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Brooks thinks 'a lot' about what could've been with Durant and 1st playoff run with Wizards

Brooks thinks 'a lot' about what could've been with Durant and 1st playoff run with Wizards

The consolation prize for Scott Brooks after the playoffs was being able to watch Kevin Durant, with his mother in tow, celebrate the NBA Finals MVP and championship trophy a few weeks ago. His Wizards, who fell in seven games of the East semifinals, had long been booted.

All Brooks could do was reminisce about his run with Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Serge Ibaka that led the Oklahoma City Thunder to the cusp in 2012 only to end with a five-game loss in the Finals to the Miami Heat. 

"I think about it a lot," Brooks said of his former team, which fired him after they missed the playoffs despite 45 wins in 2015, to CSNmidatlantic.com. "A lot of things happen. Tough trade (Harden to Houston), some bad fortune with injuries (to Durant) but those are all part of the game. ... Kevin and Russell and Harden were able to carry one of the youngest teams in the history of the game to the NBA Finals in 2012. We came up short three games but we got there. When you're there and you're that young you think you're going to go back again. It's human nature. Even as a coach you thought that this team is going to continue to grow. But a lot of strange things happen. A lot of things that you can't control."

Brooks led Washington to 49 wins and a No. 4 seed in the East. They had a legtimate shot to upset the No. 1 seed Boston Celtics but couldn't win a road game in the series. 

[RELATED: Wizards Tipoff podcast, Ep. 18: Wiz make a deal]

If Brooks only could have similar success with John Wall and Bradley Beal in Washington, where the franchise hasn't been to the conference or NBA Finals in four decades, that would make up for what he missed out on with Durant. His Golden State Warriors will be hard to topple but Brooks has four fully guaranteed years left on his deal. He has time to get it right. 

"I spent eight seasons with (Durant) so I had a lot to do with his early development. I'm happy for him. I'm happy for his family. A good family. A great kid," Brooks said. "The thing I love about K.D. is he's the most humble superstar I've ever been around as a former player, as a coach I've never been around a guy so good that he really doesn't feel like he's one of the best players. He almost thinks of himself as a guy that's just trying to make the team. ... I would've loved to had the chance to coach him here but I'm happy for him to get the championship and to see his family happy. It was a good moment for all of us."

As a free agent a year ago, Durant didn't give his hometown Wizards a meeting before quickly deciding to sign with Golden State which has now won two of the last three NBA Finals.

It was a pipe dream for the Wizards to land him anyway, but what they could control is what happened in Game 2 vs. the Celtics. They hadn't won at TD Garden in three years and had Boston on the ropes. The score was 110-104 as Marcin Gortat missed the second of two free throws and then Isaiah Thomas came alive to bury Washington with big shots down the stretch to force overtime and end with 53 points.

"All I do is shake my head because all I think is we're up six, we miss a free throw so we could've been up seven with (2:43 left) and then we gave up two critical threes," Brooks said. "Both (defensive) mistakes. .. A couple breaks here and there we could've went to the (conference) finals."

The Wizards aren't at the level of his best Thunder teams, but at least they're heading in the right direction. This offseason will be crucial in whether or not they can keep building on it. 

[RELATED: Wizards like Tim Frazier's ability to contribute right away]

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NBA Draft prospect De'Andre Hunter is ready to make his family proud at the next level

NBA Draft prospect De'Andre Hunter is ready to make his family proud at the next level

When asked if his family had a motto, De'Andre Hunter summed it up in two words: "Family first."

"We have a great bond, we're really close and we all get along. I feel like that really helped me in the long run," the 2019 NBA Draft prospect told NBC Sports Washington for its miniseries I Am The Prospect. "We know we have each other's back, we always put each other before anyone else."

The Hunter family has always had De'Andre's back, supporting him from the days during his childhood when he'd wake them up early in the morning to play basketball, to the night he helped Virginia win its first NCAA title.

Things weren't always easy in the Hunter household. De'Andre's father, Aaron Hunter Sr., died when De'Andre was 7, forcing the entire family, especially his mother Priscilla, to take on more responsibility and bond together. 

"My mom is the rock of the family. She does anything for every single one of us. No matter where she is or what she's doing, she's willing to help us in any kind of way," Hunter said. "And as far as my brother and sisters, they're the same way. They're really caring, and we ... really look after each other. 

"In a family that's what you need, and we just always support each other, no matter what the circumstance is."

And as he grew up, De'Andre's older brother Aaron Jr. took on a more paternal role. 

"Once my father passed away, he really stepped up," De'Andre said of Aaron. "He really taught me a lot of things that he went through. I didn't see him grow up, but I saw him become, I feel like, a man in some sense. Because he had to take care of our family in a certain way.

"He cares for me a lot, so I thank him a lot for everything he's taught me."

In fact, it was Aaron who De'Andre called upon when he got the disappointing news he would be redshirted his first year at UVA and thus ineligible to play that season.  

"The decision to redshirt really hurt," Hunter said. "I didn't see it coming, but when coach (Tony Bennett) told me, I just took it."

"I told my brother, I probably complained to him a little bit but he just told me to use it in a beneficial way and don’t look at it in a negative way. I tried to do that, and I feel like in the long run it definitely helped me.

Over those next two seasons in Charlottesville, Hunter became a bonafide college star. He won the ACC's Sixth Man of the Year award during the 2017-18 season then earned the conference's Defensive Player of the Year award in 2018-19, not to mention leading the Cavaliers to a national championship, scoring a team-high 27 points in the title game against Texas Tech.

Hunter recalled how special it was having his family in the arena that night to celebrate with him. 

"It meant a lot for them to come all the way out to Minnesota to watch me play," he said. "They took off from work, took off from things they probably had to do, just to come see me play. That means a lot to me because they really don't have to do that. But they were there for me." 

Now, Hunter is preparing to take the next step into the NBA ranks. And when his name's called Thursday night at the draft, his family will be there cheering -- and probably crying -- for him. 

"Draft night's gonna be really emotional. I don't know if I'm gonna cry or not, but I know a few members of my family will be crying, so that'll probably get to me a little bit," Hunter said with a smile. "It's gonna be a great moment for not only me but for my family as well."

"My mom's for sure gonna cry. My sisters might even cry, but I feel like Aaron might let a few tears out."

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2019 NBA Draft preview: Wizards have many possibilities at No. 9 pick

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2019 NBA Draft preview: Wizards have many possibilities at No. 9 pick

The 2019 NBA Draft takes place on Thursday, June 20. The Wizards hold the ninth overall pick. Here's everything you need to know...

When: 7:30 p.m. ET
Where: Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York

TV: NBC Sports Washington will have Wizards-centric draft coverage starting at 6:30 p.m. on TV and the MyTeams app, the official broadcast is on ESPN

Wizards' picks: Ninth overall in first round with potential to add a second round pick via trade or by purchasing one from another team

Wizards needs: Rim protection, perimeter defense, forward depth, guard depth

What to watch for: The Wizards' best bet is probably to trade down for more picks, but it all depends on how the board shakes out. There is a chance a top prospect falls unexpectedly.

Point guard Coby White of North Carolina is one to keep an eye on. The Wizards worked him out this week in Washington despite him ranking higher than ninth on most mock drafts. Many expect him to go to Phoenix or Chicago ahead of the Wizards. But if he falls, that could become an easy decision, even with John Wall and Bradley Beal in the mix.

If White isn't there, their best choice may be either Sekou Doumbouya, Nassir Little, Jaxson Hayes or Bol Bol. All four would help them defensively and offer high upside. 

The most controversial player is definitely Cam Reddish, who is a boom-or-bust prospect that may or may not be there when the Wizards are on the clock.

Lottery order:

1. Pelicans
2. Grizzlies
3. Knicks
4. Pelicans (trade with Lakers)
5. Cavaliers
6. Suns
7. Bulls
8. Hawks
9. Wizards
10. Hawks (trade with Mavericks)
11. Timberwolves
12. Hornets
13. Heat
14. Celtics (trade with Kings)

Big board:

1. Zion Williamson, Duke
2. Ja Morant, Murray State
3. R.J. Barrett, Duke
4. De'Andre Hunter, Virginia
5. Darius Garland, Vanderbilt
6. Jarrett Culver, Texas Tech
7. Coby White, North Carolina
8. Cam Reddish, Duke
9. Sekou Doumbouya, France
10. Nassir Little, North Carolina
11. Jaxson Hayes, Texas
12. Keldon Johnson, Kentucky
13. Rui Hachimura, Gonzaga
14. Bol Bol, Oregon