Scott Brooks is a players' coach in every sense of the word, and the Wizards want to do him a solid tonight in his return to the Oklahoma City Thunder since being fired in 2015.
"We don't really talk about it but it's in the back of your head," said Markieff Morris, who was acquired in a deal with the Phoenix Suns in February. "The same way when I play against Phoenix. It's not really there being said, but it's there."
The Wizards (6-10) defeated the Suns earlier this season, too, a team that Morris departed on bad terms because of what he called broken promises by the front office (He signed a discounted deal to stay as long as his brother Marcus remained, and they traded him to Detroit).
For his part, Brooks has tried to minimize the significance of playing against his old team. He led them to the 2012 NBA Finals. He won 62% of his games in seven seasons. He even had a winning season in his last year there with his biggest star (Kevin Durant) out with a broken foot for 55 games.
"They haven't been around me long enough yet but they sooner or later will know I treat every game the same. We can play the defending champions or the team with the best record or the team that doesn't have the best record," Brooks said. "We treat it the same way. We scout the same way. We walk through plays the same way. We go through their personnel the same way .... I don't want players to feel like, 'We're playing against this team, we should play harder. We're playing against this team, we don't have to go out as hard.' Doesn't work that way. I'm not talking about the team any different than I would talk about two nights later in San Antonio or two nights later in Brooklyn."
All that said, it could be an emotional way to begin the three-game road trip.
"We didn't really harp on it to much. Obviously, it's big for him. Coaching OKC and those guys, so it definitely will be good going there and getting a win," said backup guard Trey Burke, who was traded from the Utah Jazz to the Wizards over the summer and anticipates he'll feel the same in his return in March.
"I think he'll have those same type of feelings, same type of emotions. I'm sure he'll get a warm welcome from the fans. It'll put a smile on his face if we do get a win."