Wizards

Westbrook thinks Brooks has become 'a great coach' since joining Wizards

Wizards

It's been nearly six years since Russell Westbrook and Scott Brooks repped the same team, and in the NBA six years is the equivalent of three lifetimes. 

Since they were last together in 2015, LeBron James has won two titles and changed teams for a third time, Kevin Durant won two championships in Golden State and is now in Brooklyn with Kyrie Irving, who forced his way out of Cleveland and then subsequently left Boston in the same timeframe. Oh, and Kawhi Leonard shook up the league by requesting a trade from the Spurs, winning it all with the Raptors and then signing with the Clippers that summer. 

A lot has changed in the NBA over the last six years, and Westbrook and Brooks are no exception. As they prepare for another season together, this time with the Wizards, Westbrook observed what's changed for him and his both former and new head coach since they last worked under the same roof in Oklahoma City. 

"For me on a leadership standpoint, just understanding a lot more," Westbrook told NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller. "Obviously as a player, I've gotten better since then. Just growing every single year, just being blessed and thankful to be able to continue to play."

Westbrook struggled with injuries in his last two seasons with Brooks in OKC, and the Thunder coincidentally struggled as well, leading to Brooks' dismissal and the eventual hiring of Bill Donovan. Brooks went on to coach John Wall and Bradley Beal in Washington, while Westbrook came within one win of the NBA Finals and then proceeded to average a triple-double for three straight seasons following Kevin Durant's departure to the Warriors.  

 

"Me being around [Brooks] now, understanding his growth as well," Westbrook said. "We were young, Scotty was young, he was learning. I believe he's become a great coach."

One of Brooks' biggest moves as a head coach was moving Westbrook -- thought of as a shooting guard coming out of UCLA -- to the point guard spot. Sure, there were mistakes, but Westbrook eventually blossomed into one of the best the game had to offer at that position. 

Now reunited with one of his biggest success stories, Brooks is thrilled to have a player of Westbrook's caliber where he knows exactly what he's going to get from him every night. 

"With Russell, you never have to worry about him not playing hard," Brooks said after the Wizards acquired Westbrook. "That's what he does."

Though that's not the only thing about Westbrook that hasn't changed, according to Brooks. 

"He's still a horrible singer. He can't sing," Brooks said.

For the young players on the Wizards roster now, Westbrook serves as an example for a player who took advantage of a coach's confidence in him as a player. If you look at Westbrook's career resume, it's hard to argue with the results. 

"He was always a great coach for me, gave me the opportunity to go out and just play and I'm thankful for that," Westbrook said. "I'm still thankful to this day because he allowed me to go out and make so many mistakes and learn."

Tune in at 6 PM to NBC Sports Washington on Wednesday for complete coverage of the Wizards season opener against the Philadelphia 76ers.