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Scott Brooks ready to compete with Warriors' Kevin Durant for the first time

Scott Brooks ready to compete with Warriors' Kevin Durant for the first time

On Tuesday night at the Verizon Center, Scott Brooks will for the first time in his coaching career be on the opposite bench of Kevin Durant, a former MVP and Brooks' best player during the seven years he coached the Oklahoma City Thunder. It is not an enviable task coaching, against Durant. Brooks knows what he is capable of and is looking forward to the challenge.

Well, sort of.

"You have to hope that Coach [Steve] Kerr will sit him out. That's a good start. They have three in four nights coming up, so I think he should rest," Brooks joked ahead of the Wizards' matchup with the Warriors [6:30 p.m. on CSN].

In all seriousness, Brooks will enjoy catching up with Durant. The two have remained in touch ever since Brooks was fired by OKC following the 2014-15 season.

"We text throughout the season. I don't know if that's illegal. I just lost some money, I guess," Brooks said with a smile. "It's just 'how are you doing Kevin, how's the family?' That's it. We went through a lot together and I appreciate what he's gone through and the way he's always handled himself... I've been with him through some very tough times. We've had some great moments together. Conference finals after conference finals, the NBA Finals while being a young team, his MVP year; we've just had so many moments. He's just a great person."

It's easy to tell that Brooks admires the man Durant has become. Brooks has known the eight-time All-Star ever since his rookie year when he was just 19 years old and playing for the Seattle Supersonics. In the 10 years since, he's watched Durant grow up, deal with both success and failure, and then ultimately make the decision to leave Oklahoma City in free agency. All of that came after a rough childhood growing up in Prince George's County in Maryland.

"I like the progress that he's made as a man. We all saw a young man grow up in front of our eyes and not only meet all the expectations, but he's overcome a lot. I know his story as a child with his mom and grandma, they did a great job of instilling important values that are going to continue to carry him throughout his life. I feel like I was a part of helping raise him as a good pro. That's what you want to do as a coach is teach these guys how to be pros. That's to me the No. 1 job as a coach," Brooks explained.

[RELATED: Durant reveals why he didn't even talk to Wizards]

"You have to understand that they are going through some trying times and you have to understand how to help them through it. Get them through it and also understand that when you do get through it, and when you have some success, how do you handle that? The thing I like is how he handed it when he got through it. He was the MVP and the next day you would have never known. You would have never known he was MVP. You could probably not talk to me this day if I won MVP."

On Monday at Wizards practice, Brooks recalled the early days of Durant in Seattle and OKC, how he was just a kid who couldn't bench press 200 pounds and never washed his face.

"The talk [before the draft] was that he wasn't strong enough. That's [so] overrated… I don't know if every team does that, the bench press. If we are in the strongman competition, then you don't want Kevin on your team, but the ball is not that heavy. He can pick that up pretty good. I knew he was a natural. He's just a natural talent. He just had a good feel for the game. The thing that really stood out was his work ethic. That guy, it just doesn't happen overnight. He didn't become MVP overnight. He didn't become one of the best players overnight. He's put a lot of time and work in. I was fortunate enough to be around him for seven years," Brooks said.

"He's going to go down as one of the best players ever. But the thing that [Golden State] didn't realize they were getting is a great guy and a great teammate. That takes you a lot longer down the road than just having a great player. He's as good as advertised off the court... they got an incredible person that always wants to do the right thing. Sometimes it's not easy to do the right thing, but he doesn't choose the easy path. He goes down the path that you would be proud of."

[RELATED: Beal on Durant: 'I didn't think he was going to come here']

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Wizards owner Ted Leonsis talks Dwyane Wade, still undecided on offseason moves

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USA TODAY SPORTS

Wizards owner Ted Leonsis talks Dwyane Wade, still undecided on offseason moves

WASHINGTON -- Ted Leonsis had a front row seat to two converging storylines.

The Wizards owner was among throngs inside Capital One Arena appreciating Miami Heat legend Dwyane Wade’s final game in Washington.

Leonsis also recognized the likely last gasp for his team’s playoff hopes came up short.

“They’ll make the playoffs. It doesn’t look like we’ll make the playoffs now,” Leonsis said to NBC Sports Washington following the Wizards’ loss Saturday night.

 “Hope [Dwyane] plays well,” Leonsis continued. “We’ll have to figure out what to do in the off-season.”

The loss dropped the Wizards (30-44) 6 ½ games back of the Heat for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Washington only has eight regular-season games remaining.

Earlier this season Leonsis said organizational changes are in play should the Wizards fail to reach their goals, which included reaching the postseason for the fifth time in six seasons.

Asked for his current thoughts on any off-season changes, Leonsis told NBC Sports Washington, “Don’t know yet. Let’s see how they do out West. It was disappointing. We were trying to catch [Miami].”

The Wizards embark on a four-game Western Conference road trip starting Tuesday against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Despite any frustration with the game’s conclusion and the season at-large, Leonsis appreciated Wade’s gusto on his way out. 

The 16-year veteran and 13-time All-Star announced his retirement before the season. Wade, 37, looked anything but over-the-hill late against the Wizards.

Having turned into Miami’s closer after the All-Star break, Wade scored 11 of his team-high 20 points in the fourth quarter as the Heat (36-37) fended off several Wizards rallies.

“Kind of historic, right? (Wild) that Dwyane Wade beat us tonight,” Leonsis said. “What a career, what a game. Just everything about the way he plays is beautiful. He’s really great.”

Leonsis remarked the referees overlooked an apparent traveling violation from Wade in the third quarter.

“We wanted to beat them. They played better. The no-call on Dwyane on the travel was apropos. I thought he took five steps. You say, ‘Well, that’s when you’re a Hall of Famer you get that respect,” Leonsis said respectfully. “But, good for him.”

Miami moved one game ahead of idle ninth-place Orlando in the Eastern Conference standings.

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Scott Brooks jokes that the Heat should be fined for letting Wade call it a career

Scott Brooks jokes that the Heat should be fined for letting Wade call it a career

On most occasions, elite athletes decide to finish their careers way after their skills have declined. It is uncommon for most icons to go out on their own terms. When you train your entire life to play professional basketball, it's a tough task to realize that your time has passed, and its time to move on to another venture. 

Dwyane Wade is not grouped into that category. Tonight's performance against the Wizards justified that. 

After announcing publicly last September that the 2018-19 NBA season would be his last, the news left the sports world nostalgic. Once a bright young star out of Marquette, "Flash" was must-see television.

After announcing last September that this would be his last ride in South Beach, Wade, albeit the face of the franchise, knew that this team wasn't the one he had joined when he was drafted fifth overall in June of 2003. It wasn't the squad he won his first title with in '06, or the bunch that started the "Super Team" movement. This was a collection of young prospects, journeymen, and he was a veteran presence, and no longer the marquee option. He welcomed the move to the bench and to be the veteran presence in the locker room that the team needed and has had quite the resurgence of sorts that has the sports world questioning whether retirement is really the best option, and whether he should come back another year. 

Scott Brooks is one of many who thinks Wade should reconsider.

In his final appearance at Capital One Arena Saturday evening, the veteran star lead his group to victory, showing flashes of the player he once was, and carrying his squad to a crucial road win. 

Brooks joked that "the NBA needs to fine the Miami Heat for letting him retire".

It appears that Wade's contemporaries are of the mindset of Brooks. Wizards forward Jeff Green, who exploded for 25 points off the bench in the tough loss, discussed postgame that despite his efforts to get Wade to change his mind, the latter knows that it's time to move on.

"He's playing amazing," Green said. "I've tried my convincing, I've been trying for the last six months, it didn't work."

Green expressed that he's glad his friend is choosing to leave the game before it leaves him.

"I'm happy for the guy." Green said. "He's going out the way he wants to."

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