Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard saw Russell Westbrook's public comments which stated in no uncertain terms he wanted Scott Brooks brought back as the team's head coach. Sheppard also spoke to Westbrook privately in their customary exit meeting the day after the season ended.
Sheppard, though, ended up parting ways with Brooks on Wednesday, two weeks after Westbrook spoke up. Westbrook had Brooks for eight total years as his head coach; seven years in Oklahoma City plus last season in Washington. They are very close and believe in each other's abilities.
So, now that Brooks is out of the picture, will that have any effect on Westbrook? Sheppard explained why he doesn't think it will be a factor at all.
"Moving forward, Russell’s career does speak for itself. He was fantastic with Scotty in [Oklahoma City]. He won MVP in [Oklahoma City] under a different coach. Last year, he was All-NBA under a different coach. This is part of the business that we all struggle with, but it’s a certain part of the business that is something we know when we get into this business, that the only constant thing is change," Sheppard said.
Indeed, Westbrook's MVP campaign in 2016-17 was with Billy Donovan as his head coach in OKC. Last season, he made All-NBA while playing for Mike D'Antoni in Houston.
Westbrook has made All-Star teams and All-NBA with three different coaches. Basically, his game shows up no matter where or who is coaching him.
Sheppard hopes Westbrook sees the move as reason to trust his vision for improving the organization.
"I think what Russell brought to this franchise was an absolute jolt of energy, a pro’s pro, one of the most amazing players in the league’s history. To add that to Bradley Beal, the results kind of spoke for themselves... What we’ve tried to do is create continuity here and in two years. I look at where we were a year ago and where we are now, we really upped our talent level," Sheppard said.
"I think that’s what we’re going to continue to do. After conversations with Russell and conversations with Bradley, I believe they have confidence in the equity we have in our relationships that I’m all about doing the very best thing for the Washington Wizards. I show by works, not by words and that’s how it has to be."
Sheppard noted how letting go of Brooks was an example of the toughest part of his job. He can build close relationships with colleagues, but ultimately as GM he has to make some tough decisions. He felt a change at head coach was best for the organization, so he made it.