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Morning tip: Scott Brooks' methods are welcomed change for Wizards

Morning tip: Scott Brooks' methods are welcomed change for Wizards

The harmony at the practice court can not only be heard and seen, but it can be felt. The Wizards are vibing at a level like never before -- including their two playoff seasons when they advanced to the conference semifinals -- and Scott Brooks is the conductor who has them all in tune. 

Tonight they'll try to extend their home winning streak to 15 games vs. the N.Y. Knicks, who they've already beaten twice this season. 

The atmosphere at Verizon Center has done an 180-degree turn after a 2-8 start, now that the Wizards are 25-12 since then. The atmosphere behind the scenes has shifted, too, because no matter the spoken word, the body language doesn't lie. 

"The players have been around me for some time now. They're going to always get the same consistent approach whether we win a game or lose a game," said Brooks, who has his team fifth in the East and two games in the loss column from the No. 2 spot. "When we lose a game we're not going to change things up and just throw everything out the door because we feel that we have to. With our guys they understand that our system is in place. We want to tinker with it. We want to add to it. I'm not going to be so stubborn just to keep everything the same but we work every day. I've always done it. I have to be smart enough to realize on days like today, 35 to 40 minutes of good work is enough to get better. You just cant relax after a win. We don't. That's been a big part of our success recently."

Brooks, in his first season in Washington, said plenty. He wasn't referencing anything in the recent past, but among the biggest negatives with the previous coaching staff during a 41-41 season was the helter-skelter style. Then-coach Randy Wittman was constantly switching, or what he called "simplifying" defensive coverages, based on the latest results. 

Even though they had the same starting five players, the production was down across the board. Brooks kept Monday's workout short and sweet whereas three-hour practices were the norm for John Wall who needed surgeries to both knees because of the wear and tear. And Bradley Beal repeatedly had overuse stress reactions in his lower right leg. On top of all that, the roster was much older at the time and they likely were leaving their best pereformances on the practice court.

"He understands situations for us, if we need rest, if he needs to step on the gas for us," Wall said of Brooks' coaching style. "All the other coaches do a great of giving us the scouting report, giving us game plans. ... They're pushing us in our drills and not letting us take plays off and days off."

[RELATED: Wizards respond to Brooks' 4th-quarter adjustments]

Now the leader, Wall respected the Wizards' veterans but did grow agitated when some of them took off drills in practice while he gutted them out despite loose bodies and bone spurs in both knees 

Earlier in the season, Marcin Gortat, who clashed with Wittman at every turn, had this to say about Brooks' staff which includes lead assistant Tony Brown, Sidney Lowe, Maz Trakh, Chad Iske and Mike Terpstra, to CSNmidatlantic.com: "They have a different way of communication with us. They have more patience with us. They work with us as a single units. They take us on the side. Each coach is responsible for certain players and we communicate a lot. Our level of commnication is much better, much higher. ... Most important is they're not trying to change up every game. We stick to pretty much one coverage for most of the time. The schemes we have a pretty much the same which is great. We don't have to ask queustions. We know what we got to do in certain situations." 

The result: All of the Wizards starters are having standout seasons. In most cases, they're posting career-highs such as Gortat in rebounds (11.4) and field-goal shooting (59.2%); Wall in points (22.9), assists (10.3), steals (2.2) and field-goal accuracy (46.5%); Beal in points (21.8), Otto Porter in points (14.4), rebounds (6.6) and field-goal (53.5%) and three-point accuracy (46.8%) and Markieff Morris in rebounds (6.7) and three-point shooting (35.3%). 

Brooks has sat down with Wall and showed him where he's not made the right plays or lacked the effort needed on the defensive end. He has emphasized to Morris to give better efforts when closing out shooters at the arc and improving his long-range shot. He has altered the offense that's not as pick-and-roll heavy, taken his four-time All-Star Wall off the ball some, put Beal on the ball more,and  incorporated more flex action and motion to maximize everyone's skill set and a layer of unpredictability.

"We just don't want to be John-centric. We want to make sure everybody is involved," Brooks said. "When you have a great player like John you want to utilize his abilities to get to the bucket, create offense off of his speed and his toughness and his layup-making ability. But you have a lot of good players around him. You want to utilize them because the game of basketball everybody has to be involved otherwise you're going to have problems. You're going to have disinterested players on the defensive end but when you get everybody touching the ball offensively your defense, it's human nature, it spikes up."

In the first year of a five-year, $35 million deal, Brooks is the Wizards' top offseason acqusition. And based on the direction the team is headed, that pricetage continues to be a bargain. 

[RELATED: With Mahinmi on mend, Wizards aren't in a rush with trade deadline approaching]

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Celtics and Sixers may go relatively unchanged this offseason, as stars have gone elsewhere

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Celtics and Sixers may go relatively unchanged this offseason, as stars have gone elsewhere

The 2018 NBA offseason in just three weeks has become one of the wildest summers in the league's history between LeBron James signing with the Lakers, and all the characters that followed him, to DeMarcus Cousins surprising everyone to sign with the Golden State Warriors, to Kawhi Leonard getting traded to the Raptors.

As crazy as it all has been, two teams in the Eastern Conference stand out for so far doing very little, either by choice or circumstance. The Celtics and Sixers, the two teams most see as the favorites in the East, appear at least so far to be running it back with the same group of players.

This appears to be the Celtics' intention. After overhauling their roster last summer, they clearly see an opportunity to take a step forward as-is. Boston was one win away from the NBA Finals and will return Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving from injury. With James gone to the West, they can improve significanly just by keeping it all together.

Boston re-signed Marcus Smart and Aron Baynes. Their biggest addition this summer so far has been their first round pick, Robert Williams.

The Sixers, unlike the Celtics, didn't appear to plan on doing it this way. They wanted James and missed out. They reportedly had interest in Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, but both went elsewhere. There are no stars left to sign in free agency and the trade market may be drying up.

Philly made some minor moves like trades for Wilson Chandler and Mike Muscala. They may also have a deal for Kyle Korver in the works. They also had two first round picks in Zhaire Smith and Landry Shamet.

There's a chance the Sixers got better than people think, as many of the moves they made seem smart. But they didn't reel in a big fish and will probably come back for the 2018-19 season with a team very similar to the one that made the second round of the playoffs this spring.

The fact the Celtics and Sixers may stand pat is probably a good thing for the rest of the East. Both teams may improve naturally if they are healthier and if their young players continue to ascend. But neither made a game-changing addition, one that would solidify either as an unstoppable superteam in the conference. 

The West is overloaded with title contenders and All-NBA players. The East, meanwhile, is much more open and it may end up staying that way mainly because Boston and Philly have been quiet so far this summer.

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Wizards set introductory press conference for Dwight Howard

Wizards set introductory press conference for Dwight Howard

Wizards team president Ernie Grunfeld has stayed relatively busy this summer crafting his new-look lineup for the 2018-19 season. 

One of the team's key additions, Dwight Howard, is set to be introduced as a member of the Wizards on Monday. 

NBC Sports Washington will air the introductory press conference live at 1 p.m. while also streaming it online.  

Ernie Grunfeld and head coach Scott Brooks are both expected to be in attendance. 

The 32-year-old big man is coming off a 2017-18 season with the Charlotte Hornets in which he averaged 16.6 points and 12.5 rebounds per game. 

Since leaving the Orlando Magic after eight seasons in 2011, Howard has played for four different teams in the last six years. 

Howard is an eight-time all-star and a three-time defensive player of the year. 

 

RELATED LINKS: 

John Wall's take on Dwight Howard 

Wizards make Dwight Howard free agent signing official 

By the numbers: Is new Wizards center Dwight Howard still in his NBA prime?