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."
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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.
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