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It looks like Troy Brown Jr. may finally have a role in Wizards rotation

It looks like Troy Brown Jr. may finally have a role in Wizards rotation

Three-quarters of the way through his rookie season, Troy Brown Jr. may finally have a role in the Wizards' rotation.

Surely this runs the risk of speaking too soon, but there are signs that suggest Brown may be here to stay in Washington. In Sunday's win over the Timberwolves, he logged 17 minutes. Now, for the first time in his young career, he has played at least 10 minutes in three straight games.

That may not sound like a major milestone for a guy who was taken 15th overall in June, but it's clearly progress for Brown. The 19-year-old has barely played this season compared to his 2018 NBA Draft peers. Thirty eight players from his rookie class have seen more minutes than him this season, including six who went undrafted. 

All along this season, head coach Scott Brooks has opted to play others over Brown. That has included guys who were on 10-day contracts and those who had just landed with the team in trades. 

But now, after these three games, Brooks is singing a noticeably different tune.

"I don't know about a larger role, but [he has] a role. He's definitely earned it. It's based on your play now," Brooks said Sunday.

Brooks remains matter-of-fact about Brown's place in the rotation, but there appears to be an opportunity opening up that had not been there before. Brooks went on to explain in general terms why he has been so slow to play Brown consistently.

"One thing with developing a player, you just don't give a player minutes. If you do that, you basically lose your team. These players have gotta earn it," he said. 

"I've coached young players and your young players have to earn it and they have to earn it every day in practice. Troy has earned respect from the players by practicing every day and not saying a word, just keeping his head to the ground and keep charging ahead."

Brooks' suggestion that he could lose the team if he played Brown too much early on warranted a follow-up. The comments shed light on why Brown hasn't been playing for much of this season, despite him showing flashes previously when given the chance to play.

It turns out, Brown hasn't been playing solely because he doesn't have a consistent shot, turns the ball over or is overmatched defensively. Much of it apparently relates to the principle of paying your dues. 

Brooks now believes Brown has taken his lumps enough to get some playing time.

"It's 60 games in. He's earned it. Players see young players and how they work. Players know the difference when you're giving guys minutes just because they were an early draft pick. You play a guy that earned it. As a player, that's what you want. You want to earn opportunities. And Troy has earned some minutes," Brooks said.

All of this should be noted moving forward, as it explains Brooks' philosophy on young players. Many assumed when he got to Washington he would rely more on rookies than his predecessor, Randy Wittman. That theory was based on the fact Brooks did such a good job developing young players in Oklahoma City.

But with the Thunder, he didn't really have a choice. He had to rely on top draft picks because those were often the best players he had. And many of the young players he developed were generational talents like Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden.

How he has handled Brown should set expectations for future Wizards draft picks. Whomever they pick in the first round this summer may have to wait his turn as well.

Brown's teammate Bobby Portis feels like he can relate. As a rookie with the Bulls, he played in 62 games and averaged 17.8 minutes. That's plenty more than Brown has played this season (33 games, 7.8 mins per game), but it wasn't the starters minutes he's now used to.

Portis offered some perspective on Brown paying his dues.

"One thing that I can give to him as some advice is just to stick with it. My first couple years in the league were up and down. You're going to have to find your role and find your niche some way. Just gotta stick with it. Everything is not gonna be peaches and cream," Portis explained. 

"Obviously, we're all coming in here and we were the best players on our team. So, it's kind of hard to wait your turn. But I think when you sit and wait your turn, you kind of cherish it that much more."

For Brown, the minutes he is now receiving present a great opportunity. But given how long he's worked to get here, he's not expecting anything to be permanent.

"As of late, yeah, I'm getting consistent minutes," he said. "It's big for me."

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A comprehensive timeline of Isaiah Thomas' injury history

A comprehensive timeline of Isaiah Thomas' injury history

Isaiah Thomas is out for six to eight weeks after undergoing successful surgery on his radial collateral ligament in his left thumb Wednesday.

His absence will leave the Wizards perilously thin at point guard heading into the season.

“This was an unfortunate setback for Isaiah, but with his resolve and the top care he will receive from our medical team, we expect him to make a full recovery,” Wizards General Manager Tommy Sheppard said in a release. “In the meantime, he will continue to mentor our young guards and have a positive impact on the team as we start training camp.”

Thomas' thumb issue is the latest in a long line of injuries that have caused him to miss time during his nine-year NBA career.

Here's a list of injuries that Isaiah Thomas has sustained during his playing career:

April 2013 — A quadriceps contusion kept Thomas out for 10 games, the first time in his career he was sidelined with an injury.

Aug. 14, 2014 — Thomas underwent arthroscopic wrist surgery during the offseason to fix an issue he'd been dealing with since the prior season.

Nov. - Dec. 2014 — Thomas sprained his ankle while with the Phoenix Suns. The Suns went 3-5 in his absence.

March 9, 2015 — Thomas, after moving to the Celtics, missed eight games with a lower back injury. Boston went 5-3 while Thomas was sidelined. 

Dec. 2016 — In the next season, still with the Celtics, a groin strain kept Thomas out for four games.

March 16, 2017 — Later that same season, a knee bruise sidelined Thomas for two more games.

May 4, 2017 — During the playoffs, Thomas had his tooth knocked out in the middle of a game. He didn't miss any time, but it's impossible to make this list without including that incident.

May 20, 2017 — Two weeks later, a hip injury kept him out for the rest of the Celtics' playoff run.

Sept. 7, 2017 — After being traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Cavs' medical staff had questions about the health of Thomas' hip. To complete the deal, the Celtics sent another second-round draft pick via the Miami Heat to the Cavaliers. Lingering hip issues would keep Thomas out until Jan. 6, 2018.

March 29, 2018 — Thomas was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in early February, only to undergo arthroscopic surgery on his right hip at the end of March. With a projected four-month recovery time, he was done for the season.

Sept. 18, 2019 — Thomas finished the 2018 season with the Denver Nuggets and signed with the Wizards in July of 2019. On Sept. 16, he injured his left thumb in team workouts. On Sept. 18, the team announced he'd undergone successful surgery and would be out for six to eight weeks.

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Isaiah Thomas injury puts Wizards in tenuous spot at point guard position

Isaiah Thomas injury puts Wizards in tenuous spot at point guard position

The Wizards were already walking a tightrope with their point guard situation when news broke Wednesday that Isaiah Thomas will miss the next six-to-eight weeks after undergoing surgery to repair a ligament in his left thumb. Now with Thomas out, they are perilously thin at an important position.

Thomas will miss all of training camp, the preseason and possibly several weeks of the regular season. That leaves Ish Smith as the de facto starter with a host of non-ideal options behind him.

The No. 2 point guard for now will be left for undrafted rookie Justin Robinson, 19-year-old Isaac Bonga or someone like Troy Brown Jr. or Jordan McRae, both of whom the Wizards would prefer to see play other roles. Bradley Beal will also see time on the ball, according to someone familiar with their plans.

This is all in the context of John Wall's ruptured Achilles surgery that could keep him sidelined for all of the 2019-20 season. With Wall out for several months at a minimum, the Wizards have major questions at his position.

The positive news, if you're looking for some, is that Thomas didn't reinjure his hip. This is a new injury, albeit one to his shooting hand. It is also something that likely won't affect them far into the regular season. 

Thomas was also not going to play a ton in the preseason. The Wizards had plans to limit his minutes as a veteran with a detailed injury history.

But with their current point guard crop, they can ill-afford any injuries at all. They were already taking a risk on Thomas after he played only 12 games last season.

It's worth noting the Wizards opted to go with Smith and Thomas in the offseason instead of re-signing point guard Tomas Satoransky, who left in free agency for the Chicago Bulls. They instead spent that money on Smith and Thomas.

Despite their current issues at point guard, the Wizards do not have plans to bring in significant reinforcements, according to a source. They did, though, recently add Chris Chiozza as a camp invite, NBC Sports Washington was told. He spent time with the Wizards and Rockets last season.

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