like that, but says he doesn't blame Ball himself.

"I think his dad put him in a situation where guys are going to target him," Wall said on the Wizards Tipoff podcast, referencing LaVar Ball. "Lonzo is one of those kids that is very talented. He's been a good player for years, he just don't say much. I think his dad does all the talking for him."

Ball, 19, was the second overall pick in this June's NBA Draft. He had just three points on 1-of-6 shooting against the Clippers on Wednesday, but bounced back for 29 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists against the Suns on Friday. 

Wall thinks Ball will be fine as long as he can keep up his production on the court to back up his dad's trash-talking.

"He's a great kid from what I've seen on the outside looking in," Wall said. "A lot of people in this league are going to take it personally. It's not the son's fault. He went back and had a better game [vs. the Suns]. That's all he's gotta do is go out there and play. He's not gonna do any talking anyways. If he gets killed or don't get killed or kills somebody, he's not going to be the guy talking."

Wall is as competitive as they come and will give Ball a tough challenge on Wednesday night, but it doesn't sound like he plans to pull a Beverley and overtly embarrass him.

Listen to Wall's full 1-on-1 interview on the Wizards Tipoff podcast:

[RELATED: WALL SAYS HE'S THE BEST SHOT-BLOCKING PG EVER]