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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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John Wall says Wizards will do less talking this year, but could be best team he's played on

John Wall says Wizards will do less talking this year, but could be best team he's played on

The Wizards in recent years have made a habit of trying to speak things into existence and then not having them actually come into existence. They have talked the talk and then sometimes haven't walked the walk.

A few instances come to mind, including Bradley Beal saying of the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers that "they didn't want to see us" in the playoffs. Beal also said in November that the Washington was the best team in the East, just hours before James scored 57 points in the Wizards' building.

John Wall has made similar proclamations in the past, usually about himself, including how he is the best point guard in the Eastern Conference. Now, these statements were all relatively normal for professional athletes who pride themselves in always feeling like they are the best player on the floor or the field. It's part of the mindset that makes them who they are.

But when those statements are made and then not backed up, they can be tough to defend, and especially for a Wizards team which last season seemed to overlook the lesser teams and suffered a down year because of it.

Wall insists all that is about to change. In his 1-on-1 interview with Chris Miller on our Wizards Tipoff podcast, Wall said the message this year will be much different, much more muted than it has been in the past.

"We want to go out with a different mindset and a different focus. We're not trying to go in and think we're a team that has already established something and got respect from people. We have to earn that respect and that means going out and competing every night against the good teams or the bad teams," he said.

That doesn't mean Wall isn't confident. His belief in himself hasn't wavered and, in fact, he may believe in his team more now than ever. That's because he is happy with the offseason the front office has produced.

They signed Dwight Howard and Jeff Green in free agency, traded for Austin Rivers and drafted Troy Brown, Jr. in the first round. All should help the Wizards improve between Howard representing an upgrade at starting center and the others providing much-needed depth.

When Wall was asked by Chris if this is the most complete team he has played with in Washington, Wall left no doubts.

"Yeah, for sure. I definitely think so," he said. "I think it gives us the opportunity where we don't have to play as many minutes. That's the key. At the end of the year, you kind of fall short because you're fatigued. Nobody uses that as an excuse. You play and try to get into the best shape possible. But if you're playing 24 minutes, the whole half, and then 24 minutes and the whole half, you kind of get tired at some point. I think those guys can take a little of the burden and pressure off of us at times."

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

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Austin Rivers believes he can help the Wizards on defense as much as anything

Austin Rivers believes he can help the Wizards on defense as much as anything

When asked at his introductory press conference for how he will fit on the Wizards' roster from a basketball perspective, guard Austin Rivers didn't first cite his three-point shooting, his ability to affect games scoring off the bench or his speed to run the floor with John Wall and Bradley Beal. The first thing he point to was his defense.

That may have surprised some people out there as Rivers has long been known for his scoring ability and not so much his skills on the other end. It's not that he can't play defense, it's just that most of the highlights he's produced over the years have been due to his high-flying finishes at the rim and wicked pull-up jumper from three-point range.

Defense, though, is something Rivers takes pride in and he hopes to continue developing as a defender in Washington.

"With how much Brad and John have to do every night, for them to not have to always guard the best guard on the other team, that's something I can come in here and do. Try to bring that competitive spirit and be one of the defenders on the team," Rivers said.

Rivers' defensive ability has produced some controversy among Wizards fans and media members on social media. Some insist he does not bring value on that end of the floor, while some numbers suggest he does have some defensive potential.

Last season, Rivers averaged a career-high 1.2 steals per game. He was tied for fifth on the Clippers in defensive win shares.

However, his 113 defensive rating was his worst since 2013-14. It was an outlier on the Clippers and not in the good way. He also ranked nowhere near the top of the league in deflections or contested three-point shots, two hustle stats that guys like Wall and Beal fair well in.

Rivers points to two attributes that he believes make him a strong perimeter defender. One is his versatility and the other you could call scrappiness.

"On defense [the Wizards] can switch one through three or one through four. I think that gives us a lot of dangerous options," he said.

As for his scrappiness, Rivers says it comes from the early days of his career.

"I had to figure out ways to be effective without [a jumpshot] and that's how I became a defender. I guess everything happens for a reason, right? I'm happy I did have those early career struggles because it made me find a side of me that I didn't do [early on]. Because I promise you I didn't play any defense at Duke," he said.

The last line drew laughter from those gathered at his introductory press conference. Rivers insists that he now takes that end of the floor very seriously. The Wizards certainly hope he can back up his words.

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