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Gortat tries to put the Nuggets on a poster

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Gortat tries to put the Nuggets on a poster

Marcin Gortat throws down the one-handed slam on the Nuggets.

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Scott Brooks enters Kobe Bryant alongside LeBron James into NBA's 'GOAT' debate

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USA Today Sports

Scott Brooks enters Kobe Bryant alongside LeBron James into NBA's 'GOAT' debate

CAPITAL ONE ARENA -- NBA fans and internet inhabitants debate the league’s All-time greatest player relentlessly. The primary side-by-side comparison these days for “GOAT” status centers on Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James. Other legends have supporters. Jordan and James, who made his first appearance in Washington as a member of the Lakers Sunday night, dominate such discussions.

Wizards coach Scott Brooks inferred another former Laker is worthy of such greatest ever talk when answering a question about the expected pro-Los Angeles crowd inside Washington’s arena.

“There are organizations and rightfully so that their crowds are global. You can argue [the Lakers] had the greatest player ever to play the game for 20 years before LeBron got there,” Brooks said.

Do the math. He’s not talking about Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, Jerry West or Wilt Chamberlain. That’s Kobe Bryant’s music.

“Everybody is a fan of Kobe and now they have LeBron. Now they have another guy who could arguably be the greatest player ever,” Brooks said.

Back it up. Again, many thrust James, a four-time league MVP and three-time NBA champion, into the debate with Jordan, whose cultural reverence exceeds his six titles, 32,292 points scored and countless honors.

Bryant’s résumé is all kinds of impressive. The 20-year veteran and 18-time All-Star passed Jordan as the league’s third-time scorer, and won five championships. Top 5-10 player, perhaps. The GOAT? That’s not an argument often heard beyond loyal Laker fans that grew up during Bryant’s reign. It’s not even clear he’s the best Laker of all-time considering the competition.

Bryant’s career deserves praise. Brooks didn’t go out on the flimsiest of limbs. Still, that’s quite a statement from a longtime coach and former player.

Perhaps the presence of James back in Washington, a place he’s thrived over the years, sparked Brooks’ comment.

“So, [Los Angeles is] going to have fans. Those guys are fun to watch. I love watching LeBron play even when he (scored) 57 (points) last year against us and made 11 of 14 mid-range shots.”

Don’t forget the game-tying banked 3–pointer at the buzzer in regulation during the 2016 regular season. Los Angeles won in overtime, snapping Washington’s 17-game home court winning streak. Brooks hadn’t.

“Even the 3 that [LeBron] sent to overtime with whatever on the clock that he traveled on,” the coach joked.

Clearly, Brooks isn’t over those moments. That alone didn’t lead him to nominate Bryant as perhaps the best ever, although at this moment, maybe. 

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Friday's trade for Trevor Ariza was wild, but nothing surprises Scott Brooks or John Wall

Friday's trade for Trevor Ariza was wild, but nothing surprises Scott Brooks or John Wall

Follow the NBA long enough and one learns to expect the unexpected. Participating inside the lines removes the shock value almost entirely.

The three-team trade between the Wizards, Suns, and Grizzlies, an otherwise ordinary deal involving good but not All-Star-level players became social media’s favorite child for a stretch Friday night. The deal died on the vine because of miscommunication over which player with the same sir name was included in the deal.

Unusual, certainly. Awkward because the report broke publicly mere moments after the Wizards’ latest road loss, unfortunately.

“The first time I've ever seen a trade go dead and guys are on a bus talking about it,” Wizards guard John Wall said Saturday. “Kind of devastating for those guys.”

That doesn’t mean the situation moved the needle on Wall’s personal Richter scale of shock.

“Nothing surprises me now, nine years in,” Wall said. “I’ve seen a guy get traded at halftime. Nothing can surprise me now.”

That guy wasn’t Wall’s current head coach, Scott Brooks, but former Wizard guard Kirk Hinrich. Turns out Brooks has his own personal traded-at-halftime tale from his playing days. He’s also been on teams that entered a season with high expectations only to struggle with reaching those forecasted heights. That’s happening now for the 11-18 Wizards.

Friday’s failed trade resurrected Saturday morning as Washington traded Kelly Oubre Jr. and Austin Rivers to Phoenix for ex-Wizard Trevor Ariza.

Some crazed situation that left Brooks speechless? Actually at the moment, yes, but only because the coach was not at liberty to discuss the transaction. The trade remains unofficial until the league office reopens Monday.

It’s unclear what level bombshell must occur to astonish Brooks. Even the current frustrations, while disappointing, aren’t revelatory for a man now in his 25th NBA season as a player and coach.

“I've been in the league long enough. Nothing surprises me,” Brooks said moments before his point guard uttered almost the exact same phrase. “That's part of being in this league. You have to expect things not to always go your way. I know one thing. The only way to get out of it is doing it together, figuring it out together. Nothing surprises me. It's just part of the business.”

The Houston Rockets conducted some business on Feb. 23, 1995 by trading Brooks to the Dallas Mavericks for guard Morlon Wiley and a second-round draft pick. Deals happen. This one stood out for the timing.

“That was one of the bad days of my life in the NBA,” Brooks revealed on a radio show last year. “At halftime of the game, we go back, Coach [Rudy] Tomjanovich makes some halftime adjustments. … We come onto the court and we’re in the layup line, and all of a sudden the general manager grabs me out of the layup line and says, ‘Hey, Scott, I gotta talk to you.’ So he pulls me out of the line, brings me back to the locker room and he says, ‘Hey, you’ve been traded.’ I was like, ‘What?’ ”

That personal experience altered Brooks’ surprise quotient going forward.

“I look at things different,” he said Saturday. “There a lot of tough things in the world right now. I was traded at halftime. That was tough on me, but that’s really not tough on me. I was still making a lot of money and the next team, Dallas, still paid me in cash.”

Brooks keenly remembers his halftime trade. Wall didn’t have the exact details correct on Hinrich’s departure; he recalled his backcourt partner playing in the first half of the Feb. 23 contest against the Philadelphia 76ers but the box score says otherwise. Hinrich did learn about the trade to the Hawks between the second and third quarter. That’s wild enough.

“I’ve seen everything you basically can see,” Wall said.

That now includes a trade falling through in such a public and awkward way. Once Ariza joins the squad, all that matters is whether his old/new team turns around this clumsy season that began with high hopes. It won’t surprise anyone if Ariza’s veteran presence sparks a rally. After watching the opening 29 games, who can say for sure.

“We're not playing nowhere near what we're capable of,” Wall said. “Maybe that's the move we should have made to make it happen, I don't know. We don't know until we get out there.”

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