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What will a Scott Brooks team actually look like?

What will a Scott Brooks team actually look like?

Perhaps the simplistic, though at times accurate way to view a new head coach is thinking if he did this and that at a previous stop, that plan comes with him. Yet considering Scott Brooks had the unique superstar dynamic of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook at Oklahoma City, is it fair to wonder whether we actually know what truly defines a Scott Brooks team?

"That's a fair question," Brooks answered to a small group of reporters in the halls of Verizon Center following his introductory press conference Wednesday.

It's a question the new guy wasn't ready to answer seeing as he'd been on the job for about 24 hours. It's a process he's ready to figure out. 

"I'm excited to get to know all of our players first," Brooks said. "[Wizards president] Ernie [Grunfeld] and the staff will get together to add pieces along the way to make this a competitive team.

"We ultimately want to compete for championships. In order to do that, it's a process of going step by step and you can't skip steps. I learned that as a player. I was fortunate enough to be on a championship team in Houston. But I love the group that we have. I can't emphasize that enough. I love the players that we have."

No doubt the coach loved the players he helped groom with the Thunder. Durant and Westbrook emerged as among the elite players in the league. Lengthy forward Serge Ibaka provided a big man element and other key contributors including future NBA Most Valuable Player runner-up James Harden helped as Oklahoma City went from a 23-win team the season before Brooks took the head job to the NBA Finals three years later.

"I'm proud of what we accomplished as a group," Brooks said. "Three conference finals and an NBA Finals, one of the youngest teams in the [league] history to get there."

The focus typically centered on Oklahoma City's potent offensive stars. The Thunder ranked top five in scoring in each of Brooks' last five seasons, yet also were one of the top defensive teams in that stretch. Oklahoma City ranked top 10 four straight seasons in defensive efficiency before injuries hampered the squad in 2014-15, Brooks' final season. 

"We've always focused on being a two-way team," he said.

The focus with Washington starts with John Wall. Though a perennial All-Star guard like Westbrook, Wall offers a true pass-first presence while the Thunder standout looks for his own shot more often. That difference of styles will be part of Brooks' planning, as will Bradley Beal's perimeter shooting, Marcin Gortat's rim-to-rim running, Markieff Morris' athleticism, Otto Porter's 3-and-D progress and Kelly Oubre's potential. Then there are the other nine spots still open. 

There is work to do and Brooks says he's ready for the challenge. When it's all done, we might see what a Scott Brooks team looks like.

"This team that I have the privileged to coach," he said, "I'm looking forward to get to know the guys and to establish a system that we're successful night in and night out."

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Dwight Howard improving, but status still unknown entering Wizards' season opener

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Dwight Howard improving, but status still unknown entering Wizards' season opener

Dwight Howard may play in the Wizards' regular-season opener on Thursday night against the Miami Heat, but the team will not know until the day of the game and likely won't announce the decision either way until head coach Scott Brooks addresses the media about two hours before tipoff.

Howard only has three practices under his belt but has made significant progress throughout this week after missing all five of the team's preseason games due to a strain in his piriformis muscle.

Head coach Scott Brooks said Howard has looked good in those three practices but has a lot of missed time to make up for.

"I think he's definitely winded at times, but that's part of it," Brooks said.

Brooks added that Howard is not getting the same lift when jumping that he's used to. Howard, 32, is used to playing above the rim and his vertical leap is an important part of his game.

The Wizards play their first two games at home, the second on Saturday against the Raptors. They then embark on a Western Conference road trip beginning with the Blazers on Monday.

Brooks said Howard will "definitely" make that trip with the team, which gives a good indication of how close he is to returning to game action. When Howard is ready to play will be left up to the team's medical staff.

If Howard does miss time, the Wizards are expected to rely on his backup Ian Mahinmi as the starting center. Jason Smith would then become the No. 2 center on the depth chart, though they could use forwards like Markieff Morris or Jeff Green at the five-spot.

Howard signed a two-year free-agent deal worth $11 million to join the Wizards in July.

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John Wall and Bradley Beal will depend on each other more than ever in year 7

John Wall and Bradley Beal will depend on each other more than ever in year 7

The Wizards will only go as far as John Wall and Bradley Beal take them. There's just no other way around it.

The chemistry between Wall and Beal has been the dominant topic for years surrounding this team, and the magnifying glass will only be pushed closer this season, despite all of the other additions the Wizards made this offseason.

It's all about the backcourt. 

Luckily, both Wizards All-Stars understand and embrace the pressure. 

"We're opposites, but we're the same in a way," Beal told NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller. "He's more loud and outspoken, I'm more chill and relaxed, but you put us together, it's peanut butter and jelly."

Have you noticed that peanut butter and jelly always seems to be the go-to "good combination" for people? At least Beal didn't say something weird like tuna and bananas, although to each his own if that's what you like.

Anyway, more importantly, Wall understands this sandwich dynamic just as much as Beal does. Especially when the topic of a championship comes up. 

"I couldn't get it without him, and he couldn't do it without me," Wall said.  "I think that's the bond we have built, and it's gotten so much better each year."

One of the biggest reasons for divorce that we see in pro sports is ego. So many players don't understand what Wall alluded to. No matter how good you are, you can't do it alone. You need your wingman.

There were certainly rumblings or worries that Wall and Beal had their issues chemistry-wise earlier in their careers, but we're seeing two young stars grow as each season passes. 

That doesn't mean there still won't be times where they don't click. That's natural.

Keep in mind though, this is the seventh season the two will play together. The NBA is known to chew up and spit out young, inexperienced teams. The grind is part of the journey. Wall and Beal have had playoff success and failures, but they went through it together.

Now comes the time where those learning experiences become something they grow from, and use it to fuel a push to their ultimate goal – a championship.

And maybe a better peanut butter and jelly sandwich. 

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