Wizards head coach Scott Brooks scratched and clawed his way through 10 NBA seasons as a player after going undrafted out of college and while doing all of it as an undersized point guard. He made it those 10 years because more than anything he was tough and resilient.
And because of that, there is nothing he laments more as a coach than when he believes his players are being soft. On Sunday night, after his Wizards lost in Chicago to the Bulls, he used the word 'soft' over and over to describe their performance to reporters.
In Brooks-ese, which often consists of platitudes and positivity, that means he is nothing short of irate about how the Wizards have played in their first two games coming out of the All-Star break. They have lost to two teams - the Cavs and Bulls - who are not good and in games they had early leads and a chance to win.
But it's clearly not just the losses themselves that has bothered Brooks, it is the nature of them. And you could argue the way he unloaded on his team on Sunday night suggested he is as fed up now as he has been at any point with them since he took over as head coach four years ago.
What Brooks had a particular issue with was the and-ones the Wizards allowed. The Bulls had nine of them, which means the Wizards fouled them but not hard enough to prevent a made shot. Brooks evidently wants his players to make their fouls count and ensure nothing comes easy for their opponents. He wants them to earn those points at the free-throw line.
As Brooks put it, the "and-ones were about as soft as you can get," per Candace Buckner of the Washington Post. He also said the 16 and-ones between the last two games may be the most he's ever seen in his NBA career.
That would be difficult to verify, but it's easy to figure out who has been the culprit recently. Of the 16 and-ones in the last two games, which was indeed the accurate number, Ian Mahinmi leads the way with four. Bradley Beal, Jerome Robinson, Davis Bertans and Moe Wagner are next up with two apiece.
All in all, nine different Wizards players have committed an and-one foul in the last two games. So, though Mahinmi has had the most issues, it's a team-wide problem.
There is also more to an and-one than just the fouler themselves. They are usually the result of a defensive breakdown. But Brooks also noted how some Bulls players probably didn't even realize they were fouled, which suggests they should have been fouled harder.
Surely, the Wizards will work on it because as direct as Brooks was with the media on Sunday night, you can bet it was much worse behind closed doors. Wizards players likely got an earful either at halftime or after the game. And they will likely hear plenty more in an upcoming film session.
Playing soft is Brooks' biggest pet peeve and the Wizards have clearly struck a nerve with their last two games. The good news is they will have a chance to rebound very soon with another game on Monday night, the second of a back-to-back. The bad news is that it's against the NBA-best Milwaukee Bucks, a team currently on pace to win 70 games.
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